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By: John Adams, author of and dad of two young daughters
Posted on: May 28, 2019

Working Out Without Splashing Out

Once upon a time I joined a gym. I used it once and never returned, but failed to cancel the membership so for months I was making regular payments for nothing.

If you are going to have gym membership, you have to use it enough to justify the cost. The truth is, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep in shape.

With two young children, my family’s outgoings are high. Gym membership would be a luxury and over the years I have managed to keep in shape without breaking the bank.

Based on my experiences, here are some ideas for staying in shape without paying a fortune for your fitness.


For years, running was my chosen method of keeping fit. All you need is running shoes, a water bottle, t-shirt, shorts and away you go.

If you haven’t exercised for a while, start with short distances, avoid hills, and build up. The beauty is it doesn’t have to cost you anything and you may find running clubs in your area so you can turn it into a social activity.


Due to a recurring injury, I recently took the decision to give up running and instead started cycling.

Where I live, the roads are full of people at weekends on very expensive road bikes and wearing expensive cycling gear, all of them out on long, cross-country rides. When we pass each other, we often exchange a friendly “hello”.

However, there’s one big difference between us. They're often using expensive bikes with thin tyres, a tiny saddle and even smaller pedals. The bike I use is a crossover. It’s decade old, rattles like an old tractor and cost what most people would spend on a good meal at a restaurant!

I was reluctant to buy a new bike because I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. As it turns out, I do enjoy it and now do a 5km ride a couple of times a week.

One day, I may replace my bicycle. For now, my rusty but trusty machine is serving me well and I’m getting great exercise for no money.

If, like me, you're a dad, this is also a great activity to do with your children. I love taking my kids out on their bikes and it gives them a sense of independence.

Public fitness trails

Over recent years I have noticed fitness trails are being installed in public parks. If used properly, you can often give yourself an all-over work out using this equipment. I use fitness trails from time to time and I’m amazed at the variety of equipment available.

I personally use rowing machines, step equipment, power lifting equipment and so on. Again, if you have a family, you can get a workout while watching the children play in the park. It works for everyone!

Buy your own equipment

Everything I have mentioned so far is outdoor-based and relies, to a greater or lesser degree, on reasonable weather. Many people buy their own equipment and store it in their garage or garden shed, possibly even converting that shed into their own home-based gym.

Yes, you do have to spend some money initially, but it doesn’t have to cost the Earth. You’ll find used equipment at reasonable prices on Gumtree and eBay. Once you have the equipment, you don’t have to pay out monthly for gym membership and in a few months the cost often balances out.

We have some equipment at home and it serves us very well. There’s a corner of our garage that doubles-up as a gym and both my wife and I make use of it.

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Leisure centres

If you want an excuse to get out of the house or find the discipline of going to a gym is useful, there is one option you could consider. Leisure centres can offer gym-style membership and have very similar facilities but cost less.

You will often find they offer classes, have a good array of equipment and even swimming pools. They can be busier than a gym and you may not get quite the same level of attention, but you can still get a very good work out and it will probably be more cost effective than joining a gym.

Have fun

I think the most important piece of advice I would give is to ensure you enjoy the activity you are undertaking. If you don’t like running, try cycling or do something else. There are plenty of free or cost-effective ways to keep fit. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it so find something you like and remember to have fun!