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What’s your time worth? Not your work time, but your personal time? It seems odd to put a price tag on running to Target, or watching TV for an hour, but for some things, maybe not.
Subtract sleep time, the work day, meals, and family time from 24 hours, and what does it leave? An hour or two? If you’re lucky?
Using your slice of personal time to stay in shape is almost always the most popular New Years resolution. Yet most gym memberships are cancelled within five months.
It’s not usually a lack of motivation.
Paying for a gym is like paying someone to cut your grass, or deliver your groceries. They’re things we could do ourselves, but we decide the benefits outweigh the cost.
But with gym memberships, the monthly bill is only part of the cost.
There’s also the cost in time getting there and back that you might have spent doing something else. Then there’s the gas, and the workout clothes you may not have splurged on if you were working out at home.
So what’s your personal time actually worth?
$25 an hour? $50? More?
Let’s make these assumptions:
- You pay for an annual gym membership at $30 dollars per month.
- You go 3 times a week for 50 weeks out of the year.
So far, it looks pretty cheap.
You’ve paid $360 for the year to go 150 times, so you’ve paid $2.40 per visit! Not bad.
But what about the other costs:
Suppose you value your personal time (not working out, but just traveling to and from the gym) at $25 dollars an hour.
And we’ll say you spend $10 a week on gas going to and from the gym.
Now at the end of the year, the cost to us is:
- $3750 – Your personal time getting there = $25/hour x 3 workouts a week = $75/week x 50 weeks.
- $500 – Gas to get there = $10/week x 50 weeks.
- $4610 – Total
Ouch! Our 150 workouts just ballooned to $33 each.
(3750 + 500 + 360)/150 = $33.13
No, you don’t write a $33 check each time you go to the gym, but you’ve used your personal time to go back and forth – time you could have used for other things.
Putting a dollar value on your personal time isn’t being cheap. But when so many other things are competing for those couple of hours, time becomes a big factor in your ROI.
What else could you have done with 150 hours – almost four work weeks of time?
This is why most people cancel their gym memberships within five months. It’s not the out-of-pocket membership costs, it’s the cost in time that eventually wears us down.
How to Setup Your Own Fitness Program
If you’re struggling to balance your commitment to be healthy with the health of your bank account and your schedule, there’s another way.
- A way that’ll cost nothing.
- Will enable you to reclaim almost a month of work hours.
- And no, you don’t need a garage full of equipment.
You can work out at home and duplicate the benefits of almost any cardio or resistance training you’d do at the gym.
But we’ll do them one better.
Most gyms are happy to collect your monthly fee, but never ask about your personal goals unless you’re paying even more for a personal trainer.
So let’s take care of that.
Let’s figure out how to track your progress. And by the time you’re done, you’ll know where you’re starting from, what you expect out of this, and how to measure your success.
Document Where You Are Now
The only way you can track your progress is to know where you’re starting from.
When we bought our first digital scale, I slipped the battery in, and immediately assumed our new scale was defective. I was expecting to see 170ish. But somehow it read 188.
It sucked to realize our scale was correct, but now I had a starting point, and a reference to check my progress. It was also a wake-up call to start paying attention to food calories.
So as uncomfortable as it might be, check your weight today.
What Are Your Workout Goals?
What bothers you about your body? Are you self-conscious in a bathing suit, breathless going up a flight of stairs, tight and inflexible, weak?
Do you want to:
- Lose weight.
- Build strength, or muscle.
- Build endurance.
- Look good on the beach.
- Be able to run for 30 minutes.
- Maybe all of the above?
How will your life be different by achieving your workout goals?
When I first embarked on a fitness program after five years of ignoring my health, I just wanted to feel better. I had run in high school, and I missed the idea of challenging myself.
If I had decades before me, I wanted to live them healthy, rather than just surrendering to the aging process.
How about you? What’s your why?
- Are you overweight to a point where it’s affecting your health?
- Do you want to start dating again, and find an active, healthy partner?
- Are you tired of the sedentary cubicle life and want more balance?
- Have you had kids and want to be able to keep up with their physical activities, and be around when they have kids?
Imagining about how your life will be different will motivate you when you’ve had a bad day, or it’s 10pm and the ice cream in the fridge is calling your name.
Consider Your Diet
Whether you work out at home or at the gym, diet will play a huge part. Enough that you can skip exercising all together, and still lose weight by eating the right foods in the right amounts.
Or you can ignore your diet, exercise 7 days a week and wonder why your weight isn’t changing, or you don’t feel toned.
