Working out on a budget
Depending on where you live, work or study, one of the biggest barriers to getting in a good workout is often price. Not all areas have ‘budget’ gyms, and student gyms can be under-equipped or vastly overpopulated at times you might want to train. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get all the health benefits of exercise and even build some decent muscle with limited equipment.
Aside from the more obvious forms of exercise we can do anywhere like running and cycling (one of the best investments I made at university for saving time and transport money), there are other things you can do to make sure that you get the type of workout you need, whatever your goals.
1) Bodyweight Exercises
You only have to look at gymnasts, CrossFit athletes and those who take their body weight (calisthenics) training seriously, to know that even if your goal is to build some serious muscle, a large part of your training can still be focused around using your bodyweight.
There are the obvious bodyweight exercises we can use; pull-up, chin-ups, press-ups, and dips, plus a whole host of variations you can use to make them much, much more challenging if you look hard enough. Then there are the more advanced movements to work towards, such as the muscle-up or hand stand push-ups.
These are no joke when it comes to getting a great workout and are certainly going to build some muscle… you do not have to be ‘pumping iron’ to build muscles.
Lifting weights might help to target certain muscle groups that need more loading (like the legs) or to target specific muscle groups. However, in this situation, if money was tight, you could look at using a ‘pay-as-you-go’ gym to do one session per week if you feel this is needed… or hit those big hills on your bike or some sprinting to build big leg muscles!
2) Student Gym Discounts
Most university gyms are reasonably priced, but if your Uni gym isn’t up to scratch, or always beyond busy, then most chain or even local gyms have student offers… even if they don’t advertise it is always worth asking, especially at smaller, non-franchised gyms.
Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track to find somewhere cheap and cheerful to train, in my experience they are usually the best equipped and offer the most help and support, don’t always be fooled by nice lighting and shiny, new equipment!
However, if the only option is a budget chain gym (you know the £9.99 a month ones), be prepared to train at anything other than peak times because they will be very busy. If there aren’t any near by, it might be worthwhile jumping on your bike to save some money (and get some more exercise) if there aren’t any affordable gyms locally.
3) Workout Buddies
If you do have to travel to the gym, or generally feel unmotivated and in need of little support, then finding someone to train with, with similar goals can always be a great help. Not only can they help with motivation, but often come with new training ideas. Some gyms even offer discounts/free months for referrals, so it’s always worth asking around and if this is the case trying to recruit as many workout buddies as possible.
Having a few different people to work out with, with different abilities and training variety/styles, is a great way to learn both about how you like to exercise and what you look for in a workout buddy to find your ideal gym mate!
One thing to note here though, if you are beginners and do train in a small group in a gym at busy times, try not to hog one piece of equipment for ages especially if space is tight! Having 5 people huddled around one bench, talking whilst the others are spotting/exercising is undoubtedly going to upset other gym users.
Instead try to train in groups of no more than 3 (this allows for solid amounts of rest without exercises taking forever), keep chatter to a minimum (this is a great habit to get into if you value yours and other time) and if you are going with a larger group of gym pals then maybe split your group into smaller ‘pods’ to be courteous to other gym users.
4) Online Workouts
If money, distance to a gym or time is a real issue then there are literally thousands of different workouts on YouTube, or Apps available for free, that will give you a workout you can do at home or even Apps to create workouts whilst you run, cycle or train outdoors.
Add in some resistance bands, a kettle bell, yoga matt or even a pull-up bar and you have everything you need for a solid workout at home or in the park in the summer.
5) Outdoor Groups
Speaking of outdoor exercise, there are usually loads of different ‘boot camps’ going on in the local area if you look for them. These are usually cheap and cheerful circuit classes but are a great way to socialise, meet people with similar goals and get some encouragement from a qualified instructor.
If you want a proper great outdoors experience, then you can get your exercise by joining hiking, climbing and walking groups. Even things like canoeing and kayaking might be available through student societies or local clubs and are certainly great ways to keep in shape whilst making some friends and most importantly having some fun in the process.