Help me develop a cheapskate workout plan!
February 23, 2010 8:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the cheapest possible way for me to get a decent workout this winter?

Once again, I have gained some weight while hibernating. I'm 31, female, 5'7, and 175lbs. I feel like some sort of half-dead winter zombie, so I want to make an effort to lose some weight and change my lifestyle habits. I am eating better, I quit smoking a month and a half ago, and I walk to and from work five days a week (15-20 minute walk each way), but I still spend way too much time sitting on my ass. I had a gym membership at one time, but I loathed going. Also, my student loan is in repayment, so whatever I do to get in shape, I need to do it on the cheap.

I am not averse to walking or running, but sometimes in the winter, my street looks like this. So what kinds of exercises can I do at home, with very little (or no) equipment? Are there some basic things I should get, like free weights, or can I substitute household items?

Links to websites, books, video tutorials, and blogs are most welcome. Most of all, I would like to know what has worked for you folks. Thanks a bunch.
posted by futureisunwritten to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
The cheapest way is calisthenics in your living room. (Whether that's the most effective way is questionable.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:15 PM on February 23, 2010

I am in New England so I totally get it when it comes to exercising in the winter. I found Exercise TV on demand to be a huge help because it has all types of exercise videos on there. If you don't have access to that there are a bunch of videos on youtube for any type of exercise that you are into from cardio bootcamp type workouts to yoga. You could also purchase a few exercise DVDs for cheap online and then rotate through the videos throughout the week. Exercise weights would serve you well because there are a million different things you can do with them. If you can't afford those then you can use soup cans as a start. If you have stairs in your apartment or access to a parking garage then you could run stairs and do some running in the covered garage. I find that mixing up the routine keeps me pretty motivated. Lastly, winter sports like ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing could be fun options on the weekend.
posted by icy at 8:16 PM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: I was just about to demand that you get a bicycle, but then I saw that would be a horrible idea!
...I'd buy 3lb. weights, along with the set of exercises we did in my gym class in high school, which consisted of 30 sit-ups, some wall push-ups, then limb lifts of the various limbs, adding 3lb. weights where necessary. Then some "squat thrusts" and such.
That, every night, makes me feel less like a bowl of mashed potatoes.
Other than that, I don't really need fancy videos or anything. And my mom buys all these treadmills and stationary bicycles all the time....and it's all gathering dust.
My 3lb. weights are being used.
...that's an idea though...stationary bicycle...provided it works, unlike ours.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:17 PM on February 23, 2010

Search internet for 'shovelglove' (?)
posted by Xhris at 8:20 PM on February 23, 2010

Do you have a bicycle already? (or any equipment at all...)

If so, I would recommend purchasing a trainer. I got this one for Christmas:

plus this stand to prop up the wheels:

and for around ~$100 I have my own personal stationary bike which I can take off the trainer and ride around town when the weather gets warmer!

Perhaps this could be an option for you?
posted by lucy.jakobs at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

this kicks my butt on a regular basis:
bodyweight circuit training
posted by phogirl at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's some stuff I do during the winter that requires little or no equipment:

The Magic 50 (I just do half the deck at the moment.)
Deck of Cards

Besides being cheap, these workouts pack in a lot of work per minute, when compared to simply running (which is also good, though, if you've got clear roads) or something of that sort.
posted by ignignokt at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

X-country skis? You can pick up used ones on craigslist for a song.
posted by fshgrl at 8:35 PM on February 23, 2010

See previous related AskMe's:
Help me introduce some variety into my at-home cardio
How can I lose this spare tire without pissing off the neighbours
Seem to remember some more...

From the above and also searching around on YouTube, I found jump rope & tabata (essentially high intensity calisthenics for short bursts) good to jump start me into getting in shape again or when I didn't have much time or gym access. Not sure how long I'll stick with them but fun for variety :)

There are lots of strength exercises you can do with your own body weight (lunges, squats, pushups, situps) but I tend to get bored with those after 2 weeks... anything OUTSIDE works for me the best.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 8:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

For cardio consider a jump rope. Don't buy a weighted one. Start out slow, watch some web videos on jumping rope to get the idea. Jumping is not the right term, it is really skipping.

Also the video on demand idea is a great one if you have cable.

And the body weight exercises to work your muscles is a great suggestion as well. Be sure to learn the exercises first and then scale them properly. Knee push ups for one. The key with all of these suggestions is intensity. As someone who has tried working out from home I can tell you that it is real easy to get distracted. So just be mindful of that and stick with it.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been happy with Yourself Fitness. I paid $35 for the PC version.
posted by russilwvong at 8:49 PM on February 23, 2010

I really like workout DVDs; you can pick them up cheap used. I particularly like "mix" ones where you can put the workout segments in different orders or pick and choose segments. It helps me (when I work out at home) to have a defined workout to follow, but to be able to change it up so I don't get bored.

Plus the chances of me doing cardio hip-hop where anyone else could see me are slim. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2010

Get a Fitdeck Bodyweight.
posted by halogen at 9:09 PM on February 23, 2010

Slogging through the snow offers quite a workout. Cross country skiing is a great suggestion.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Old (and young) Chinese people kick something called a jianqiu, which is (usually) tire rubber, aluminum cans and a bunch of ersatz feathers. (I don't think you can/should buy one from that website) It's basically a hacky-sack: good cardio, keeps you moving and flexible, and is kind of fun. People who hacky-sack in the US tend to do crazy tricks, but just kicking it is plenty for me. I do it inside when I get cabin fever (with the feathered Chinese kind and with an old patchouli-scented beanbag, depending on my mood), assuming you have a bit of space and not too many breakable objects in your house.
posted by Valet at 10:49 PM on February 23, 2010

Don't just look for cheap cardio-fitness, make some money at it! Find some dogs to walk/run in the evenings.