You can go with Paleo, Keto, or one of the commercial diets where they ship you food, but there’s a simpler way. The best way is to adopt two habits that’ll enable you to lose weight at a slow, consistent pace and to keep it off.
- Become aware of the calories you’re eating.
- Eat more real food, and avoid processed food.
I’ve worked out and run for years, but it wasn’t until I paid attention to the calories I was eating that I was able to get to the weight I wanted.
Tracking your calories is much easier than you’d think.
There’s a variety of free mobile apps that’ll track calories, but the one that’s been an eye-opener for me is My Fitness Pal.
Prevention rates MFP as the top rated free app to track your combined diet and workout results. It’s got a database of over 6 million foods that makes tracking your calories simple. (No, I’m not an affiliate for MFP.)
Here’s how you’d use it:
- Install MFP, and it’ll ask for your personal details like height, weight, sex and goal weight. Then MFP will supply you with a target calorie count for each day. For me, that was 1520.
- Now grab the packages of foods you eat most often, and use MFP’s built-in scanner to scan the package. It’ll enter the calorie count for one serving into your own ‘foods list’.
- From then on, when you have a meal or snack, just tap “Add Food” and you can either select it from your own food list, or scan it as a new food. The calories are added to your daily total.
- If you work out that day, just add your workout from MFP’s database of workouts and it’ll increase your calorie allowance for the day by the appropriate number.
- For iOS or Android.
Having your running calorie count each day isn’t the only benefit of an app like My Fitness Pal.
By using it, I found that I was eating much bigger portions than I needed, and when I ate actual serving sizes, I was still satisfied.
It may also show you that some of the so-called “healthy foods” you’re eating aren’t as healthy as you might think. I like apple sections dipped in peanut butter. But when I saw that peanut butter contains 200 calories per tablespoon, I realized my ‘healthy snack’ was probably around 1000 calories!
Eating more ‘real’ foods and less processed foods is pretty self-explanatory. If your fridge is full of frozen pizza and Hot Pockets, then you probably want to fill it with more things that don’t have a paragraph of ingredients.
Narrowing your foods to a smaller group of real foods is also a good way isolate foods that don’t agree with you.
Write Down Your Workout Goals
Your long-term goal may be to permanently adopt a healthier lifestyle, but success happens in your daily habits.
- How often you work out.
- The types of workouts you do.
- Your diet, and calorie intake.
What would success look like for you?
- Four workouts a week?
- A particular workout, or a combination of a few?
- One pound lost per week?
Think about your schedule and when you’ll have some regular, uninterrupted time, and commit to a schedule.
Check out My Fitness Pal or another calorie counting app to see what your daily target amount should be to reach your goal weight.
Weighing Yourself Each Day
Stepping on the scale each morning, right out of bed, before eating or drinking anything is a great way to see what’s working and what’s not.
Weighing yourself each day doesn’t mean you’re obsessive about the number, it’s just a way to know exactly what’s causing your weight to change.
If you see you’ve gained a pound, you’ll know right away, “Oh, I had 3 slices of pizza and ice cream yesterday”.
It’s no big deal to have a cheat day now and then, but weighing yourself each day makes you more aware that diet really does matter.
Or if you’ve lost a pound, it’s a good way to stay motivated.
It’s much better to see you’ve gained a pound, and know exactly why, than to weigh yourself every two weeks and see you’ve gained 5 pounds and have no idea why.
What Types of Equipment Do You Need?
It may not seem like you can work out at home and duplicate the health benefits that a room full of expensive gym machines can provide, but you can.
Those gym machines usually isolate and target a particular muscle, which is great if you’re considering a body-building competition.
But most of us have no intention of becoming Mr. or Mrs. Atlas. We just want to feel stronger, maybe leaner, more flexible and have more endurance.
- There are loads of workouts you can do with a couple pairs of free weights or dumbbells. They’ll provide resistance, but also improve your balance and coordination. Plus you can just roll them under your bed when you’re done.
- You don’t need an entire set, or an expensive rack. Just one or two pairs that you can lift 8-10 times before exhaustion .
- You may want a yoga mat to do exercises on the floor.
- I like to use push up bars because they increase your range of motion in the same way yoga blocks do.
- You may already have a decent pair of sneakers.
- One thing you don’t need, are those $100 dollar sweat outfits you’d wear to the gym. At home you can wear whatever you want.
What Kinds of Free Home Workouts are Available?
Within the last few years, the amount of high quality home workout apps, and YouTube videos available for free has exploded.
Sure, some apps suggest you upgrade to their premium paid version, but we’ve featured a few below where the free versions offer dozens of guided, timed home workouts.
