I’m into fitness—frugal fitness, that is. A while back I wrote a post about how I set up a home gym in my garage for under $100. I also added a $15 chin-up bar to my indoor regimen of free YouTube workouts, bear crawls and planks. To say I’m cheap about fitness is putting it mildly. So when my blogging friend Amy over at Life Zemplified told me how she’s training at home for an obstacle race, I jumped on the opportunity to feature her story as a guest post. Amy’s frugal routine beats mine by a long shot—she even does squats when she brushes her teeth.
So with out further ado, here’s a real frugal way to get super fit. Take it away, Amy.
Looking to get in better shape, increase your strength, gain muscle, or train for an obstacle race? Well, I’ve got some fun and frugal outdoor exercise ideas for you.
Because I’m in Michigan and a cold weather wimp, my opportunities to exercise outdoors are limited. So when the warm weather arrived and the realization that the obstacle race I signed up for in February was now only four months away, my butt got outside to train.
I fell in love with the idea of an obstacle race while watching American Ninja Warrior and the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge, both on NBC. I’d love to be a Ninja, but being a 49-year-old female, I think my attempts at the Salmon Ladder and Warped Wall will remain in my dreams.
A small obstacle race, however, seemed a possibility. Quite a few organized obstacle races exist in the U.S. and worldwide. The Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Savage Race are some of the more popular ones.
Approximately one year ago I convinced my husband, John, to do the Spartan Race. But even after he finally submitted to my gentle prodding, it still took us months to firmly commit to one. I pored over event schedules and opportunities for saving on entry fees for months. Then in February, they ran a special for Valentine’s Day and the Spartan schedule finally included an event in Michigan for September 2017. The die was cast. I signed us both up.
Since this is the first obstacle race for us both, we opted for the Sprint event, a 3 to 5 mile course with 20 to 23 obstacles. Other races in the Spartan series include the Super (8-10 miles, 24 to 29 obstacles), the Beast (12-14 miles, 30 to 35 obstacles) and the Ultimate Beast (2 laps of the Beast). While we both completed a 1/2 marathon in 2013, the idea of battling 24 or more obstacles was just too intimidating for me. I know. I’m a wimp.
Frugal Strength and Endurance for Everyone
Although John and I are training for an obstacle race, the training we’ve developed is great for just about anyone looking to build strength and endurance. The training we’ve developed is also easy on anyone who is particularly cost sensitive. Our training uses items and equipment you’re sure to find around your home and in your local parks. Yes, with a bit of creativity you can frugally hone your muscles and increase your aerobic capacity.
Okay, before we dive into the “frugal exercises” that comprise our training, I need to throw a couple of things at you. The first thing I’m throwing at you is a disclaimer. Here it is.
Obligatory Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor before embarking on any exercise program. Do not attempt any exercise you do not understand how to perform without trained supervision. The activities I describe are not a prescribed exercise program.
This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is provided to inform you about exercise and nutrition, and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or dietetic advice. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment. For my full Disclaimer, please view here.
The second thing I’m throwing at you is some preliminaries. Here they are.
- In order to get the most out of the exercises below, you’re going to need some space. We are fortunate to live on 3 acres, so our yard is quite large to move around on. If you have a smaller yard, you can still perform these exercises. You’ll just be doing more laps. If you live in an apartment, on the other hand, you’ll need to hit a local park.
- Perform these types of exercise 2-3 times per week. You can do them all in one day or split the list into two days. Warm-up for approximately 5 minutes with an easy activity such as walking, slow jogging, jumping jacks, jumping rope, or burpees. Don’t dive into the below exercises right away.
- Base the weight, distance, and repetitions used for these exercises on your current fitness level and goals. Don’t be a Superman or a Wonder Woman. Start with less or fewer and build up over time.
- Finally, remember to have plenty of water on hand. You’re able to push yourself more when you’re well-hydrated.
For personal and specific recommendations, feel free to contact me at my site – LifeZemplified.com
Frugal Exercises Requiring Equipment
Note: We did not pose for the pictures (they were taken during activity), and we are nowhere near professional models or photographers. So please excuse any amateurishness in the shots below.
- Sled Drag and Sled Pull: For these exercises, we use a toboggan that we weigh down with old truck tires and 40-pound salt bags. If you lack a sled or toboggan, try an old tarp. You can attach a rope through the eyelets. Or use anything that can be weighted down and pulled with an attached rope or cable. A child in a storage tub perhaps? And if you don’t have a spare child or two, you could use large rocks, sandbags, cement blocks, or heavy tools to weigh down your “sled.” For the first exercise, the sled drag, we secure both ends of a rope to the toboggan so that we can place it around our waists and drag the sled behind us. The weight on the sled should be enough to challenge you but not so much that you cannot move it 20 yards or more.The sled pull exercise involves securing a long rope to the toboggan so that we can pull it to us from a distance. We use a 10-foot rope now but will be getting a longer one. We pull the sled back and forth across the lawn multiple times. We’ll increase the weight and repetitions as we go too. Use your upper and middle back, not just your arms, to pull the sled towards you.
