Jan 11, 2019

How to Get Fit and Lose Weight this Year without Spending a Dime

Many will make resolutions on New Years, vowing to drop the additional pounds leftover from the holidays, and generally making more healthful choices starting January 1st. And while new beginnings can be a helpful motivation, we think the best time to actually get started on new goals is actually now:  late winter and early spring. So, while we hope you made some good progress in the first few weeks of January, the real question is: how's it going come February 1st?    

Of course, choosing fitness is all about resources: where is the time going to come from? How will I be the most efficient? And do I have all the gear and access that I need in order to make it happen?

Here's our vote: don't go buy....anything. Not a gym membership. Not a new bike. Not a bunch of free weights. And certainly not a big expensive home exercise machine. 

Instead, use what you have — you're own body, a wall, a chair — in whatever space you can come by, using your own built-in form of resistance. These two types of exercises, known as body weight exercises and interval training, are free, accessible, and provides a great workout. You'll not only build strength, you'll burn many more calories than straight cardio like jogging. 


1. Start with a video to learn the basics. YouTube is there with all its info (good and bad) for the taking. So, find a few videos from a source that looks trustworthy, and figure out the moves, form, and vocabulary.  Wanna know what a "burpee" or an "extended plank" is? Here's where to find out. We like this beginner video from Nerd Fitness. 


2. Dial it in. Once you've figured out what you're doing (and learned to do them effectively and safely), start digging around the internet to find some other versions that you can integrate into your day. We love this "Seven Minute Workout" from The New York Times for its efficiency. If you can, do it once in the morning, once over your lunch break, and once right before dinner. There's also an advanced seven minute workout, and an app to help you through it. 


3. Add Some Variety. By the time you familiarize yourself with these forms, you're also likely to have become a bit bored with the routine. Now's the time to spice it up. These workout graphics from DareBee are free, simple, and easy to follow. And, most importantly, there's a whole heap of them to keep things interesting. 


4. Add in Some Intervals. It might not seem like it during the early weeks of February, but eventually, temps will warm up, the days will get longer, and you'll want to move your fitness routine outside. Whether you run, bike, row, walk, swim, or roller blade (yes, people still do this), moving around outside is always better than tumbling around in your living room. Whatever you do, try to get the most bang-for-your-0-bucks by adding in some intervals to your training. Rather that just run at 60% for a half hour or cruise along for a twenty miles easily spinning the pedals, vary your level of intensity to keep things interesting and make your body work for it. A great place to start is the 10-20-30 method, where you move at a manageable pace for 30 seconds, increase your intensity to medium-hard for 20, and then go all out for 10 seconds. It's super easy to remember, and you don't need to check a watch or timer. Plus, all that counting actually makes things go faster. Seriously, it's fun. 


5. Use Apps for Accountability and Reminders. Your smartphone is your friend. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of fitness apps out there, and many of them have a free versions. While you could use them to track everything you're doing, we like to choose specific apps to help reach identified goals. So, try something like "learn to do a hundred pushups in three months" or complete an extensive core workout program. All of these apps have little reminders that will gladly pop up on your lock screen and casually motivate you to get some good work done. Use 'em!


Okay, okay. If you absolutely need something to buy, these are the two best value investments you can make for your health. Thankfully, they're super affordable.


What are your favorite ways to seek fitness and strength for free? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 






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marcus borg on Feb 05, 2018:

Great stuff Chris! Accountability is an important point that I'm glad you brought up- there are hundreds of alternatives to gyms (bodyweight workouts, resistance bands etc).

Keep up the good work.

Chris on Jan 27, 2017:

Hey @Matt - That's an important note. I'm curious - do have some expertise or experience in eating well for men? Perhaps you might like to write a guest post for us with some ideas. Feel free to email me at [email protected][siteurl.com]

Matt on Jan 27, 2017:

This might be beyond the scope of this particular article, but it's important to remember that even if you find a great, effective routine that you enjoy, it's going to have at best a minimal effect if you're not being conscientious about what you're doing with your diet.

It should be noted here that "diet" is being used in the sense of reasonable, sustainable, day-to-day eating choices. Not "I'm on the 'head-of-cauliflower' a day diet!" type of diet. "Diets" like the latter aren't sustainable and are the reason so many people will continue to yo-yo throughout their lives.

Pat on Jan 26, 2017:

Great info, and Bruno's idea is great as well as for me I walk. I get a minimum of 4 walks over a course of 7 days most times 5-7 walks a week. I try to go for as brisk a walk as I can (age, old injuries and arthritis limit some days) and I usually go for 1.5 to 2 hours during the week and 3 hours on weekends, usually between 6 - 12 km (that's 3.1 - 7.5 miles for my American friends south of the border) a walk. I also use a Fitbit and have it set to get 13,500 steps and 10 flights of stairs in a day, another great feature of the Fitbit is the challenges you can do with friends to see who can out step who.

bruno on Jan 26, 2017:

Great post. Just wanted to chime in, because I've been thinking about this topic a bit too. Here's my simple recommendation to guys who struggle with this kind of thing: get a buddy.

There is nothing more consistently effective at making me work out, and making me work out *hard*, than doing it with a friend. Here's an example: in 2016, me and a friend decided we wanted to be able to do 100 pull-ups (in a sitting, not in a row) by the end of the year. In the end, we did it! But only because I would go down to the basement and do my reps, and then text my friend and say "Done your pull-ups yet?" (or vice-versa).

Social pressure can be very motivating and positive if used correctly!

BTW, if you want to try the pull-up routine, here's what we did: just do five per minute, for twenty minutes. Obviously that's not where you start; you might not be able to do five pulls, or maybe you won't be able to keep it up that long. But start with what you *can* do, and work your way up to 20 minutes x 5 reps per minute. You'll get there!