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Getting In (Physical) Shape

This article was written by in Health. 23 comments.

One of my personal goals this year — the year I’ll be reaching the big Three-Oh — is to get into better physical shape. It’s been a goal of mine for a while, but working, driving, working more, sleeping, and seeing my girlfriend always seem to take precedence and leave me with precious little time. Since I don’t get myself out of the apartment most of the time, I’ve been considering purchasing a treadmill in order to save time by exercising while cooking.

The main problem with treadmills and other exercise equipment is that they’re big and expensive. I’ve been told that a “good” treadmill can cost more than one thousand — even more than two thousand — dollars. I was looking at a couple in the $400 – $600 range. Even at that price, I’m not sure I can justify the expenditure.

I could join the gym at work for $25 per month, but then I’d have to arrive earlier in the morning or leave later in the evening, and I already spend so much of my time there when commuting and working overtime are taken into account.

My best option might just be to concentrate on crunches and push ups — exercises not requiring equipment — and walking or jogging when the weather is nice. I’m not convinved that when I do crunches and push-ups, I’m doing them correctly.

If anyone happens to know of any great resources for starting a fitness program on a budget (money and time), I’d be happy to hear all about them.

Published or updated January 16, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar BullishBear

Check with your employer, bank/credit union and various gyms to see if discounts are given for gym membership. Also, Gyms run specials that give discounts if you get one or more people to join with you.

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avatar Doobie

How the hell do you exercise and cook at the same time? Can I come over and watch? I’d try it myself, but 4 minute and 30 second workouts (7 minutes if I set the microwave to medium power) aren’t worth it.

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avatar Luke Landes

Heh. It only applies when I’m using the oven, which isn’t too often… especially during the week.

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avatar samerwriter

This isn’t so much of a fitness program, but it works pretty well for me. 4-5 years ago I dropped my extra weight, and have stayed in pretty good shape since.

I buy healthy bulk fruits and vegetables from Costco; spinach, sweet peppers, bananas, and apples. I bring these to work and snack all day long, so I don’t have to take a full hour for lunch.

At lunchtime, since I’m not eating, I walk 3-4 miles. I’m in Oregon so the weather is rarely cold, but often wet. Appropriate outer layers take care of that problem. I suppose one could even use an umbrella.

During the drier months, try riding a bike. It’s cheap (as long as you don’t get into the cycling bling), fun, and a great workout if you let it be. If your girlfriend is like-minded, it’s also a good activity to do together. If you enjoy it, you can get a trainer ($150 or so) and ride while watching TV when you don’t feel like riding outside.

Avoid mechanical contraptions that do work for you. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make a habit of walking quickly (not obnoxiously so, though). Carry suitcases instead of getting a little cart.

Good luck!

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avatar FMF

1. Bought a treadmill five years ago for $2,000. It was expensive at the time, but we use it 5-7 times per week between the two of us and it looks and runs like new. Plus, it’s very convenient.

2. For the summer, you may want to consider getting a bicycle. It’s fun and you get a good workout.

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avatar savvy saver

You should get an Indo Board (www.indoboard.com). You can buy them on ebay for around $90. They take up very, very little room, they are fun, and you can use it while watching TV. I do squats, some arm weights, and basic training on mine. I want to buy a medicine ball ($30) so I can do more core training. I just throw a yoga mat on the floor, pull out the Indo board and watch TV and exercise. It’s good for your back and abs too!

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avatar fivecentnickel.com

If you’re going to get a treadmill, I would suggest getting a better one used rather than a cheaper one new. There are an awful lot of people that buy these things and then never use them, so you might be able to get a ‘like new’ treadmill for a fraction of the price (if you’re patient).

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avatar Dus10

You may want to check out the American Running Association’ website. They have a 12-Week Walk-to-Run program that you can get the information for free (well, it is part of their membership now, but I found this PDF that has it).


It is a nice program that starts off easy enough for someone out of shape and gets you to running for a half an hour at a time within 12 weeks.

Also, remember to excercise before you eat, not vice versa. And, exercising first thing in the morning is probably best as it quickly boosts your daily metabolism and you can get home and shower.

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avatar Jayfer

Try the Discovery Channel National Health Challenge. They have short video clips that demonstrate a bunch of simple exercises that you can do at home. Each day focuses on different parts of the body and/or cardio exercise.


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avatar Jennifer

Just go to a thrift store and pick up a video. There’s usually 80 of them featuring various routines under 10 minutes. It will set you back $2 at most.

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avatar Donald Chen

I try to ride the bike to work as often as possible. It takes me about 40 minutes one way. It is a good exercise and it saves money. With the lunch pail in my backpack, I feel like going to picnic riding on the bike path on the river bank.

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avatar Luke Landes

So many great ideas here, thanks everyone! My girlfriend likes biking so that will be something we’ll do together when the weather is nicer. It would be nice to ride to work, but things would get a little crazy on the New Jersey Turnpike.

I’ve tried yoga with a video but I didn’t feel I was doing the positions properly and didn’t keep up with it. I’ll check work-out DVDs (no VCR anymore), but I’d like to find something that teaches you how to do the exercises properly.

Feel free to drop more suggestions!

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avatar Paul

The comprimise position: get an exercise bicycle. We got one about a year ago, and it has been great. Cheaper than a treadmill — we got ours at Costco for about $260 on sale — and no knee grinding impact. And, you can do other things at the same time (like read or watch TV — cooking is at your own risk!). They also take up a lot less space, and are much easier to move around.

