Blog, Minimalism

Simple Ways to Improve Your Fitness for Free

Me and free exercise go way back.

At the age of 14, I found my sport of choice: rowing. Rowing is all lungs and legs and I was soon made aware of my weak cardiovascular capabilities. The easiest most accessible way for me to improve my fitness when I wasn’t out on the water rowing, was to start running. I clipped out the 12 week to 10k program from the newspaper and started from day one. I made a calendar and stuck it on my bedroom wall and crossed off the runs one by one. In 12 weeks I went from running one minute/walking one minute x 10, to running non-stop for 10 kms. All it cost me was time and motivation.

That was, gasp, almost two decades ago. I went on to win two NCAA titles, be named an All-American (while still holding Canadian citizenship) and win a bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships representing Canada. Since retiring from sport in 2005 I’ve done lots of things to stay in shape: marathons, boot camps, spin classes and, most recently, Crossfit.

The most important thing about a workout routine is that you do it. That can mean one of two things:

  • find something you like
  • finding something you don’t like and stick with it long enough until you do like it

Yes, you might not like something when you start. I didn’t particularly like running before I did the 10k program. In fact, I did whatever I could to get out of running in gym class. I felt awkward, out of breath and bored when I ran. When I ran to get in shape for rowing I had a goal. And a set program. And a discman to listen to. After a few weeks I began to look forward to getting out for my runs. I liked crossing the runs off my calendar and I liked that quiet time out by myself.

My change of heart about running is not unique. Most people I know who’ve taken up running later in life, who previously swore it off, eventually began to like it. Enjoying your exercise of choice is imperative to continuing with it long term. That doesn’t mean some days won’t be a slog or a challenge. But you’ll have enough inspiring and feel good workouts to balance those out and that’s what will keep you in shape long term.

Running is a great way to exercise because it is mostly free. Get a good pair of running shoes, throw on a t-shirt and shorts, and you’re good to go. There are lots of fancy and expensive ways to time and track your runs but a simple wrist watch works great too. Again, the best way to find success is not by investing in a GPS running watch or a new workout wardrobe, the simplest way to success is just to get out there.

Free Ways to Increase Your Fitness

Crossfit: I’m no longer a member of a Crossfit gym but I still do Crossfit workouts. Here is a great list of travel Crossfit workouts. Crossfit is about intensity and most of the workouts are between 15-30 minutes. Some involve running but most of them can be done in your living room. This is imperative for me at the moment. I have a young son and need to be able to do workouts at home.

BodyRockTV: I heard about from a personal trainer who said the workouts were really hard. I’ve tried a couple of them and I have to agree. Like Crossfit, these workouts are short and intense. Most of them have an instructional video to get you started. Some of the workouts require specific equipment but there are plenty that just require a timer or stop watch. The moves can be really challenging! I’m still working on my break-dance push-up.

Yoga: free Yoga! I’m a big fan of YOGAmazing’s free podcasts. I’ve played them on my laptop for a workout in my living room and I’ve also played them on my iTouch at the gym to run through a routine. There are over 200 of them on iTunes and they range from sport specific to emotion specific routines.

If you’re new to body weight bearing exercises here is a simple routine you can start with:

  • 20 push ups: this is a great video that shows a progression from wall push ups to full push ups. Try out the range shown in the video and find the level that you can safely start at.
  • 20 squats: your legs are the strongest part of your body! Work on good technique and aim for a full range of motion. Here is a video of correct posture.
  • 20 sit-ups: they seem simple but check out the pointers in this video to make your sit ups effective.

Try this routine three times a week. Bump up the reps by 10 for each exercise every week. You should feel a bit sore the day after a workout.

What are your favourite simple and free ways to improve your fitness?

Rachel and her husband are striving to live a minimalist lifestyle while raising their young son. To read more about their experiences, please visit her blog, The Minimalist Mom.

If you are ready to join the Minimize Yo’ Butt Fitness Challenge, make sure you are part of the Minimalist at Home Facebook page. You can also sign up for updates or follow me on Twitter. Thanks so much for reading!

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