Getting Fit Without Breaking Your Budget... A Heifer Conundrum

Howdy, Heifers! I hear it all the time.  I want to workout.  I want to be fit.  But I have 16 children and we eat too much Ramen as it is.  How can I get fit without breaking the bank?  I'm so glad you asked.  I am happy to present to you.... 


7 Ways to Keep Fit that Won’t Break the Bank

One of the biggest reasons people give for not starting a workout program is the cost. We’ve all heard horror stories of yoga pants that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries, running shoes that could put a month’s worth of gas in the tank and personal training sessions that cost more than we actually make at our own jobs. 

The message we’ve been fed is a lot like junk food: often bloated, full of misinformation and lacking any real value at all.  The diet and fitness industry is full of great voices for health and wellbeing, but it’s also got a few snake charmers trying to milk us for a dollar with promises of optimal health in 7-minutes a day or convincing us we need to spend thousands of dollars a year on high-end gear and complicated programs.

There are even people selling the idea that one particular diet or exercise program is a one-size-fits-all requirement for ‘results.’

The truth is, diet is personal, and there are tons of exercise programs that will help any of us achieve better fitness levels if we’re consistent and disciplined. We don’t have to adhere to any one guru’s ‘plan’ to achieve a healthier body, and we don’t have to spend a fortune to get fit.

A healthier body and mind is achievable in less time than you think and with less money than you think. With the investment in a little research, some Internet digging and your time, you can start a solid workout plan with little to no cash at all!

Here are Seven Ways to Stay Fit for Little to No Cash without putting you in debt or relegating every dinner to beans and rice.

1.         Run Free

Let’s start with running. Heifers, running can be as expensive as you want to make it. There is gear galore, and to be honest, I own and use a lot of that gear. But when I started running, it was just a pair of sneakers and me. In fact, they weren’t even good shoes.

As I’ve gotten further along down the running path, I’ve gotten better shoes. I’ve even gotten some fancy hot running pants, but I started with basically nothing. It was just me and the pavement outside my front door.

Running is actually a brilliant workout plan because it’s so simple. We all do it naturally. We don’t have to learn any tricky steps or movements. And, there is tons of FREE information on our bestie, "the Google," to help us get started with proper form, stretching and even training plans. I won’t say it’s absolutely free; nothing really is, though. But for the cost of a pair of shoes (you can get decent ones for under $100), all you need is yourself, your shoes and the pavement.

As you get going, and as you begin to run more, you can invest in better quality shoes. You can go all high-tech gear and wear special sweat-wicking clothes and badass sunglasses.

But on that first day? Yeah, just you, the shoes and the open road and a ratty old pair of gym shorts that actually make you seem totally retro. 


Total initial investment:    $100 - $150

2.         Yoga Your Way

Yoga is not only a hot workout (sometimes literally) and a great way to strengthen the body and mind, but it’s expensive.

I know so many people who can’t get into a yoga program because of the cost of an individual class ($10-$20) or a month pass, which is typically around $150/month. That’s my gas budget. For realsies.  

If you want personal yoga sessions with a lithe woman speaking to you in hushed tones, adjusting your Warrior-2? Now you’re looking at around $90/hr.

I’m not saying those prices aren’t worth it. Yoga is amazing, and for many people, yoga is a great way to start an exercise program that's gentle on the joints and low-stress. There are ways to start a yoga habit, though, that don’t cost as much as a your monthly electric bill.

First, you can always get amazing, high-quality, free yoga videos online. YouTube is my go-to for these videos. I love YouTube videos because they come in all shapes and sizes. I can find a 10-minute yoga video for first-thing-in-the-morning, when my body can’t jump right into an hour-long practice, and I can come home to a forty-minute routine when I have more time and my body has been warmed up from the day.

Online videos are also accessible any time of day, so I don’t have to be at a studio at a certain time. And, I can find instructors who teach with the vibe I like.

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it: I don’t love all of the inspirational quotes and forehead massages I get in some studios. I like a clean yoga style, and I find that in a lot of online videos.

A few of my favorite instructors are Tara Stiles and Adriene, over at Yoga with Adriene. There are also tons of online yoga sites outside of YouTube with great yoga for FREE including Do Yoga With Me, Fightmaster Yoga and Yome

You don’t need any special equipment, either. In the privacy of your own home, you can do yoga in your pajamas.

Total initial investment:    FREE


3.         Just Dance

You’ve probably seen the amazing celebrity dance cardio workouts taking the fitness world by storm, right?

There are hip studios in places like NYC or The Hamptons, where wealthy, gorgeous housewives and celebrities rub sweaty shoulders while dancing their hearts out to thumping club music. I know. It sounds both wonderful and awful at the same time.

The cost of those studios? Hundreds of dollars a month.  HUNDREDS.  For the rest of us mere mortals, dance classes are at least part of a monthly gym membership, which run, on average, around $40-$60/monthly.

A local gym was just advertising at $9.95/mo., but when I inquired, that price didn’t include classes.  So, we return to our friend, the Internet.

There are tons of videos online, both for free and for purchase. And they’re good. They’re as good, sometimes better, than gym classes.  In fact, they’re sometimes actually taped gym classes slapped up online.

So, for the cost of your monthly Internet service, you’ve got your own dance studio to start with. The Queen of Dance Cardio, Tracy Anderson, has many free videos on YouTube.  Or, for $20, you can get some of her videos, which are intense (but really great). She has beginner to advanced workouts, too. But whatever your dance style (Latin, ballroom, ballet or hip-hop), it can be found in a free YouTube video.

And if you don’t want to do that? Just dance. Seriously. Just dance. Around your kitchen. In your living room. Down the hall as you scream at your kids to wake up before the bus comes. Get on your feet, put  in your ear buds and DANCE.

