Ways To Work Out Without A Gym Membership

by Toria Sheffield

Gyms are freaking expensive. In the city I live in, even a relatively basic membership costs about $70 per month, and even if you go to the most bare-bones gym around, you can still end up dropping a couple hundred dollars a year. It's why building a home gym is actually a pretty desirable option for most of us.

Not to mention, according to a study out of Stanford and UC Berkeley, most people are actually losing money on their gym memberships since they're so underutilized, and 67 percent of people don't even end up using their memberships at all. Essentially, gyms make money by counting on the fact that we won't actually use what we're paying for.

And sometimes it just comes down to convenience. When I get home after work the thought of changing my clothes and going out again (sometimes in the rain, cold, or snow) is not always the most enticing option. And lugging my gym clothes on the subway to and from work doesn't always feel too convenient either.

An at-home workout space not only saves money, but it also fits in way better to my life. If this is sounding at all familiar, or you'd just like an awesome, relatively inexpensive home gym in addition to your gym membership for those days you just don't feel like leaving the house, here are seven tips to get you started.

1. Dedicate A Space For It

In an article for Shape, fitness instructor Ellen Barrett said the first step is carving out space in your home to serve as your work-out zone. If possible, the space shouldn't be used for anything else and should give you some degree of privacy. She also noted the importance of clearing the space of clutter and distractions and making sure you have good lighting, and strongly suggested including a mirror. "Mirrors are great for meditating on movement--the mirror lets you be your own instructor," she said.

And if you don't necessarily have enough room in your home to dedicate a whole room for this (apartment-dwellers, raise your hands!), then you can also just keep all of your equipment in a tub in a room that you can also quickly and easily clear up for a workout.

2. Feng Shui It

Just like with your bedroom or living space, the vibe and energy of your workout area can have a big effect on you. On, personal trainer Michael Matthews stressed the importance of making sure you have some good speakers for pumping you up, a mirror to focus on form, and even setting up posters and pictures to motivate you if you find that kind of thing helpful. The cool thing about an at-home space is that it can be completely tailored to you.

3. Think About Flooring

Fitness Puzzle Exercise Mat, $24, Amazon

Matthews also recommended investing in some floor pads for you exercise space, as it will help protect both you and your floors. Not only do pads help with footing and reduce impact on your joints, but bonus: they're super cost efficient.

4. YouTube Is Your Friend

This is a personal tip that has revolutionized my home workouts (and my wallet). A lot of people don't realize that there are literally thousands of awesome workout videos available for free on YouTube led by actual personal trainers. You don't even need to buy home-work out DVD's any more. I like to collect three or four go-to videos to rotate through that target different areas of my body, and always end with a super fun cardio-centered dance to shake things out.

5. Use Your Own Body Weight

I've written about it before, but there are actually a ton of exercises that solely utilize your own body weight and don't require any additional equipment. Look up videos on chair dips, lunges, and towel raises, and check out the above on super simple arm circles.

6. Make Gallon Weights

A lot of people also don't realize that you can use every day objects in place of weights for a lot of exercises. Lifestyle and fitness coach Jan Graham specifically recommended using recycled milk containers filled with water on her fitness blog Cranky Fitness. Not only do they already have convenient handles, but you can easily adjust the amount of weight you're lifting just by adjusting the amount of water in the jugs.

7. Invest In A Few Basics

Valeo Neon Jump Rope, $4, Muscle Driver Usa

While "investing" doesn't ever sound cheap, there are definitely a few super simple and cost-effective things you can keep in your fitness space that can be just as effective as a fancy treadmill or leg press. A compilation piece in Men's Health recommended always having a jump rope for cardio and a foam roller for cool downs and stretching on hand. And my personal tip is to make sure you have a yoga mat for any moves that involve lying on your back, like crunches.

There's no reason any of us should be struggling to pay for a gym membership when there are so many ways to work out for virtually nothing — not to mention in the comfort of your own home. Just make sure you have a few basic essentials and create a space that will mentally get you in the zone; then say hello to several extra hundreds dollars a year.

Images: Colin and Sarah Northway, Javier Morales, Clay Manley/Flickr; YouTube (3)