Getting fit with or without a gym membership

by Amy Renee

Getting Fit Outside The Gym

Getting fit doesn’t necessarily mean you have to run to your nearest fitness center and buy a membership. Not everyone feels comfortable in that type of setting and not everyone enjoys working out at a gym.

OUTDOOR TRAILS: Whether you live in the city or in a rural area there are several beautiful places to get some fresh air and get fit at the same time. Just make sure you are safe. If you are going somewhere that is not very well populated bring your phone and a friend with you. And be aware of your surroundings such as what wildlife may be around. Here is a great article with tips for trail running.

PADDLE BOARDING: Also known as stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), this is one of the latest trends in outdoor workouts.  This full-body workout strengthens your core as you stand on a paddleboard and use an oar to propel yourself on calm water such as a lake, river, or in the bay and inter-coastal areas as we do around here in Tampa Bay. You get to see some amazing views while you get a great workout and you can even bring your dog! Check out this site for more about SUP.

SWIMMING & POOL WORKOUTS: Indoors or out you can get a great workout swimming. Just be sure to be safe and bring a spotter if you are swimming the shoreline and if you are a beginner I recommend you stick to the pool for your workouts. Swimming lessons or even pool workouts could be a fun way to get some exercise in. Be sure to include at least a little bodyweight-bearing exercise in your weekly routine to ensure your bones are getting some fitness as well!

RUNNING BLEACHERS OR STAIRS: Find a building, stadium or parking garage that has bleachers or stairs, preferably at 30 or more that you can use to workout on. You can do pretty much the same types of workouts on bleachers or stairs and both are great. The possibilities are endless. Run up the entire set. Run back down. Then go back up skipping a stair/bleacher each time and run back down (all steps/bleachers). You could even do jump-ups on one stair or bleacher, alternating lunges, one-legged or Bulgarian lunges…These are great workouts to do on weekends when downtown parking garages tend to be empty but you can also find areas that work during the week as well. Not only is this a great whole-body, cardiovascular workout, but your butt and thighs will get super toned in the process!

PLAYGROUND WORKOUT: If you are a stay-at-home mom this is a great option for you! Take the kiddos out for some fun time at the playground and get your workout in at the same time. There are all kinds of things you can do and you’ll be a great role model for your kids! Bring a jump-rope and jump for 30 second or 1 minute intervals. Do pull-ups on the monkey bars. Do leg or knee lifts on the monkey bars. Use whatever equipment is there and get creative. You could even do some stationary squats and lunges or heck, make that jump squats and jumping switch lunges!

DANCE CLASSES: Love to dance? I bet you could find a local dance studio where you could take a class and work that bootie at the same time as you learn some cool moves. If you want something with higher intensity and focused around exercise you could look for some dance-inspired fitness classes like jazzercise. Maybe even you could talk your significant other into taking a ballroom class with you. You could get some quality time together while being active too! How fun!

RUNNING GROUPS: Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a runner but just always assumed it “wasn’t in your genetics”? Phooey! Everyone can run or at least jog unless you have injuries preventing you from doing so. All you have to do is start. Get yourself a good pair of shoes and get out there. Run for as long as you can, then walk for a while. Then run some more. Push yourself. Tell yourself you can go a little further. And guess what, YOU WILL! The brain is an amazing thing! All you have to do is have faith in yourself and you can do it. And if you need a little encouragement from others find a local running group you can join. They will likely have some beginners just like you that you can team up with. Who knows, you might end up surprising yourself and loving it!

PILATES STUDIOS: Maybe pilates is the workout for you? There are several pilates studios all over and even some gyms offer pilates classes (some cost extra money in addition to your membership fees). This is a great full-body workout that tones, strengthens and stretches – everything you need for a healthy body! Just add some cardiovascular exercise and you’re set!

YOGA STUDIOS: There are several forms of yoga from hatha to power and hot yoga. Find one that is suitable for you. I don’t recommend starting with hot yoga since this can be very dehydrating and difficult for many people to start with. Once you’re a somewhat experienced yogi you can delve into the more difficult hot yoga, but at first try something a little more body friendly. Yoga is such an amazing workout. Not only because it strengthens and tones your body while improving flexibility, but also because it teaches you how to deep breath. Deep breathing can help relax you by relieving tension in your muscles, aids digestion, improves the nervous and immune systems, strengthens the heart, lungs, and other organs, boosts energy levels, improves cellular regeneration, and improves your mood.

BARRE STUDIOS: This is one type of workout I have never tried, but have wanted to…hmmm…maybe I’ll have to do some research for business purposes? I took dance classes when I was young (ballet, jazz, modern, tap) so when barre workouts started showing up everywhere I was naturally drawn to the idea. Why haven’t I tried this yet??? The first barre workout was originally developed by a German dancer, Lotte Berk over 50 years ago, but more recently in the past few years several forms of barre programs have become popular in cities all over the United States. One to try if you are interested in getting fit dancer style.

HANG UP YOUR KEYS: How about just driving less and walking (or jogging) more? I’ve been doing this for several years now and love it! In fact, I am so used to not having a car (yep, I haven’t had a car in almost 3 1/2 years now!) that I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere where I couldn’t walk or run to get groceries, the bank, doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, the gym, etc. I love it! We get so dependent on our cars we drive EVERYWHERE! I understand that sometimes it is necessary to drive, especially if you live in a place where it is -5 degrees F or pouring rain, but every now and then try to walk for your groceries. Just make a plan ahead of time. If you have a ton of groceries to get for example, maybe you could have someone pick you up after you are done shopping.

Finding The Right Fitness Center For You

If you DO think you might enjoy working out in a fitness center consider the fact that many gyms are different so don’t simply give up on the idea if you don’t like the first one you visit. Some gyms are geared toward the typical “bodybuilder” types which might not be appealing to some of you. Others are too social seeming more like a pick-up joint rather than a place to get fit. That being said, there are some great fitness facilities out there. You just need to find them. Here are some tips on how to find the right one for you:


  • Consider the time of day you will be working out. The atmosphere of fitness centers can vary quite a bit depending on the time of day. So if you plan on hitting the gym at 6 a.m. every morning I recommend you check out all of the conveniently located fitness centers around this time so you can get a good idea of what each would be like at that time. Don’t just visit the closest gym to your office during your lunch hour and buy a membership if you plan to go afterwork at around 5 or 6 p.m. You might (and will probably) find out that it is over-crowded, extremely loud, intimidating and overall uncomfortable. You will likely not go very often, defeating the whole purpose of purchasing a gym membership.
  • What amenities are you looking for? Will a plain old weight room suffice? Or are you looking for all of the kit and caboodle of fitness centers that offers day care, spa services such as facials and massage, juice bar, steam room, pool, tennis courts…you can pretty much find anything from a super plain-jane gym that doesn’t even have cardiovascular equipment to super-expensive resort-style fitness centers that offer just about everything! You’ll pay for it though. I recommend something right in between. Something clean (don’t forget to check out the bathroom and locker room/shower area), with good equipment including cardiovascular equipment, and if you have young kids at home you might want to consider one that has day care.
  • Group Classes: Most gyms offer free group classes. If you’re into this or think you’d be interested in any of them check out the schedules to see if any of the classes look fun. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to try water aerobics. Now could be the chance!
  • Convenience: Of course you want to find something that is conveniently located to where you live or work. The more convenient it is, the more likely you are to go!


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