Smart Consumer: Improving your fitness doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg
Maybe you're aiming for the perfect body or maybe you just want to shed a few pounds and get more energy.
After the hibernation of the dark winter months, the longer evenings will be the signal for many to dig out the runners and start exercising again.
The beauty of this is that it doesn't have to cost a lot. And even if walking or running aren't for you, there's a host of other options to choose from. You really have no excuse! So go on, put your best foot forward.
Free or cheap
Coach John O'Connell from New Energy Health and Fitness advises those who have never exercised before to start with walking or jogging in the great, and free, outdoors. The key is to make sure "you're breathing heavily and sweating".
"If you can already run 5km in 30 minutes, then run faster," says John. "The worst trap to fall into is to do the same thing over and over again, as less effort means you'll be burning less energy and that means less weight loss", says John.
Key to weight loss is anaerobic exercise -- weights. "It will build aerobic fitness anyway as your heart rate will still be up between those lunges and press-ups. It will increase your metabolism, tone up muscles and guard against osteoporosis by making bones more dense".
You can buy a weights set for home use for around €30 or €40, or buy a door gym set (pulley weights that attach to a door) for around €20.
Use YouTube and search for specific exercises you are interested in, but make sure to check how many videos the user has posted, read the testimonials and check for the poster's web site to make sure you are dealing with a professional.
But for many it's motivation that's lacking and you may feel you have to spend some money to get that kick-start you need.
Dance classes, pilates or the vibrating PowerPlate machine will cost €10-€15 a class and you'll feel better and fitter. But this will cost a fortune on a regular basis and if it's weight loss you're after, you may need something more targeted.
Better value is attending a military-style bootcamp in your nearest park, as prices average €150 for up to 24 classes.
If you go regularly better value again is the gym. Costs average €55 per month and in theory you can go seven days a week. Memberships can become very costly, however, with many rarely going, and if they do go, just using the pool or sauna. €55 for a swim is not good value in anybody's book.
John O'Connell also warns about just doing the generic programme assigned to you at the start. "Consumers need to demand regular reviews of their programmes to make sure they are exercising correctly for their needs and getting value for money".
Which gets him started on personal trainers. "Bad trainers get paid more because you'll have to do more classes to get the results, so make sure you ask about your trainer's record and ability and that you're not wasting your money."
If you enjoy skiing, you can ski all year round at the Ski Centre in Sandyford in Dublin. Open since 2008, the centre has two rolling slopes that are like huge treadmills moving backwards. Effort and a little gravity will keep you up there and Pearse Phelan, owner of the Ski Centre says you can expect to "perfect your technique". For beginners, he claims you'll be ready for the blue slopes in 12 lessons.
It's useful for fitness as well as ski practice. And it's guaranteed to make your muscles sing, as I found out last week.
This isn't for the thrifty though, with adult lessons costing €49.50 or those 12 lessons costing €475.20 when you pay a joining fee of €5.