The great thing about having a few dogs as exercise buddies is that they're pretty much always delighted to see you, and ready to go. They don't mind if you're a few minutes late one night in 10, or if you're sore from last night's workout, or freaked out from work, and they'll generally happily accommodate any change in routine you need to keep your interest levels up, or just keep doing the same thing, night after night, with enthusiasm and doggie panache.

And the great thing about cultivating other people's dogs as your exercise buddies, beyond the profit potential, is that you don't have to groom them, or feed them, or otherwise train them! It's all money in your pocket, wagging tails on your trails, and inches off your frame!
posted by paulsc at 11:45 PM on February 23, 2010

If you're up for a challenge, maybe P90X? (There's an official website, but the link is to wikipedia).

A fitness buff coworker of mine says good things about it (but thinks it's much less challenging than his own regimen) and another is on it for the last 3 months and have lost 3 waist-inches.
posted by porpoise at 12:16 AM on February 24, 2010

Ido Portal and Scott Sonnon both do bodyweight movement workouts. You can find a lot of good ideas like this on Youtube.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:45 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding jumping rope. We all used to make fun of this guy who jumped rope at our gym instead of using all the fancy machines, until he started losing massive amounts of weight. Then I tried jumping rope (I'm in really good shape), and it kicked my ass.

If your ceilings are high enough at home, definitely do it. Jumping rope burns an insane amount of calories.
posted by venividivici at 2:10 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live in the exact same climate as you do (a few hundred kilometers away, Atlantic province) and find that the best exercise you can get is outside. Snowshoeing, hiking and walking/running in snow iare great cardio, excellent on the legs and butt and relatively low-cost. It's also a lot more work to perform physically in the temperatures we're used to; your body burns more calories keeping you warm in addition to keeping you moving.

You look at the climate you live in as a challenge; look around you, there are some who see it as an opportunity. Those crazy people who are out and about in the aftermaths of big storms are usually the most fit people in the region. It's a lot of work to perform even the simplest task in two feet of snow; use that to your advantage. Good luck!
posted by Hiker at 3:30 AM on February 24, 2010

I second going outdoors. I get much more exercise in winter (in Vermont) than in summer.
Cross-country skis aren't cheap, but they're not that expensive. I usually play pond hockey once a week (and I can't skate) and that burns up a lot of calories. It's fun, not boring exercise.
posted by MtDewd at 7:09 AM on February 24, 2010

Nthing jump rope.

My husband is in terrific shape. He does pull ups on our basement beams, sit ups, push ups, some arm thingys with 10lb hand weights, and every other day he jumps rope for 45 minutes. When he started he could only do 15 minutes at a time. It's pretty amazing. (He jumps in the garage, with loud music blaring from my car stereo.)
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:26 AM on February 24, 2010

If you're down with dance-based or other choreographed workouts, check into netflix, or what you can watch instantly/watch on demand on netflix, amazon, or your cable provider.

Me, I've just been running outside (in northern Colorado). It can be incredibly calming to be running in bad weather - you're the only person in your line of sight at any given time, the world is quiet, the air in your nose and throat is cleaner-feeling than usual. Running in fresh powder is a challenge for your legs and feet much like sand running; running on old snow is doable as long as you watch your step a bit. Try to find a trail or other off-street places to run. Get the right clothes (wicking tights, upper baselayer, and windbreaker) and a really good hat and gloves and you should be set.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:23 AM on February 24, 2010

Nthing circuit training in the living room.

Running outside in winter isn't as nice as running outside in spring/fall, but it's actually pretty fun. I run outdoors in Pittsburgh, and it's challenging to run through the old snow and ice right now, but it is still WAY more fun than running on the treadmill or jumping up and down in my living room for 45 minutes.

Pretty much, you're only going to do exercises you enjoy, so find something you enjoy and do it. Doesn't matter what it is or how cheap/expensive it is, if you hate it, you won't do it and your fitness plan will fail epically. On the other hand, if you really like something, you will fight to do it (to the point where you are willing to run through the snow and ice like a crazy person).
posted by kataclysm at 8:42 AM on February 24, 2010

Convict Conditioning. Bodyweight exercising, prison-style. Written by a guy who survived 20 years in a cage with nasty predators.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:48 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to many fine suggestions above, if your office has stairs, use them, and do a few "laps" up and down a couple times a day. Use stairs instead of elevators, park farther from the store, walk/jog to work instead of just walking, leave the car at home and walk your errands, do extra housecleaning as energetically as possible, visit me and rake the leaves I didn't rake last Fall, etc.
posted by theora55 at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2010

Wow, I can't believe nobody has mentioned the 30 day shred! It's a workout DVD by Jillian Michaels, and it's only 20 minutes long. For me, this is the primary motivation: by the time I get annoyed about working out, it's over. It's intense but the individual moves aren't that hard, and there's almost always a "beginner" adaptation. It's 3 levels, and I spent almost 6 weeks on level one (not ten days), but even 2 weeks in I noticed actual muscle in my arms. I recommend it to EVERYONE who asks. And sometimes people who don't.
posted by hungrybruno at 11:54 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My knowledge of working out without equipment was pretty much limited to the stuff I learned from the Canada Fitness Test when I was a kid. So many awesome ideas here, especially jumping rope. I work in a building with a big open space and no coworkers to annoy, so that's a perfect suggestion for me. I can also run up and down the stairs there. Thanks everybody, there's enough awesome ideas here to keep me from getting bored with one thing.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:59 PM on February 24, 2010

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