Unfair Fact of Life No. 739: Just at the time of year when we're most eager to get in shape, we're deluged with post-holiday bills that leave our budgets as tight as the waistbands of our pants.
But exercising needn't cost a fortune, said Sandra McCarthy, a personal fitness trainer with Terrain Training in St. Paul. Here are some of her tips and tricks for getting fit -- without going broke.
• "Absolutely the best exercises you can do are things that require no equipment," including pushups, squats and lunges, McCarthy said. She recommends starting with a trainer to learn the proper form, though. Consider gathering like-minded friends and looking for a trainer who will agree to provide a group session.
• Basic equipment such as dumbbells, stretch bands and stability balls needn't cost much, especially if you shop on Craigslist or in a secondhand store. If you want to avoid even that expense, you can do bicep curls and other moves with milk jugs, McCarthy said. Fill them with water, adjusting the level for exercises that call for more or less weight. You can even mark the jugs with the appropriate water levels for each move. The jug trick is particularly handy when you're traveling and can't easily carry dumbbells in your suitcase; simply discard the jugs before the flight home.
• Climbing long flights of stairs, either outdoors or inside tall buildings, is a great workout, McCarthy said. Or, when it's cold out, take a brisk walk inside a mall. "You can do 3 to 4 miles around the Mall of America," she said.
• Some local park boards and other organizations offer inexpensive adult athletic leagues, including winter sports such as basketball, broom ball and that old elementary school favorite, dodgeball.
• If you like working out to a video, check the library, online, Netflix or On Demand. Amazon and other online retailers also offer cheap used DVDs.
• Want to try out a new workout place without a big initial investment? Keep an eye out for free or discounted trial offers at local gyms and exercise studios. Many yoga studios let you try a class for free. Online coupon sites such as Groupon and Star Tribune Steals often offer deals for up to half off on exercise programs. If you live near a high school or college, ask whether they let community members use their gyms at a bargain rate.
• Don't forget that ordinary household chores provides a workout. Mowing, shoveling, raking, gardening, vacuuming and vigorous scrubbing all count as exercise. And they aren't just free -- if you normally hire out any of those tasks, you'll save money while you're burning calories.
Katy Read • 612-673-4583