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Rockin' Bod On A Budget


By Heather Cabot, The Well Mom

If you’ve canceled your gym membership, stopped shelling out for your Bikram or cardio kickboxing classes or parted ways with your personal trainer, you are not alone.  Tough times call for tough measures.  But cutting back on what you spend to work out, doesn’t have to derail your regimen...nor dampen your commitment.

Fitness professionals around the country agree that staying fit and active is more about your state of mind rather than the state of your bank account.  In fact, trimming your budget may actually give you a good excuse to shake things up. 

“Our financial crisis is the perfect opportunity to save a few dollars, but more importantly, to change up your routine to get your body moving differently,” advises Lori Christensen, owner of viXen Training, a Los Angeles-based fitness program for women.

Creativity is key in this austere climate.  So here are 10 ways to keep yourself strong and sane during these rocky times.

1. Get Social
Team up with friends, co-workers, neighbors or family and you’ll stand a much better chance of sticking with your program.  Start a walking or running group in your neighborhood or at your office during lunch.

"If you are with other women and you're having fun and feel connected, you'll get motivated,"says Sara Holliday, a San Diego-based family therapist, yoga instructor and owner of Fit by Sara.

Thanks to the web, there are some easy ways to get connected.  Join a cyber-fitness community like Moms in Motion, a national program that organizes real world weekly runs or walks for moms.

Tap into resources like Yahoo! Groups to find fitness-minded people in your area.  Search "moms, exercise and your city" and see what turns up.  I'm on the LA-based Peachhead fitness group on Yahoo! and just this week, I've gotten some emails from fellow moms who want to run or share Pilates sessions, etc.  Spread the word among your Facebook friends.  Or tack a real note onto a bulletin board, at your child's preschool,  your Mommy & Me class or even your pediatrician's office.

2. Virtual Trainer
Craft your own workout and stay motivated just by checking your inbox.  Fitness Magazine's website sends out free work-out tips tailored to your personal goals.  On the Women's Health site, you can find FREE workouts to download to your iPod!  And of course, if you still love to flip through the pages of the real thing, there are tons of great fitness mags that can offer some motivation and new ideas to jump start your routine.

“I am constantly cutting out new ideas from the latest issues on the stands…Subscriptions are NOT expensive (sometimes $1 per month for a year). And they can really throw some new exercise ideas into the mix for nearly no money,” says Julie Barroukh, host of the “Moms With Muscle” DVD series and an LA personal trainer. 

If do you have a little more cash to spare, check out #3 - Many trainers offer online sessions at a fraction of the cost.  Ask around.

3. Split The Bill
Depending on where you live, a single personal training session can run anywhere from $60-$100.  Partnering with a friend or your spouse for a single personal training session can really pay off.  Tell the trainer you can only afford this one-time appointment and ask him or her to write down the program for you.  Then you and your partner help each other stick with the program.

"I get more phone calls from people who can't afford to see me, than those who can these days.  Some of them check in with me once a month. Or we train online and I will charge them $50 for a month's worth of workouts," says Teddi Bryant, owner of Denver's Hot Mamas Exercise.  Bryant, a mom of two and host of the newly released Hot Mamas Exercise DVD encourages moms on a budget not to be shy about offering creative suggestions to trainers.  Remember many fitness professionals are looking for more work and every bit helps.

4. Copycat
If you’ve had to drop your gym membership and you draw your motivation from group exercise classes, splurge on a single session of core training, bootcamp or yoga or whichever one gets you pumped, once a week (or once a month). Replicate the moves on your own.  Turn the times you go to the class into a reward for sticking with your program.

5. Strut Your Stuff
Find excuses to avoid using your car.  Park a little further away when you do drive.  Take a walk at lunch or after dinner with the family. Put the baby in the stroller and do your errands on foot.  Holliday, who is also a mom of two boys, says adding in some stairs or hills to your walk can really help tone up your rear. And, of course, exercising in the fresh air is free.

6. Be A Homebody
Find a quiet place in your home or just shut the door to your bedroom for 15 minutes and voila! -  a home gym.  A fitness DVD is a whole lot cheaper than a monthly gym membership.  Buy one or two and trade with your friends.
Head over to Target and stock up on low cost resistance bands and dumbbells.  Or just use your own body weight to build strength (like  push-ups or plank position).

Leah Segedie, founder of the Bookie Boo blog for fitness-minded moms says she burns calories climbing the stairs right at home. "During commercials run up and down the stairs.   You will get anywhere from a 3-6 minute stair workout every time, and it adds up quickly.  Then you don't have to feel guilty about sitting on the couch watching TV," she says.

Think about all the activities you already do in the course of your day and get more out of them.  "Doing an extra round of housework or washing the car is fitness...All the things we PAY someone ELSE to do when the economy is good takes away from fitness," says fitness expert Barroukh, a mom of three. And if you are curious about how many calories doing the dishes actually burns, check out the activity calorie calculator on The Daily Plate.

7. Just Jump
Jumping rope at a moderate pace burns 658 calories per hour for a 145 lb person according to the comprehensive calorie counter on The Daily Plate.  Jump ropes cost about 15 bucks and you can easily stash one in your luggage when you’re on the road. 

8. Play Cards
A deck of cards can give you (and a friend) a workout to remember.Fat Fighter TV's Sahar Aker says all you need to do is to choose an exercise for each suit. "For example, hearts are jumping jacks, spades are sit ups, clubs are pushups, and diamonds are squats. You turn a card over one at a time and do the number of whichever exercise the suit is. So, if you get a 2 of diamonds, you do 2 squats... A 10 of clubs, you do 10 pushups, etc. Jokers and Aces count as 11's," she says.  Add some running in between sets and you'll really break a sweat..

9. Be Community Minded
Just because you're skipping the fancy sports club doesn't mean you have to completely forgo a gym.  Look into what your neighborhood recreation center, YMCA, or house of worship have to offer. Often you can find lower cost or free options if you look, especially if you want to swim, play tennis or use the weight room.  Christensen of viXen training says hitting the public pool for some laps a few times a week is a great way to strengthen muscles you don't normally work.

10. Go Old School
Those P.E. calisthenics are back - but oh, so much more satisfying than in junior high.  Push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats and even jumping jacks can help you achieve some amazing results.  Fitness educator Heather Rider put together an outdoor workout for her clients that’s easy to do and especially effective with a friend or two. It follows the "20/10" method. 

"They do an exercise, like squats, for 20 seconds.  They do as many as they can do correctly without rushing! Then 10 seconds break, then 20 seconds of work...4  times through. And by the fourth set they are usually toast," she explains.
Walk or hike for 5 minutes then repeat 20 /10 of the next exercise.  The circuit continues until they have done squats, lunges, push ups, sometimes tricep dips, etc.
Combine this circuit with a 5 minute warm-up and at least 20 minutes of walking or hiking to start and you are good to go.

"It keeps your heart rate up. It's hard as hell and it's free," says Rider.

Bottom line: With the right attitude, there's no shortage of ways to achieve your fitness goals  - even if you are short on cash.  Experts say making exercise a priority and keeping it fun will keep you in shape (and in your skinny jeans) no matter what the economy brings. 

*The Well Mom wants to remind you to consult with your physician before starting any new fitness regimen.

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