There’s a lot of talk about budgets lately. This week, I’m taking the budget talk away from the national scene and making it personal and, specifically, in fitness terms. Money is still very tight for the average family and there is no shortage of ways to spend money on fitness products and services. Unfortunately, many of them are a complete waste of your hard earned money. Read on to sort out the must-buy products from the duds.
Quality Footwear: Buy the best quality, proper fitness footwear you can afford. In terms of quality, do not assume that the most expensive means the best. You can get excellent quality sneakers for under $100. Read customer reviews and carefully inspect the construction of the shoes before buying. Proper footwear means that it’s activity appropriate. For example, running sneakers have a rigid sole and shock-absorbing cushioning throughout for high impact. Whereas walking sneakers have very flexible soles with more cushioning on the heel than at the ball for low impact. If you do a combination of high and low impact activities, you may need 2 pairs of sneakers, one for each type of impact. More if you also play a sport that requires a specific shoe such as basketball, tennis or golf.
Proper footwear also means a brand and style that is best suited for the uniqueness of the structure of your feet and stride. If you’re not sure how to select the best sneakers for you, go to a store that is known to have well-trained, knowledgeable salespeople and bring your current sneakers with you. They can examine your worn footwear to determine if you have foot or stride abnormalities and recommend the best brand, style and, if necessary, inserts for you.
Lastly, check the treads of your sports shoes often, once they show signs of significant wear, it’s time to replace them. You only invite injury by trying to stretch out the use of your sneakers.
Sports Bras: If your workouts involve a lot of vertical movement (jogging/running, boot camp, aerobics, dance, etc) you should buy the best quality sports bras within your budget. For A and B cups, a compression sports bra is best. For C cup and above, get a multidirectional support (vertical, horizontal and diagonal support around the cups) sports bra, preferably with a clasp. Extend the life of your sports bras by washing on gentle cycle and line drying.
Good To Have: If You Will Use Them & Can Afford Them
Moisture-Wicking Fitness Clothing: This is particularly important if you have sensitive skin that gets easily irritated. But even if you don’t, the latest fitness clothing feels, looks and functions better than the cotton of the 80s or Spandex of the 90s. The good news is that moisture-wicking fabric is now affordable and available in the activewear sections of discount department stores.
Yoga Mat: These are inexpensive and handy for all types of exercise at home or the gym.
In-Home Strength Training Tools: A pair of 5 pound free weights, one 6 pound medicine ball, and a set of resistance tubes with door mount is all you’ll need to perform an unlimited amount of full-body strength training exercises for a lifetime.
Fit Ball: Inexpensive and a great way to train balance and strengthen your core. It also adds variety to your strength training at home. If you think you don’t have space for it, consider replacing a chair in your home with it.
Personal Trainer: You may be thinking this is a highly biased recommendation. Read this post, maybe I’ll change your mind.
Electronic Exercise Aids: Many of these are free. See this post to see what’s available and will fit your needs.
Full-Service Gym/Health Club Memberships: If you only get to the gym an average of once or twice per week, you’re not using even half of what they have to offer but you’re still paying full price. Memberships to full-service gyms make sense if you use them, on average, 5-7 times a week and take advantage of the variety they offer – equipment, training, classes, spa facilities, etc. The exception to this is if the gym has an indoor pool and you use the pool regularly. If not, you’re better off taking a different approach. If you use only cardio machines, better to get a comparably inexpensive monthly membership to equipment-only gyms such as SNAP Fitness or Planet Fitness. If you prefer the fitness classes offered at health clubs, better to go the fitness studio route such as a Spin or Pilates Studio or one that offers a variety of group classes throughout the week. In these cases, you can choose what makes the most sense – paying per class or a membership level that offers either a certain number of classes or unlimited classes per week – based on how many and what types of classes you actually take.
Cardio Machines for the Home: These only make economic sense for a veteran fitness enthusiast who either doesn’t have convenient access to a gym or exercises nearly daily outdoors and wants an option to workout at home when timing/weather makes it prohibitive. Purchasing an in-home cardio machine as an incentive to exercise rarely works. It’s more likely to collect dust and end up on eBay.
The following will always be a waste of money and, sometimes, can be harmful: strength training gadgets that work only one muscle group (remember the ab roller?) or take up a large amount of space, DVDs that contain only one workout, supplements that promise to melt away fat or suppress appetite, or cardio machines that look flimsy and don’t resemble the type of machine you’d see at a gym.
Now you’re armed with the knowledge you need to make prudent fitness purchases. That’s how you become fit and happier on a budget.