- Walking Lunges: Holding a heavy rock, dumbbells, or another heavy object, perform alternating lunges walking across the yard. Step forward with one leg and lunge down until your thigh is parallel with the ground, ensuring your front knee does not go out over your toes and your back knee does not touch the ground. I perform 15 lunges on each leg in one direction, pause, and then perform 15 lunges on each leg back the other way. Again, as your training continues and you become stronger, increase the repetitions and the sets.
- Step Ups: We perform these on our front porch, our back deck, or a bench at the local park. The idea is to use a surface that is approximately knee high. If that is too high for you, start with a lower surface and work up to it.
- Bucket Carry and Salt Bag Carry: For these two exercises, we use a 5-gallon bucket loaded with rocks and two 40 lb salt bags (feel free to substitute the salt bags with sandbags, dog food bags, or any heavy bags you have handy). We are currently trying to do both carry exercises for 1/4 of a mile. John’s doing great. I’m not even close yet.For the salt bag carry, I put one bag on my shoulder. John carries 2, one on each shoulder.For the bucket carry, I place a salt bag in the bucket and bear hug the bucket. John places additional rocks in the bottom of the bucket to increase the weight for him.
- Pull-ups: For this exercise, monkey bars, a sturdy tree limb, or any other structure you can suspend yourself from would work. Since we have none of those at home, we use a homemade pull-up bar John installed on a steel beam in our basement and then attached some plumbing pipe to it (see picture below). When we are at a park, we do use the various equipment there.Before this year, I could never perform a forward-facing-grip pull-up. But I was determined my day would come. To make it happen, I started doing back strengthening exercises such as dumbbell rows, seated rows, and the sled pull. Then I started doing underhand grip pull-ups. Finally, the day came when I was strong enough to do one forward-facing-grip pull-up. I can now do 3, and I’m working on more.
- Stair Climb: I’m using my basement stairs for this. You could use any interior or exterior stairs you like. Bleachers at a stadium would also work. To do this exercise, I put on a weighted backpack (I’m using 15 pounds of books), and then I walk up and down the stairs 10 times. I started with 5 and have worked myself up to 10. You could also hold dumbbells, a bowling ball, or a laundry basket full of clothes.
Frugal Exercises Requiring No Equipment
In addition to the above exercises, we perform push-ups, planks, and wall sits. Burpees and bear crawls are other exercises we will soon be adding. None of these require any equipment and can be performed just about anywhere.
We also walk 5 miles a day for at least six days during the week. In the near future, we hope to increase our distance and pace for at least two out of the six days.
Finally, I love what squats do for me. So I also perform 15 bodyweight squats every night while brushing my teeth.
Whatever exercises you choose to engage in, have fun with it! You won’t keep doing something if you don’t enjoy it. After all, why torture yourself with any exercise? Many frugal exercises exist, and with a little help from Google, you’re sure to find something you enjoy.
Please reach out with any questions. Share your own frugal exercise tips or obstacle race experience in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.
Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Groovy, for the opportunity to engage with your Groovy Freedomists!
Mr. Groovy here again. Are Amy and John inspiring, or what? I don’t know what scares me more. Doing lunges with a big rock? Walking with two 40 lb bags of salt on my shoulders for a quarter of a mile? Or walking 5 miles a day, six days a week? But wait, there’s more! Amy and John’s training regiment is as frugal as it is challenging. It costs them nothing to hone their strength and endurance. And who in the personal finance community can’t appreciate that?
I for one can’t wait to here how Amy and John do on their Spartan Race in September. I’m sure they’ll make us proud. By the way, Claudia and Garrett over at Two Cup House might be doing a Tough Mudder next year. Perhaps we can rally the northeast personal finance community and orchestrate a twisted meet up? We can call it, “FinCon Meets Full Metal Jacket!”
Finally, I just want to tell you a little more about Amy. Amy is in office and project management by day, and is a certified nutrition coach and blogger in her spare time. She writes about food, fitness, personal finances, and fun at her site LifeZemplified.com. She believes wellness is more than just eating right and exercising, but also effectively managing your finances, connecting with others, and growing yourself a little every day. She enjoys a variety of outdoor activities and, as you well know, is currently training for her first Spartan Race in September of 2017.
In addition to her site, you can also find Amy at: