Frugal Fitness: Get a Great Workout for Free

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Month of Little Steps to Health FitessJanuary is BlogHer's Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness, and we want you to share your favorite easy health tip! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the tips so far in the Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness series.

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Hated the mile run and that unholy "static arm hang" from the Presidential Fitness Test in middle school? President Lyndon Johnson may have known a thing or two about running the most powerful country in the free world but when it came to just running around the track, he was, well, uninspired. So if you've never considered yourself an "athlete," it doesn't mean that you can't find a kind of exercise that you will love! You aren't 13 anymore, and you will not be graded at the end of this semester so stop worrying about doing it perfect on the first try or if you have some embarrassing wobbly bits (we all do!).

Whenever someone tells me they hate to exercise, it might be prideful but my immediate reaction is "They've never worked out with me!" I say this not because I'm some kind of exercise guru or expert but rather that I make working out 2 parts floor show and 1 part sweat. Oh I get a good workout for sure but my number one priority is to have fun and laugh a lot. Sir Mix-a-lot may be invoked is all I'm saying.

Zumba! Kettlebells! TurboKick! Circus Class! Stripperobics! Krav maga! In addition to the perennial faves like yoga and boot camp, there are so many fun ways to exercise and with new programs coming out all the time it's a wannabe-fit girl's dream!

And a frugal girl's nightmare.

The trick to finding exercise that you love is to try everything but as anyone who has looked at the impressive offering of classes (Trapeze! Hanging yoga! Pilates Reformer!) at an Equinox gym and then looked at the price to become a member of Equinox will know - exercise ain't cheap.

But it can be, and I'm going tell you how to not only get in on the fun for a discount, but often for free. Over the past 4 years of doing the Great Fitness Experiment, I have become an expert at cheap exercise. With 4 tiny kiddos at home and an insatiable appetite for novelty, I've had to get creative. Learn from miserliness, young grasshoppers!

How to Get a Free Workout

1. YouTube. Sure you knew you can watch Annoying Orange and get a workout for your abs laughing but did you know that tons of fitness professionals put free workouts on there? Yes, they are usually trying to entice you to buy their stuff but everyone from kettlebell queen Lauren Brooks to P90X guru Tony Horton to Pop Pilates has full-length professional workouts you can do at home, for free. Another trick is to take some of the sample workouts (tip: just keep following the recommended video links that YouTube will give you at the end of each video) and just do one after the other until you get a good 30 minutes of sweat under your belt (and under your boobs - nothing says great workout like boob sweat!).

2. Exercise websites. Many places put their entire program out there for free. Not only do you get a daily workout delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader, but usually you get the benefit of professional how-to videos and useful user forums. Bonus: since they assume you're doing their workouts at home or on your own, they generally use very little or very basic equipment. If you're just starting out with exercise I recommend the Monkey Bar Gym. More hardcore? CrossFit will have you buffed out faster than any program I know. And Zuzana from bodyrock.tv will have you abtastic before breakfast (seriously, go look at the woman - I want whatever's in her Wheaties.)

3. Free trials. It's the new year and I can guarantee you that every gym, fitness studio and workout warehouse in your neighborhood is offering a free trial. It may be just one free class but more often it's a free week or even a free month. No contracts signed. Just to try it out. But you have to ask. Sometimes you have to ask more than once. In addition, many places often free nights or special workouts to the public to draw people in. For instance, my YMCA offers everything from free Kid's Yoga to Turbokick classes at least once a month. Check your local newspapers or community boards for these announcements. If you do a free demo class every week, you'll have most of your workouts covered for free.

4. Blogger benefits. Here's a little trick just for us girls at BlogHer: if you have a blog, you have a public platform and companies really like that. Interested in a new fitness book? E-mail the publicist (they are usually listed on the book's website) and ask for a review copy with the promise you'll write about it. Always wanted to try out the local gym down the street? Tell the manager about your blog and see if he'll trade you some free workouts for some free publicity. It doesn't matter if you don't write a fitness blog. Parents, foodies, and etsy crafters all have bodies that need working out and so do their readers. Sure companies might say no, but you'll be amazed at how often they say yes! The trick is to not wait for them to come to you - actively use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to reach out to companies and products that you are really interested in. (Obligatory disclaimer: If you blog about free products or services, you must a) announce that you got it for free, per FTC rules and b) depending on what it is and it's value, you will likely need to blog about it on an ad-free page, per BlogHer's rules.)

Do you have a favorite trick for getting free exercise? Baffled that I didn't put "run up the stairs at your high school stadium" or "park in the spot farthest from the grocery store entrance" tips on my list? (I thought those had been done a lot but feel free to tell me a new one!)

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!

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