Of course, running outside is always free, and has the added bonus of fresh air…

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avatar mmb2

Gym is the best if you have access to one because you can run, swim, bike, kickbox, lift weights etc. But you don’t have to pay $25 a month to join one if you don’t want to. Running is a great overall exercise. It’s good cardio but it also has a toning aspect to it. Plus, you can do it anywhere anytime. Jumping rope works great too in cold weather when you can’t go outdoors. If you don’t already have them I’d also suggest getting a set of hand weights. There are lots of weight lifting resources online that give a detailed breakdown of muscle groups and which exercises work best for each and they give detailed instructions for proper post-workout stretches as well.

Personally, I hate workout videos because they are always yapping away in those things but if you are into them try these:

Yoga Shakti – it’s an interactive customizable comprehensive yoga program with several routines in one. You can tailor your own routine from the selection of individual poses or follow one of the provided ones.

Bryan Krest’s power yoga – fast flowing and intense. Most yoga programs can be a little boring to new converts. This maintains enough momentum to keep it from putting you to sleep.

TaeBo – surprisingly fun and good cardio. Billy Blanks is also both hilarious and pretty motivational. When he says, “Come on now, one more. You can do it” … you do one more.

You can also try some classes. Thai kickboxing is great. Along with the physical benefits you get to work off any pent up frustration from the day in a class where aggression is expected so no one will stare at you if you throw one too many punches. Just remember to stop short of bashing your sparring partners head in.

Oh, as for doing crunches and push ups right, tighten your stomach muscles. Otherwise it puts too much pressure on your back. Think slow and controlled, not jerky movements and exhale as you get into position (up for crunches, down for push ups) and inhale when you relax into starting position. I don’t know if this is detailed enough but you could probably check out some men’s health site (or women’s health sites even) for better instructions. Good luck!

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avatar Dave

Don’t worry about getting a treadmill.

1. Start off by walking during lunch. 45 min/day for five days is good if you haven’t been exercising. Move up from there. If you’re serious, you’ll want to eventually start lifting weights in addition to cardio.
2. Don’t *go* on a diet, *change* your diet. More fruits and vegetables. I like a chocolate protein shake in the morning w oatmeal. Don’t skip meals, but eat a little along and along.
3. Most important, get the eye of the tiger. Get mad a chips and fatty foods — they’re lying to you. Don’t miss a workout come hell or high water. If your grandmother is sick but you need to do a workout, do your workout, then visit your grandmother. Don’t ask how little you can do, push yourself a little harder.

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avatar Barry

My fitness plan consists of things I enjoy doing — I have just never been able to focus long-term on using a gym or treadmill. I wear a pedometer and do 10,000 steps per day (to and from the subway, around my neighborhood), and about 18 months ago I bought a pair of used inline skates for about $50 on eBay. It’s a lot of fun — I don’t even realize I’m exercising! I also read the book “Superfoods’ and try to incorporate those foods in my diet. Since I started this program I’ve lost about 23 pounds in 18 months. Slow loss, but I’m enjoying myself and I’m less likely to gain it back this way.

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avatar Luke Landes

While I don’t have a wonderful diet (although I’ve been eating less convenience food and more fruit already), I am more concerned with muscle tone than losing weight. Does that make any difference? Thanks everyone for your continuing thoughts.

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avatar ponagathos

I am also trying to change my diet rather than go on a diet. For aerobic exercise I am walking. For muscle toning, I am following the 8 minutes in the morning program. So the only equipment I need is a set of dumbells and the book.

I spent about $30 for both and have lost 13 lbs over the last two months. Pretty good considering I gained 5 lbs or so over the holidays for the last decade and never took it off. I am going for slow, permanent weight loss.

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avatar Jerry Kindall
avatar Frugal Momma

I have a treadmill that we got 9 years ago from Sears. Stills work great. It gets used about 5 times a week.

I do a lot of exercise dvds-a manly one is Power 90 from http://www.beachbody.com which is doing weights one day and cardio the next day. They are a little pricey new but you can find them used on ebay.

Also you can check out http://www.netflix.com and try out different dvds there.

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avatar Alyice

I purchased a $380 exercise bike this year and I am loving it. I can read a book while riding leisurely which means I am not just sitting on the couch reading–and I can work harder by changing the setting. I bought a cheap treadmill a few years ago and they’re worhtless. I bought one of those Tony Little exercise things but it takes up a lot of room so I ended up selling it.

Things I’m learning works on tight budgets are:
Riding exercise bike indoors during rain and snow.
Riding outdoor bike on nice days.
Using an exercise video like Winsor Pilates or Susan Powters Lean & Strong or Billy Banks Tae Bo.
Using a few free weights for resistance.
Jump roping.
Taking the kids for a walk/talk on warm nights–after dinner.
Cutting out junk foods and training myself to eat healthier.


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avatar Alex

Check out garage sales and classifieds. People buy workout equipment all the time when they are making resolutions and then they give up and have to sell them. Personally, I hit the gym just because I like to have options or I get bored. AM is best for me and it is nice to have the workout out of the way before work.

Also, as a single guy you should definitely subscribe/buy Men’s Health if only for the recipes which are healthy, quick, and pretty damn tasty.

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avatar Asithi

I usually just borrow some workout DVDs from the public library. Get a couple sets of dumbbells and you are all set.

Once you find the workout DVDs you like to keep, check out ebay or half.com for used ones.

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