1) Staying Home
I know there are some great gyms and studios out there and I do take advantage of them when I can. But typically, spending money on a workout location is not high on my list of financial priorities. While that may change one day, it's easy enough for me to workout at home or outside.
If I really need certain equipment to accomplish my training goals, I find a way to buy it affordably, borrow it, or get a short-term membership at the YMCA or Park District. I've grown to enjoy winter runs outdoors most of the time but, I'll consider paying for a few months of treadmill access if the weather turns especially harsh!
Here in Chicago, some of the parks offer adult climbing gyms and other equipment which are fun to use when I'm out for a run or walk.
For yoga, I use household items like thick books for blocks and my yoga mat carrying strap comes in handy for certain hard-to-reach poses.
2) DIY Equipment Care
I'm determined to take care of my clothes, shoes, and other gear so well that they last for a long, long time. A lot of my workout clothes are the same pieces I wore in high school and college, so they are already 8 to 16 years old! And when a key piece of gear really begins to wear out I start keeping an eye out for sales and only buy what's absolutely necessary.
I make a witch hazel based spray to keep bacteria and odors under control so I don't end up throwing out gear prematurely due to smelliness. I spray inside my shoes after every run and let them air dry in a spacious place. I also spray it on any odor-prone spots on my clothes right after taking them off and hanging them to air dry the sweat away. I spray my yoga mat after each use and gently wipe it down with a clean cloth before putting it away. Multi-use tools are my favorite and this one works like a charm!
Witch Hazel Spray
4 Ounce spray bottle
20 drops of tea tree essential oil
15 drops of lavender essential oil
15 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
Fill the bottle with witch hazel
Bonus: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of white distilled vinegar for extra strength against bacteria and odors.
Sometimes strong odors are inevitable over time so I use a vinegar pre-wash (outlined below) to extend the life of my oldest, smelliest gear.
Vinegar Pre-Wash Routine
In a 2 gallon bucket, pour 1 cup of white distilled vinegar
Add any especially smelly workout clothes
Fill the bucket with cold water and stir the contents thoroughly
Let the clothes soak for 20 minutes
Ring out the water from each item and then wash them in your machine or by hand as usual
3) Workout Selection
I primarily use free YouTube workouts for Pilates, yoga, and stretching routines. My favorite YouTubers to watch are Cassey Ho of Blogilates and Sarah Beth Yoga. When I need new gear, I try to buy from small businesses first, like Cassey's Poplex Active brand. That's where I bought my beautiful vegan suede yoga mat pictured above! Cassey designs active wear for all body types and fitness tools to keep us motivated and growing toward our goals.
When I go to select a new workout it helps keep me motivated and committed when I find options that align with my personal goals and current priorities, not programs that look like a fun challenge but aren't suitable for me in some way.
Cassey has designed some amazing fitness challenges which I've enjoyed many times, but I'm not participating right now because I'm pregnant and I don't want to overdo it! It's hard for me to quit a challenge if it becomes too much so I'm only committing to challenges that are safe for pregnancy right now. Sarah Beth offers prenatal yoga that targets all my aches and pains that come with carrying this baby girl so I'm much more into her workouts for this season.
4) Motivation Management
I seek to learn what motivates me and build it into my fitness routine. If I'm motivated by buying cute new gear, rather than buy it only to motivate me, I'm more likely to buy it as a reward. This makes the motivation last longer!
Say I want some new running gear but I'm struggling to get out to actually run on a regular basis, I'll make a goal, for example, to run three times a week for three months. If I succeed, I buy the new gear. If I don't make it, I reassess how well my goal even aligns with my life right now and whether there's another way to accomplish growth in the same area.
Actively observing what motivates me and setting up my fitness routines to work with my real motivations teaches me discipline and stretches my goals to serve my mental growth as well as my physical growth. And reassessing my goals and motivation after a challenge ends, successfully or not, allows me to hold on to that motivation and not let it fizzle out.
There is certainly a time to hire a trainer, coach, or other expert. But first, I like to do my own research and learn what I can do to address my own needs. I like to commit my time before I commit my money!
Professionals can be a great resource to help us address an injury, weakness, or target fitness area, and of course, please see a doctor if you need one! A recent example of my own research saving me some money is with my pelvic pain. Since pelvic pain is pretty common during pregnancy I didn't rush to the doctor to resolve it, though I wouldn't blame anyone who does. It's hard to endure!
I determined a date by which I would call my doctor for help if I didn't see improvement by my own efforts. Then I got to work doing research and implementing the exercises I found, very consistently, and it worked! I feel much better and I learned a lot in the process.
Let me know in the comments how you save money on fitness or if you plan to try any of these ideas!