Here are several you might want to try:
If you’ve ever gone out for a run and came home wondering how much distance you’ve covered, wonder no more. RunTastic will tell you how far you’ve covered, your steps, and how many calories you’ve burned.
You can use Runtastic for other activities too. Take it along walking, hiking, or even switch it to cycling mode.
The hardest part of starting a running program – or any run, can be just getting out the front door.
Couch to 5K guides you gradually. 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, from the couch, to walking, jogging, and within 9 weeks, a 5K.
Each workout is guided by a voice over from athletes who’ve worked through the same hurdles you’re facing now.
Do you prefer company to workout with? The 30-Minute No-Equipment Cardio & HIIT workout on YouTube is a half hour of fast moving, heart pumping cardio.
If you’re looking for a good 30 minute workout at home, this one always delivers.
And when you work out at home with your own virtual group, it’ll help you to keep pushing to the end.
Cross Fit Home Workouts
Looking for quick, guided routines to work out at home or take with you, that don’t require any equipment?
Workouts for Women will help you tone your entire body. It includes everything from beginner workouts, fat loss, butt toning, abs, legs and arms, stretching or high intensity.
Whatever your schedule is, you can work out at home to guided, timed workouts anywhere from 7 to 25 minutes.
Choose from workouts like Summer Abs, 7 Minute Butt, Fat Blaster, Arms and Core and dozens of others. All FREE.
The Nike+ Training Club app offers over 180 free workouts by muscle group, by length, or by whatever discipline you want to improve on… endurance, flexibility, strength, yoga.
Pick anything from a quick burn, to a full 45 minute session, each one demonstrated all the way through. You can even share your workout with friends.
There’s a section for tips on general fitness, eating better, ways to cut down on sugar, sleeping tips, motivation and loads of other tips to keep you on track.
You can upgrade to premium to get extra workouts – some led by well-known athletes, but the free version has enough home workouts to keep you busy for months.
Rated one of the best free cross-fit apps by Healthline, 30 Day Fitness Challenge was designed by a professional fitness coach to help improve your strength and health gradually.
Choose from three difficulty levels in challenges like 30 Day Abs, Slam Arms, Bikini Body, Butt, Cardio Blast, or Full Body challenge.
You can preview any of the challenges by tapping it, then tap on any of the 30 days, and you’ll see the specific exercises for that day.
It’ll also track your weight, remember the days you worked out, and accept any feedback you might have.
Down Dog is rated as one of the best yoga apps by both The Wall Street Journal and Buzzfeed.
It’s fully customizable where you can select 6 experience levels, and different yoga types, like Full Practice, Quick Flow, No Flow or Restorative.
If you want to emphasize a particular area, you can choose boost options like hip, low back or hamstring opening, or you can emphasize strength in areas like back or upper body.
Choose any length workout, from 15 minutes to 1 hour, in 5 minute increments. You can even choose from a variety of male or female guide voices and background music.
Follow along with the instructor, who’ll demonstrate not just the position, but the best way to ease into it.
The Pocket Yoga app will set you back $2.99, but I include it here because most yoga apps are either more expensive, or require a subscription.
For your three bucks, Pocket Yoga offers more than 200 illustrated poses along with detailed voice instructions.
You can preview various practices, play your own music, and have your progress logged every step of the way.
Pocket Yoga is also compatible with Apple TV, so when you work out at home, you can stream sessions via AirPlay.
Or if you wear an Apple Watch, Pocket Yoga will display your current pose, time remaining, your heart rate, and calories burned.
Adriene Mishler is one of YouTube’s most down-to-earth and relatable yoga instructors. She’ll guide you through sequences on anything from burning fat, relieving sciatica pain, relaxing, easing anxiety, depression and even curing a hangover.
If you’re looking for some calming, easy to follow guidance, try joining 6 million other followers of Yoga With Adriene.
Trying to get fit and healthy isn’t something we suddenly arrive at one day. It’s a process. It’s an approach to life that takes into account your physical activity, your mindset, and your diet.
It’s nice to achieve certain milestones, like a number on the scale, or a to run 5k or more, but the real goal is to be able to adopt healthy habits that you can maintain for the long term.
That can be difficult when work, relationships, kids, friends and maybe even a side hustle are all competing for your time.
If you’re paying for a gym each month, and struggling to get there more, while feeling guilty that your time is stretched to the limit, you have options.
You can take control of your own health – set goals, lose weight and get in better shape – for less money and a lot less time.
Carl Sandberg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you“.
Carl probably wasn’t referring to working out at home when he said that, but the sentiment is the same. If there’s something you value, find a way to make it a habit.