Smart Consumer: How to stay fit -- and keep your bank balance in good shape
Your exercise routine doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg, writes John Cradden
There are few activities in life that are genuinely free, but keeping fit is about as close as you can get. Of course, there are those who have a vested interest in persuading you otherwise, such as sports equipment companies, energy drink makers, gym owners and fitness trainers.
Not to mention all the hundreds of celebs who have flogged exercise videos ever since Jane Fonda first urged us to "feel the burn" in 1982, sparking a multi-million dollar industry that is still in strong shape.
But getting exercise needn't cost you a cent. If, however, you already have a well established fitness regime, there are plenty of ways to keep it up without burning the contents of your wallet.
We've all been there. After a couple of months of gym membership, your enthusiasm burns out and you're back on the sofa. But you still have to fork out for the remaining term of your subscription.
Enter a new breed of no-frills, no-contract gyms that offer monthly subscriptions. Simplyfitness in Milltown, Dublin, requires only a small joining fee and just €29 a month to use its facilities.
According to Jackie Skelly at Flyefit in nearby Ranelagh, 98pc of its members pay the €29 monthly subscription, as opposed to the €259 annual one, which includes fitness classes. You can also get one-day passes for €9.
Indoor and gym-free exercises
If the new breed of budget gyms are still liable to pull your financial hamstring, why not create your own indoor gym. With a little ingenuity, you can re-use everyday household items such as weights, benches and suspension systems. After all, who needs dumbbells when you can use 1.5l water bottles or 2l cartons of milk?
Similarly, old bricks, old tyres or a basketball can double as fitness props and weigh towards your efforts in developing a six-pack stomach.
Only buy essential equipment
Online classifieds like Donedeal or Adverts.ie are a "graveyard of unused fitness equipment bought on a whim," says Dublin-based personal trainer Dominic Munnelly.
He personally recommends buying only items like a good yoga mat for floor-based exercises, a kettlebell, a skipping rope, a chin-up bar, bands and a foam roll.
Hire a trainer
If you have forked out hundreds for a gym membership but haven't witnessed your desired physical transformation, hiring a personal trainer could be money much better spent.
"I have worked with lots of clients that have done a few sessions with me and learned all the essential exercises and how to do them really well," says Munnelly.
Afterwards, they then might use the workouts he posts up on his Facebook page or website to mix their training up a bit.
How much, though? "Fifty euro to €80 is typical, which is still great value, as many people buy the gym membership and never go," he said.
Borrow fitness DVDs or visit YouTube
It's a wonder that anyone goes and buys fitness DVDs when you can easily get one for free, either from a friend or the friendly local library.
Some workout videos are probably better and more up-to-date than others, but there are literally thousands of titles out there to choose from, and there are only so many variations on the same workout routine. You can also see many more examples for free on your laptop or iPad via YouTube.
Make your own energy drinks
Given the high prices of ready-made drinks, you might assume that they're complicated to make. Far from it.
The core ingredients of sports drinks, which are designed to delay fatigue and enhance performance by preventing a fall in blood sugar and minimising the effects of dehydration, are sugar, salt and water.
The sugar prevents a decrease in performance caused by a drop in blood sugar; the fluid helps stave off dehydration; and the salt helps absorb and retain the fluid.
A typical home-made recipe is to scoop 60-80g of table sugar into a 1l bottle, add half a teaspoon of table salt along with a no-added sugar cordial and top up with water.
Do these while going about your business
If you're pushed for time, you can integrate loads of exercises into your day-to-day routines.
For instance, scrubbing your floor for an hour will burn 400 calories, while an hour spent washing your windows will burn 250 calories. Thirty minutes spent vacuuming or scrubbing grease stains off dishes will burn about 100 calories.
There are no hard statistics for the rising number of recreational runners in Ireland, but you only have to look around now to see loads of red-faced folks bobbing along.
In addition, sports organisations report that all kinds of running events, ranging from short 5-10k runs to full marathons and even triathlons, are becoming over-subscribed. For instance, a record 14,000 competitors started the Dublin Marathon last October.
You'd be surprised at how much you could spend on a running kit, but this seems to miss the low-cost appeal of the sport. All you really need is a decent pair of shoes.