Spring is on its way! I’m so excited. After a long, dark New England winter, to me, there is nothing better than a warm spring day in Boston – flowers and trees in bloom everywhere, Sox games on the horizon, the sun sticking around a bit even after the work day is over, and FINALLY, the chance to put that heavy winter coat back in the closet.
Along with all the hope that this time of the year brings to each of us in this city, there is also a bit of dread associated with the annual end to our “hibernation” – putting our winter coats away means that we have to show the world what we’ve been hiding underneath! If you are anything like me, you’ve been enjoying some yummy comfort food, dinners and desserts to help you through the cold winter. I suspect that around this city, even more than at the New Year, there is a spike in new health club memberships during the early spring.
Spring brings us all sorts of hope – that we can finally succeed in getting in shape, gaining the energy that we could really use to take advantage of this city during the warmer months, and shedding those extra few pounds that we gained while enjoying ourselves a little too much during the winter months!
The easiest, and most common solution to this problem, is to join a health club. However, I’m not sure if you’ve tried to join one lately, but health clubs in Boston are expensive! Many clubs offer monthly membership fees of $60-$80, and I’ve seen some that are well over $100 per month. Sure, they can be nice – even luxurious, depending on the one you choose – but when you have important short- and long-term goals to reach, there are less expensive (and just as effective!) ways to exercise and get in shape for the upcoming warmer months!
I’ve compiled a list here of my ideas. I hope this list inspires you to get creative in your quest to get in shape. I’d love to hear your own solutions, so please feel free to respond to this article and share your ideas! (and please remember, I’m a financial planner – if you have any questions about your own ability to perform any of the suggested activities, please ask your doctor!)
Here are my suggestions:
1. Take a hike! (or at least a walk)
Boston is a gorgeous city and there are many options for pleasant walks around the city. A fun way to approach this idea would be to pack a simple, nutritious lunch each day and then start a walking “club” with a few co-workers. You could leave your office together at noon, briskly walk around a pre-determined route for 20-30 minutes, eat your lunch together at a nearby bench or picnic table, and be back to your desks within an hour.
A few recommended routes would be:
*Financial District: Along the waterfront, over one of the bridges into South Boston, near the Seaport/World Trade Center and the Federal Courthouse
*Beacon Hill: Around the Boston Common/Public Garden
*Back Bay: A loop of Newbury Street and Marlborough Street
*Fenway area: Along the Riverway, Jamaicaway or around the Fens
*Kendall Square area: Along Memorial Drive
2. Borrow work-out tapes or DVDs from your local library
If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a big proponent of the library. To me, it’s a no-brainer: why rent a video or DVD from a video store for more than $5.00 per night when you can borrow one for free for a week or more?
This is a great idea for those of us who have trouble staying focused on the same workout for weeks or months at a time. If you want to continually change it up, you can rent a different workout tape each week and try different types of workouts each time. If you tend to enjoy the same workout instructor for longer periods, you can often call the library each week and renew your “rental” of the same item for several weeks. Alternatively, many workout instructors have several different workout tapes/DVDs and you can try each one in a rotating cycle, but stay with the same instructor over time if you choose to do so.
The only caution I would give you with this plan would be to do a little homework on your library’s website and reserve the tapes you are interested in ahead of time so that the new one is there when you are ready to reserve it at the end of each week.
Alternatively, those who subscribe to “On Demand” services from their cable companies may not realize that you may have access to workout sessions through the lifestyle sections of your “On Demand” cable service, most often free of charge. If you subscribe to such a service already, I’d recommend taking a look to see if you have access to any workout routines through your TV – it would make this particular recommendation much easier for you!
If you are always on the internet, you may be interested to know that it’s possible to find free and low-cost workout videos streaming through your very computer! Check out http://www.workoutsondemand.com – they offer free videos that you can try each week, plus low-cost monthly plans to become a subscriber. Additionally, be sure to visit the Lantern Financial website to enter our monthly contest to win a 6 month Premier membership to their website!
3. Bring your bicycle down to the Charles for a ride
Here is a link to a map of the Dudley White bike path that surrounds the Charles River through Boston, Cambridge & Watertown:
If you are too far to pedal to the bike path, The Charles/MGH T stop on the Red Line lets you off on a bridge just above the path.
This option is very inexpensive if you already own a bicycle. However, a quick search of Craigslist turned up several used bikes in the $45-$60 range that are in decent shape to get you started if you don’t own one.
4. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”
If you are a kid at heart, and you would like to feel like you are playing during recess as you get in shape, dodgeball may be for you! It seems that there are several dodgeball leagues around the city at the moment.
One suggestion I’d have is visiting the website for the Boston Ski & Sports Club, which runs a co-ed league. For $35 per person (plus a $25 fee for anyone who is not a BSSC member), you can register for a seven week session. You’ll meet one night per week and play 60-90 minutes during the evening, for a total of 8-12 games in round robin format. The games are held at Watertown Middle School from 7:30 to 10:00pm. It seems you may even be able to extend your season if you are good enough to make it to the playoffs! Good luck!
5. Walk home from work
If you live within a mile and a half of your workplace, a brisk walk home from work should take you no more than 20-30 minutes. A run home will take even less time. Even if you don’t live very close to your workplace, this idea may translate to your situation. You can get off the bus or T a mile or two from your home and walk or run the remaining distance, or if you take the commuter rail, and parking is generally available in your town, you can park your car a mile from the train station and walk to and from the train station.
