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Fit for Free: 10 tips for Starting Your Fitness Journey

You look in the mirror and it starts: A flood of negativity from that small voice in your head. All you can hear is “over-weight,” “unhealthy,” or even “ugly.” You swear this is the last morning that little voice wins. It’s time to start taking care of yourself and get in shape.

That afternoon, you’re at the gym down the street from the office, sulking as you watch bicep after bicep curl around you. The little voice returns. “You’re never going to look like that.”

You stomp him out by signing on for a 12-month membership. The next day, you’re at Walmart buying dumbbells too heavy for you to lift with one arm. Amazon delivers a rowing machine that weekend. Your wallet is empty, but at least that little voice has shut up. Six weeks later, you’ve sold off the rowing machine, and your gym clothes are perpetually clean. The little voice returns, and it’s laughing at you.

If this terrifying cycle is familiar, welcome to the world of popular fitness. Jumping in head-first to Gym Rat 101 may provide a spark of motivation (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?), but good health requires a ever-glowing ember. If you are just beginning on this journey, there are better paths.


Starting Your Fitness Journey: Step-by-Step

Keep these tips in mind when you put that first foot forward.

1)     Define your goals. 

Do you want to lose ten pounds, discover that six-pack, or do you just want to feel “healthy?” There’s an abundance of free resources out in the world, but it can be difficult to narrow any down without knowing what you want. If you begin your search with a specific goal in mind, you’ll fare better in finding tips that work best for you. Start with a fitness program picker.

2)     YouTube it. 

From free Pilates classes to healthy cooking instructionals, someone out there has done all of the research for you. Get that six-pack here or here. Bonus: If you don’t like your trainer, just switch channels! Focus on “beginner routines” and subscribe for automated reminders.

3)     Ditch the equipment. 

Surprise, your best piece of equipment is always available for free: your own body. Body weight fitness relies on yourself as the resistance: no need for a full-scale gym or those dumbbells you’ll only pick up when you buy them. Beginning routines focus on common exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and stretching. No fancy moves needed.

4)     Get on a budget. 

The budget may be the most feared word in many households, but the concept of tracking every dollar to build a stronger financial foundation can also apply to your daily fitness goals. Knowledge is power in this realm too. Know what you’re eating, how you’re feeling, and what you’re doing with a free tracker. MyFitnessPal is a popular choice for tracking calories, activities, and goals on the go.

5)     Take your hobbies outside. 

Love jumping on the couch with your favorite show after work? Grab your phone, the Netflix app, and start walking around the neighborhood instead. Got a swimming pool in the neighborhood? I bet no one is there lounging at 7am. Get in and get kicking.

6)     Use the time you have. 

One of the biggest complaints about keeping a routine is a lack of time. While it may be difficult to find two hours of workout time in a day, monitor how you use the other 22. Preparing meals ahead of time can cut down on fast food stops, and that half-hour show is the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a few sit-ups.

7)     Check out free classes in the community. 

A quick search through the common webpages of your city or an online community group like Meetup can reveal free activities galore. Free yoga in the local park or a weekly hike would be more fun than that elliptical anyway.

8)     Grab a friend. 

If you feel like the gym is more your style, ask about any special offers for bringing a friend (or relative) along. Many times, you’ll be able to split the cost, and you’ll have someone to keep you accountable.

9)     Set a reminder to get up and move. 

Sitting may kill you. If you’re sedentary all day (read: 9-5 office job), set a reminder on your phone to stand up every hour. Just a bit of stretching or walking up to the next floor and back can help keep you

10)  Reward yourself. 

Whether it’s a rest day or that (little) slice of cheesecake, make sure you’re keeping your motivation up by rewarding your work. Cutting out everything you love or putting yourself through routines that you don’t enjoy can kill your drive to meet goals. Be cautious, but stay motivated.


Check Out These Fitness Tips

10 Ways to Stay Healthy at Work (or School!)

Starting Fitness, One Step at a Time

Running Is Beneficial to Your Behavioral and Physical Health

Healthy Aging with Physical Fitness

Improving Your Healthy While Using Technology

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If you are in crisis, call 988 to talk with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text HOME to 741741 to connect to a free crisis counselor, or go to your nearest emergency room.