So, I'm a big fan of the blogger Mr. Money Mustache. I don't agree with him 100% on everything. I mean, who does? Maybe his wife, and a few others. He retired in his 30's and now writes his blog, invests in real estate, and raises his son. They both do (they both retired).
Anyway, he is a HUGE fan of biking and has often discussed the uselessness of gyms. Or at least, points out that you don't need a gym to be fit. This is totally true - I won't disagree there. I am, however, a gym rat.
I have tried to work out at home, regularly. My success rate really depends on the age of my children. There was the "sweet spot" of age 4 to 6 where I could pop a video in and do it - he would wake up part way into it. Sometimes he would chatter constantly while I finished, sometimes he did it with me, sometimes he crawled all over me. Needless to say, it does NOT happen with the little guy. He just wants to be on top of me. The gym is the only place I can go to lift weights in peace. Not to mention: pool. Classes. I like people and group exercise.
I have tended to be pretty liberal in my fitness spending. We belong to two gyms. The first, 24 hour fitness, is on a $99 a year plan. (That's a person, so $198 for two.) The second, the YMCA, is $99 a month. We joined this a couple of years ago when I was swimming a lot (tri training) and it has been great. It's a nice family atmosphere and we enjoy getting our 7 year old in the pool. He has become MUCH more confident in the water because of it.
I have to say, we may not get our money's worth. My husband only goes to the YMCA when we use the pool as a family (which has not been much with the new baby - he doesn't really dig the pool), and I only go to 24-hour fitness when the YMCA is closed for their annual maintenance.
But that's not all. In the 2009-2010 time frame, I was running a LOT. Two half marathons, part of a marathon, a 10 miler, and a whole host of 5k's. These races were anywhere from $25 to $150 each. Pretty expensive T-shirts. (And when you consider the wear and tear...piriformis, followed by physical therapy, followed by Achilles tendonitis...)
The piriformis resulted in my switch to triathlons. That added even more expense. $120 for the sprint tri (500 yd swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run, an hour of my time), $100 for the discounted wet suit (the first year it was 59 degrees in August!), and $250 for the summer-long training group. I love this training group. I did this two years in a row. I LOVE group fitness and I found it really worth the money, especially since I started my 40th birthday year not being confident swimming in a POOL and ended it having swum in the ocean dozens of times, up to 3/4 mile. But man, $400 a year on top of my gym memberships... Hey, that's one way the pregnancy helped save money...I'd just given birth in 2012 and I don't fit into my wetsuit for 2013.
Last week I got an email about the local park's 5k fall trail run series! It's 4 weeks long and it's $20 a race ($15 if you buy all four). Family fun, beer food. It sounded fun but I can't run (that Achilles tendon again). This park is at the end of our dead end street and as we were there yesterday (playing Frisbee) I found their map of the race course.
I decided to have a little bit of frugal fitness. I took a picture of the map, printed it out, and today, I put the baby in the Ergo and did the 5k. It was a little tough here and there (some areas of deep sand), lots of hills, and it was a little hot. It was definitely a "hike" and I kept a 2.0 mph pace.
It's not the same as a timed race. Depending on who you ask, this is good or bad. Some people figure if you aren't racing or "training", you aren't doing anything. Others say if you are racing for time or training, you are missing the point of fitness. (I read a quote by a blogger - don't remember who "exercise is the junk food of fitness". Meaning, instead of "exercising" for 30 minutes or an hour, we should be just MORE ACTIVE.) My own personal opinion is - it depends. What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. Training and racing is great (I enjoyed it, even though I will never be fast), but it also resulted in a lot of injuries. However just plain exercise can seem like you are "going through the motions".
So what are other options for Frugal Fitness that is still fun, and group worthy? I have a bunch of coworkers who like to go backpacking. It has expanded to quite a large group. Yes, it's mostly the young-uns (20's) and there is probably too much beer involved. But it does occasionally include people in their 30's and 40's, and sometimes even a parent gets a day off to join them.
When we were discussing the triathlon at work (several of us have done them), one of my coworkers said that he wanted to be sponsored. I said "I'd sponsor you!" He said "really, you'd pay $150 for me to do the race?" I said "no, I'd give you 10 bucks, but only if you did the LONG course (1 mi swim, 34 mi bike, 10 mi run), and I bet a bunch of other people would too." At that point, we all realized that we could probably get 6 - 10 people together and set up our own tri unofficially.
Now of course, this would be more for fun and not for time. It would be hard to get people to time us - we'd need a place to set up our bikes - we'd have to follow the road rules and you can easily get stuck behind a train around here. But it would still be cool - I'm sure we could find some surfboarders to watch us in the water. Training for it - that would be the biggest issue - you always need to make sure you are swimming in the ocean with at least one other person. Working around kids and schedules makes that difficult too.
Here are other ways for fun frugal group fitness:
Group bike rides
Set up your own "race" (swim, bike, run, all three...)
Go out dancing!
Do your own Boot Camp!
And there is always the Mr. Money Mustache method of biking everywhere, or my neighbor's method of walking everywhere. She is in her 50's with two daughters and does not drive. She has never really struggled with her weight, because she walks EVERYWHERE.
So, what say you about keeping fitness fun, and interesting, without a lot of money?