You can easily map out your preferred route using the MBTA Trip Planner on their website.
6. Exercise for a good cause
The spring is a perfect time to start thinking about one of these “win-wins”! This time of year there are often several walks, runs, bikes, and spin-a-thons each weekend in Boston – all benefiting great causes and helping you get in shape. If you know lots of charitably inclined people, this may be the perfect fit for you – you will be sponsored to support your favorite causes, and you’ll manage to get yourself in shape in the meantime, as you train for your big event(s)!
Some favorites worth considering are:
*Project Bread’s 40th Annual Walk for Hunger – Sunday, May 4, 2008 – 20 Miles starting at Boston Common
*AIDS Walk Boston – Sunday, June 1, 2008 – 10k walk; 5k run starting at the Hatch Shell
*Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – Saturday & Sunday, May 17 & 18, 2008 – 2 days and 39 Miles
*American Lung Association’s X State Challenge Bicycle Ride – June 21 & 22, 2008 – 2 days and 200 Miles from Williamstown to Gloucester
*Spin-a-Thon at Equinox Fitness benefiting Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – Saturday, March 15, 2008 – pay $10, spin for 30 minutes
7. Dance lessons
Alex, a reader from last month, provided a great suggestion that is both a fun, inexpensive date option (which fit with last month’s theme) as well as an inexpensive fun way to get in shape for singles, couples or groups (fitting in perfectly with this month’s theme as well!). The Harvard University Ballroom Dance Team offers all sorts of social dance lessons in the evenings at the University that are open to everyone. They offer such options as nightclub, waltz/tango, latin, salsa/merengue and ballroom basics. A partner is not required and the cost is $40.00 for the entire semester. You can register online – look up “Harvard University Ballroom Dance Team.” It sounds like a great way to get in shape, have fun, and maybe even make some new, interesting friends. Other schools may offer similar programs, so it may be worth looking around a bit – however the Harvard program comes highly recommended by Alex!
8. Walk the stairs in your office building during lunch
You will need to bring a change of clothes and a bottle of water each day for this activity, because this one will really make you sweat! Find a workout partner in your office. Then, at the beginning of your lunch break, change into your workout clothes and slip into the stairwell of your building. (If allowed, leave the doorway to your floor ajar with a shoe or something similar. If that’s not allowed, make sure you bring your office badge or key with you so that you will be allowed to ride up the elevator and re-enter your floor when you are done – the worst thing would be if you got locked outside at the end of your sweaty workout! It will be worth a minute of your time to think this one through before beginning!)
Start slow – depending on the number of flights of stairs in your office building, it may make sense to go all the way up and down once or twice over the first couple of days and then build up to more “round-trips” each day. Another fun addition for you and your workout partner to add to your routine will be to stop at each or every other landing and incorporate stretches, sit-ups, push-ups or another type of exercise.
Be sure to drink lots of water and to bring a friend along!
9. Find an inexpensive alternative to a fancy health club
For those who simply can’t part with the gym experience, there are some less expensive alternatives out there.
If you went to college in Boston, your alma mater may offer you a special deal as an alum to join the college fitness center for the semester. I’ve learned that rates can be extremely low compared with area health clubs that are not related to a college or university. Many schools don’t really advertise such deals to their alums, so you will probably need to call your school’s alumni relations office to ask whether such a deal exists. You most likely have realized that a recent trend in trying to attract new students has been to build “state-of-the-art” fitness centers, so you might as well take advantage of them, especially if you can do so inexpensively!
Another option is, of course, the good old YMCA. The rates, surprisingly to me, are not much less expensive than other types of health clubs in the Boston area, although their costs change a bit based on household income and they do give you a break when signing up more than one family member. Additionally, it does seem that you get quite a bit for your money – you are allowed to use any of their locations around the city and they have a wide variety of offerings, from swimming, to a climbing wall, to martial arts, to workout equipment and other wellness programs and classes (offerings seem to vary a bit by location). Check them out at http://www.ymcaboston.org
10. Check with your human resources office at work to find out if there are any exercise benefits available to you
Often, when you begin a new job, you are overwhelmed by the vast array of benefits available to you (which is a good thing!), and you do your best to choose the best options, return your packet to your human resources department, and begin devoting all your time to your job (also a good thing!), but forgetting about the benefits that are available to you. It may be worth a call to your human resources office to determine whether your company offers you any sort of gym membership or exercise benefit. This type of benefit, when available, will vary from company to company, but may often be a monthly amount of money for you to apply toward a gym membership. Sometimes it is offered directly by your employer, however more and more health insurance companies are including this type of benefit in their shift toward preventative care. So, if you have been with your company for a while, it might be something that has been added in the last few years, and you might not have noticed. At the very least, when you ask your human resources department about this, they will begin to notice that this is an important benefit and may even consider adding it in the future!
With all these ideas, don’t forget that the most effective way to get in shape is always to combine exercise with a healthy diet. Remember also that getting in shape now will not only help you feel and look great in the upcoming warmer months, it will also help keep your finances on track in the long run. Health care is becoming more and more expensive over time and all signs point to costs continuing to grow. A major health problem in the future related to being out of shape could derail your financial plans. So, if you can get in shape inexpensively now, and manage to stay in shape over the long run, you will be doing yourself multiple favors.
Please respond to this blog entry and share your own ideas for inexpensive ways to get in shape around Boston this spring!