If you have ‘lose weight’ or ‘get fit’ as one of your 2017 New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you are thinking about joining a gym? Think again! Every year thousands of people join gyms, often in January, and use them three times in the first month, twice in the second, then hardly ever – that’s a really expensive monthly commitment for a year that isn’t doing your body much good at all.
Go the gym for free!
If you really think a gym is for you, look at getting free day passes to a few gyms. This let’s you check out their facilities as well as your level of enthusiasm.
Before signing up to a gym contract, look at the alternatives instead – some of them are free or very cheap, Not only are they better for your wallet, but they may suit your lifestyle better as well.
Walk your way to fitness
If you are a long way from fit, then walking can be the ideal way into improving your health. Look for ways to incorporate more walking into your daily routine, go with a friend or see if there is a Walking For Health scheme near you. Listen to music or podcasts or an audio book – keeping things interesting is the best way to keep going. You can keep track of what you do using the MapMyWalk app.
If you have never run before or not for many years, the Couch to 5k app will get you up to running 5k in a 9 week programme:
Probably the biggest challenge a novice runner faces is not knowing how or where to start. Often when trying to get into exercise, we can overdo it, feel defeated and give up when we’re just getting started. Couch to 5K works because it starts with a mix of running and walking, to gradually build up your fitness and stamina.
Week One involves running for just a minute at a time with walking in between. This creates realistic expectations and makes the challenge feel achievable right from the start. The app is available on IoS and Android so your smartphone will literally talk you though what you need to do.
It’s from the NHS, so you will be in safe hands. Running won’t just get your fit, you will be surprised at how much weight you lose if you can do it two or three times a week.
And then keep it up!
Park Runs are free 5k races organised in literally hundreds of parks across the UK on Saturday mornings. All ages and shapes of people take part. You aren’t trying to get selected for the Olympics – you are just trying to get to the end or (if you fancy a bigger challenge) beat your previous time. There are under 17s runs too if you want to get the whole family interested. On the first Friday of January 2017,
Incredibly, more than 10,000 people have registered for parkrun today!
— parkrun (@parkrun) January 6, 2017
If you like Couch to 5K, check out their follow on: 5K+ running podcasts .
There are lots of free apps such Strava that will encourage you to do a little bit better (longer or faster) than your previous best time on whatever route you choose. And I’m told it’s good for hiking and cycling as well!
Outdoor exercise classes
British Military Fitness is the best known of the outdoor exercise classes. You think the bootcamp approach may be good at motivating you, give one of their free sessions a try. If you then want to carry on, you can just pay monthly, so if you change your mind, you aren’t locked into a big mistake for a year.
Improve your strength and flexibility
Strength and Flex is a 5 week plan of podcasts from the NHS. There are videos so you can see how the exercises should be done. These are a gentle introduction, with the final podcast being suitable for doing regularly when you have finished the program.
Gym exercises without the gym equipment
The New York Times’ 7-Minute Workout will run from the web on your PC, laptop or tablet or there are app versions for your phone. It assumes some experience – it’s not for you if you don’t know how to do a push-up.
If you know how, but have got out of the habit, or want to ditch the gym, then it times you through a 7 minute program of 12 exercises with short 10 second breaks between each. No equipment is needed – just a chair and a wall.
Dance or aerobics for weight loss and fitness
If you like aerobics or dance, there are lots of YouTube vids to follow or DVDs. You will either love or hate Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, but if it turns out to be a mistake, at least it will be a pretty cheap one! Louise Solomon’s Yogalates for Weightloss is rather more gentle way to lose weight and get fit.
Doing these at home rather than in a gym means no-one is watching you, you can wear any old things and it’s easier to fit into a busy life.
Keeping track of those calories
MyFitnessPal is a free app that makes it easier to record what you are eating and track the calories. Rather than start from scratch logging each meal, it remembers what you’ve eaten in the past, and makes it easy for you to add those foods again to your log. It’s also got some busy forums where you can get moral support, ideas and recipes along the way.