Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: Getting fit without breaking a financial sweat

Put off by the cost of gym memberships, cost-conscious columnist Dara Squires found some inexpensive ways to help reach her fitness goals, with her phone as her guide.
Getting fit and leading a healthier lifestyle need not break the bank. (Shutterstock)

“No pain, no gain,” they say. But when the pain hits you in the pocketbook, it’s hard to see a gain.

The No. 1 reason people don’t work out is because they don’t see health and wellness as enough of a gain. Or they’re lazy. Maybe both.

But the laziness could be overcome if they thought it was important, like making sure you have clean dishes for meals.

The two top excuses people give for not going to the gym or working out more are:

1. No time

2. No money.

I completely understand both. And as a parent, the "no time" thing hits double-hard, especially if the only way you can find the time is by hiring a sitter or paying for activities for the kids.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The gym? Not for me, sorry 

Personally, I hate the gym. I hate the fact that I have to wear clothes I wouldn’t normally wear in public … in public. I hate the fact that when I’m motivated to work out I have to follow that up with motivation to get ready, get out the door and get in the gym. I hate that it’s so expensive.

But I like working out. Not that you can tell by looking at me these days. Lately I haven’t done much of anything workout-wise.

That, however, is going to change.

A couple of years ago I lost a substantial amount of weight. This last year, due to health issues and career issues and, yes, downright laziness, I’ve gained some back. That doesn’t sit right with me – or my pants.

So my goal is two-fold: get out of lazy eating habits and get into good workout habits.

But if I’m not willing to shell out $50 a month plus a good chunk of my time to hit the gym, plus more to join a weight loss program.

So, how can I do that? The same way I did it last time, I figure. Using what I have – my phone!

A lot for a little

I avoided free apps as they’re typically very limited and require in-app purchases to get a full program. So I went straight to the paid apps and found two decent ones that seem to offer what I’m looking for.

Dara Squires is using an app called My Diet Coach Pro to help meet her weight loss goals. (CBC )

For US$ 3.49 My Diet Coach Pro will let me set daily calorie goals, record what I’m eating and when I’m exercising, and provide me with reminders and tips in a non-confrontational, private way. So that’s the diet and tracking side taken care of.

But there’s still weight and cardio workouts. I have a couple of small dumbells at home and am a whiz at using tinned tomatoes as small weights, but I wanted to find something that would help me target certain muscle groups and provide me with bodyweight and at-home exercises that don’t require gym equipment.

I found that in iMuscle 2 for US$2.05. It provides workouts that use weights, machines and bodyweight and allows you to select muscles from a 3D body model to view the best exercises for that muscle.

What about cardio? Well, there’s always snow-shovelling this time of year. I lost 10 pounds just from approaching snow shovelling as a cardio workout while I was living in Corner Brook – where it snows daily.

However, I wanted something a little more … organized. So I’ve built a number of playlists on YouTube of Zumba, aerobics, and – for when I only have a few minutes – circuit-style 10-minute workouts. These videos were all free and I can play them on my computer, phone, or the TV through a “smart” device.

In total I spent about $6.60 in Canadian dollars, which means if I see some more weights at the secondhand shop next week, I can pick them up.

The best part is that everything I’ve selected will fit easily into my daily life, when the kids are asleep or I have some spare time. The Zumba I can even do with them and call it a dance party!


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.