It’s no secret that I enjoy running. Many of my monthly goals involve this activity. Beyond just running, I have long been interested in fitness. In fact, over a decade ago, I started a blog detailing my adherence to the Body for Life program. That was the first time I tried lifting heavy weights. My weight lifting later transitioned to the New Rules of Lifting for Women, which I still follow off and on today.
During the pandemic, it felt more important than ever to maintain my fitness. With gyms closed (for good reason), my routine had to change. Weight lifting was not a viable option. Our small living space doesn’t allow for a robust home gym. Not to mention, home gym equipment was in very short supply. I leaned into running, as I talked about in this article. Over the last several months, I’ve reflected on the ways fitness and finances have felt connected for me. It seemed like a good time to share that story.
Maintaining physical fitness is not directly connected to the pursuit of financial independence. That said, fitness is a huge industry and spending can quickly get out of hand. Overspending will no doubt derail financial independence. Good health, though, is important for quality of life and could reduce medical care costs. So where’s the balance? Here are the three ways we have maintained a fitness routine while working to reduce our spending.
1. Don’t pay twice
Some financial experts may tell you to cancel that gym membership as it is a costly monthly expense. About a decade ago, I was in a great habit of going to the gym every morning before work. I used the membership and all of the amenities the gym offered. If you enjoy and use a gym membership, it might be an expense worth keeping. Eventually we moved to a condo with higher monthly dues and a well-equipped gym. It is not perfect and I prefer a gym with an indoor pool for winter swimming. But the condo’s gym is more than adequate. When the cost of a gym membership is subtracted, our condo dues look much more reasonable.
Another example could be a yoga studio membership and a general gym membership. If the gym has fitness classes included, consider taking its yoga classes and cutting back on the yoga studio. Look at what you’re spending on fitness activities and find where you’re duplicating expenses. This is a relatively easy way to trim expenses.
2. What can you do for free?
Some activities, like walking, running and dancing get you moving at no cost. Before the pandemic, I used a treadmill in my building’s gym to run when it was too cold, too wet, too dark or any number of uncomfortable conditions. If the treadmill is part of a gym membership, there are fees for an activity that can be done outside for free. Safety is paramount, but a lighted vest and headlamp cost about the same as one month of a gym membership and allow for outdoor running or walk after dark. Appropriate clothing for weather conditions is also an expense, but this is a one time cost that likely pays for itself in a month or two of saved gym membership fees.
Consider whether any activities you enjoy could be done for free. As long as it is safe, you might even build up more stamina and discipline by braving the elements. I say this as a Midwesterner, where the temperature fluctuates by over one hundred degrees from our hottest months to our coldest ones. We get plenty of precipitation, including snow and ice. Our winters offer less than eight hours of daylight on the shortest days. I’m no stranger to harsh conditions.
3. Seek out value
Spending money on fitness apps or classes might make sense if you look for value. If the service offers a free trial, take advantage of it to understand whether the app or class is one you’ll use and enjoy. In July, I purchased a one year premium subscription to a yoga app for $70. The monthly cost was minimal. I’d found myself practicing yoga multiple times per week and wanted to expand the classes I took. With the cost equal to a few live classes, I bought a year’s access to many more sessions. I won’t renew the annual subscription, but it was a worthwhile purchase this year. One of the reasons we won’t renew is that we are going to try a service for a similar price that offers a broader range of class types, in addition to yoga–always seeking out the maximum value for our fitness spending.
We use these three tips regularly to minimize our spending while maintaining fitness. Daily movement is an important part of our lives. It is not something anyone should sacrifice in the interest of saving money. Like anything, though, be careful not to unintentionally compromise your financial goals in the interest of that new gadget or pair of running shoes.