You’ll use so many different muscles in your body while getting your heart pumping! You can do it for five minutes to start. You can do it for ONE minute to start. You don’t need anything fancy at all. You don’t even need shoes (though support always helps).

You just, really, need you. You can listen to music or you can make your own. Who cares? Just dance.

Total initial investment:    FREE

4.         Train Like a Soldier

My friend’s husband is a soldier.  Heifers, he is PAID to stay in shape….by the US government.

You know what he does?  Three to five miles runs, three times per week, and pushups and sit-ups. Period.  That.Is.It.  He is 45 and still wears the same size pants he wore at 25.  I think I hate him.

The Army tests its soldiers on these three core strengths: upper body strength (pushups), core strength (sit-ups) and cardio endurance (run). Not only that, but soldiers have to meet criteria in each area, doing a certain number of pushups and sit-ups per minute to pass the test and running 2 miles within a certain time, given their age category.

This fitness approach has a few things going for it: First, it’s dead simple. Most of us have done a pushup and sit-up in gym class as kids. Proper form for these exercises is easily learned, and there is no added weight thrown in, risking injury.

Second, all of these exercises can be done anywhere: hotel rooms, bedrooms, backyards, schoolyards, even in an office (okay, except running).

Third, the Army doesn’t get all crazy about it, either. The runs are 2-3 miles. Sure, you can go further, but the military isn’t testing soldiers on their ability to run a marathon. Reasonable fitness is two timed miles, not ten.

Finally, there are tons of online resources for keeping up with military fitness.  Obviously, many soldiers workout much harder than the basic requirements, so there is information for all kinds of workouts. But that foundation (running, sit-ups, pushups) is always there. 

Here is the Army’s Basic Training PFT (Physical Fitness Test). Just training for that would be a great challenge, with reasonable expectations and, other than the cost of shoes, totally FREE. 

 Total initial investment:   FREE (or the cost of running shoes)

5.         Gym Basics

A new gym opened up in our area, advertising rates as low as $9.95 per month.  I pay at least four times that amount, so I was curious to see what the deal was. 

You know how it goes….they get you in the door with a low price and then slap you upside the head with fees and hidden charges until you’re totally confused and either sign on the dotted line to end the misery or walk away completely, another fitness trial ended before it starts.

I was prepared for the hard sell.  Turns out, it was pretty clear. For $10 a month, you get bare-bones gym access. This means no group fitness classes, no access to the pool and no sauna.

But, you DID get all the weight machines and free weights and all of the cardio equipment. I mean, that’s not a bad deal. Many people don’t need or use the extras for a solid workout.

Just having a treadmill or stationary bike and some free weights is more than enough to build a solid fitness program. Check into your local gyms and see if they offer bare bones options. You can always start at the low end, and as your fitness program grows, you can add on later. Or not.

Keeping it simple is kind of the key to so many things in life, fitness included. 

Total initial investment:  $40 ($30 sign up fee, $10/month)

6.         Raise the Barre

Barre workouts (workouts that include ballet-inspired moves usually done at a ballet barre) are all the rage. All.The.Rage.

Celebrities do them; svelte housewives credit them for being able to wear yoga pants in public. These workouts promise the long, lean lines of a dancer.

The thing about barre workouts? They’re expensive. And I mean…legit expensive. Individual classes can be more than $40 per class, and monthly passes will set you back $150-$200 each month. Not only that, but with studio classes, there is often a no-show fee, and you’re limited to certain times for classes. If you’ve got time and money to spare, studio workouts are probably great.

But if you’re looking for a less expensive option, streaming videos is awesome. What is this streaming business? So, here’s how it works. Many of these studio brands offer live streaming of their workouts or online video libraries, updated regularly, of pre-recorded videos.

It’s kind of genius. You get a new workout in the comfort of your own home. The hardest part is pressing play.

There are all sorts of these programs, but the most popular is Barre 3, which costs $15/mo. for access to the entire library of videos, which are updated regularly. If you pay in full, for an entire year, it comes out to $10/mo. SCORE!

And the best part? Working out in the comfort of your own home means you can literally do these workouts in your pajamas!

Total initial investment: $15

7.         Roll It Out

Foam rolling. It’s a hot topic these days in the fitness world, but it’s mostly associated with either injuries or high-level athletes with personal trainers, massage therapists and a host of gurus working to keep them fit. Yeah. I foam roll. And I don’t have any of that stuff; well, I do have a trainer, but he’s not personal and he doesn’t visit me in the workout studio I built in my backyard.

Foam rolling is becoming not only hotter with each passing day but also more accessible. It’s not only great for kneading muscles and connective tissue, but it’s also super calming and a great way to cool down from an intense workout.

Here’s the thing, though; foam rolling can also be a workout of its own. Many exercises using the foam roller are more akin to Pilates and other gentle strengthening moves.

Foam rolling guru Lauren Roxburgh has written a book and developed several videos on foam rolling. Tons of her videos are free; some are for sale and download instantly. She even has a foam rolling workout for curing a hangover. Heifers!! That means you get to have your margarita and then roll away the pain! Yeah. Let me know how that goes.

Seriously, though, the only cost to this workout is the cost of a foam roller, which can easily be purchased on Amazon for $10-$20. Roxburgh’s rollers are pricier, at $60, but they’re also supposed to be softer and better made.

I say start low, see if you love it, and then you can choose to invest later. Finally, like so many of these fitness hacks, you can find a ton of free videos on our friend, YouTube.

Total initial investment:  $10



There it is in a nutshell: seven ways to keep fit without going into debt or stealing cookies from the bank to hold you over at snack time. There are better reasons to steal cookies from the bank, people.

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