Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making An Affordable Home Gym - Frugal Exercise

Making an affordable home gym is easier than it sounds, with a few props you can come along way and the toughest thing about it is getting motivated. A couple of years ago, I realized that the one thing I had to do for myself was to get back in shape. Before I had my sons I was very active, but I had somehow lost myself in motherhood. As a stay-at-home mother, my budget was very small, if not non-existent, so I became very creative when it came to finding ways to make my home gym.

The Zero-Budget Home Gym:
When you are first starting out, it is important to realize that you can actually do a lot with what you have.

  • Use your body weight (It's free, and it is always available. Push ups, crunches, squats, planks and lunges can all be done with no equipment at all.)
  • Dumbbells (Fill water bottles with water, sand or small rocks depending on the weight you want.)
  • Walk, run or bike (Don't walk just to walk, walk with a purpose. Leave the car at home, skip the bus and walk instead. If you think it is too hot or too cold, use your local mall. You will be amazed to see how many people are walking for exercise at the mall an hour or so before the stores actually open. If you live in an area with nature close by, take advantage and bring your camera on a hike.)
  • Swim (If you are lucky enough to have the beach nearby, this is one place where free exercise is easy to come by, and it sure is a great way to get it. Otherwise check if you have a local swim center, where you can go to swim for a small fee, whenever you feel like it.)
  • Use the playground  (If you take a look at your neighborhood playground, you will find that there are actually many ways to utilize it. Using the monkey bars for arm strength is one way, use the balance bars for balance training etc.)
  • Use your computer (There are great free programs online, my favorite is sparkpeople.com, a free site that offers personalized training programs, calorie counters, track your progress and you can even watch short exercise videos online. Start your own exercise blog to keep motivated and find support.)
  • Scale (If you do not have a scale at home, use the one at your local supermarket to keep track of your progress. Check out GSN.com for ways to earn points and redeem for a great scale - all for FREE.)
  • Jump Rope (If you have an old jump rope, this will be great in your quest for better health, and if not you can usually find one at the dollar store.)
  • The stroller (If you have little ones, use that stroller. It's healthy for you, and they get to see the world in a whole different light. For extra workout pack up the stroller well).
  • Water bottle: (A good water bottle is essential for when you work out outside. I found a couple of free offers online, and Club Bing often has a PBA free bottle as one of their rewards.)

Expanding the Zero-Budget Home Gym
As a stay-at-home mom, there was no room in my budget to finance a gym membership or an advanced home gym. While using the Zero-Budget home gym approach had made me in better shape, I still felt I needed something extra to spice up the routine.

I decided to start saving up for a few things through online earnings, and I started out with the basics.

  • Good shoes (I wished for Columbia walking sandals for my birthday and I bought a pair of sneakers at Target with a gift card earned online. I have since gone through several sandals, as the mileage is kind of high, but I have found that amazon.com certificates through Swagbucks.com are great at keeping me supplied with good walking sandals). 
  • A good sports bra (I browsed the clearance sales at Target, Nike Town and Adidas, and the result was three sports bras for less than $5 each. Target often has many different exercise items and clothing on clearance.)
  • Dumbbells  (I actually had some old dumbbells that I had left at my mother-in-law's house. My husband brought them home from a visit at his mom's place)
  • Yoga Mat (I received a yoga mat for my birthday, and it is one birthday present that is now very well used.
  • Exercise dvds (I was a member of pointsandprizes.com, and I realized that they often had exercize dvds on their reward list. I also ended up getting selected to do a review of pilates and yoga dvds at Gather.com. I put a couple of exercise dvds on my birthday wishlist as well.
  • An Exercise Bike (I won $250 online, and while I considered getting a gym membership, it would end up being too costly in babysitting costs, gas costs and fancy work-out clothes so I opted to buy an exercise bike instead, and it is something I have not regretted.)
  • Exercise magazines for inspiration and motivation (I received a free subscription to Self and Shape magazines through Golds Rewards).
  • Pilates bands (I got free pilates bands from Club Bing. This site often has exercise items on their reward list, and so does mycokerewards.com and pointsandprizes.com.
  • Time (Time is one thing that should be at the top of the list. With three boys aged 7-1 year, time for myself can be hard to come by. My solution has been to involve them in my quest for exercise. We walk home from school every day (0.6 miles each way), we walk to the playground (3 miles round trip), we walk to the stores (0 - 4 miles round trip). I have gotten my hands on two exercise dvds that involves the kids (Yoga with Your Baby and Fabulous Fit Moms both received free from pointsandprizes.com). I squeeze in some time on the bike, whenever I can and I usually multitask, by reading a cooking magazine or a book. If I on a rare occasion get some "Me Time" I usually start out with putting in a yoga or piltates dvd. I take the boys to the beach about once a week, and before we go in the water, I load up the little one in the stroller, let the big boys run ahead of me collecting seashells etc., and then I push, push, push. If you have ever brought a stroller to the beach, I am sure you know what a workout it can be.

While I have come a long way in finding ways to have an exercise routine on a budget, I still have not reached my goal weight. I have a sweet tooth, and I sure do enjoy good cooking as well, so I know I will never become a size 6 again. 

I am in great shape though, and I can walk long distances without getting tired. I gave birth six weeks ago, and I strongly do believe that walking almost everywhere and swimming at the beach with my kids throughout the pregnancy are the reasons, why I have already lost the baby weight and an additional couple of lbs.


  1. This is an excellent post! I don't think there is an excuse to not exercise when you can do so much at home. This is very motivating for me, since my gym membership has expired and I probably won't replace it for awhile. Thanks!

  2. awesome post! I workout at home too .. i have my step, dumbells, exercise tapes .. that's all i need. I work up a sweat no problemo!

  3. you have some great tip here

  4. You are great. Tell those moms YeS you do have time 15 squats at the sink while you wait for the hot water(my hot water comes from the other side of town for the length of time it takes). 15 counter top push ups while you wait the 2 minutes of the microwave. Walk around your house on your toes then on your heals. Stretch every time you move around pull that arm across your body, Pull that arm over your shoulder and scratch your back. Touch your toes. on on on I could go. You don't need an hr, you need 1 minute several times a day.

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks for all the great info.

  6. Thanks! this was really helpful.

  7. Some really great suggestions on where to get exercise DVDs and equipment. I'm going to check some of those places out. Thank you.

  8. It's true that there are a lot of ways to not spend a dime...or only spend a little and still get in shape. I splurge on something every once in awhile though just to keep a good variety.

  9. What a great post! I am on my way to check out the sites you mentioned now. trinitygsd at yahoo dot com

  10. Good info. I just gave birth 8 weeks ago. I however have not gotten down to my previous weight. I didn't gain a lot (30 lbs.)- I just can't seem to lose anymore. I've not been able to walk due to the weather. so just the occasional dance party with my 3 year old. I'm going to look into the sites you posted.

  11. Shape has an entire column every month to using things in your home as exercise equipment, that I love. Me, I use our stairs, I am forever going up and down and up and down and I dont do it on purpose either, lol.