Free Fitness: The City is My Gym

I can't afford a gym membership. Well, no, that's not exactly true. If I really wanted to go to the gym, I would find a way to make room in my budget for it. But I know I wouldn't go and that equals wasted money no matter how good a deal I might find. I do love to swim. Maybe one day I'll join a place with a pool (though I prefer the seaside), but in general going somewhere to work out? Just not my style. I am however getting a work out and I am excited to say the pounds are dropping and the waist is shrinking --and all for free because I have made the city I live in my gym with 4 simple moves.

1. No more taking the train a short ways in the morning out of laziness! I'm walking to & from work every day which adds up to about 2.6 miles (approx. 4.2 kilometers) a day.

Dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking:
An "activated core" if ever there was one.
2. Activating my stomach muscles when I'm walking --and when I'm not! A dance teacher once told me that keeping your core muscles activated throughout the day is better than any amount of crunches, which people tend to do incorrectly anyway. It's not just a matter of sucking your gut in though! If you're doing it right you should be able to breathe and you should also feel it in your back muscles (still do be careful if you have a history of back problems and of course it's best to consult a doctor before starting any exercise plan, esp. if you have been relatively sedentary prior). We focus on the stomach out of vanity, but really it is about building up your core strength by working the muscles all the way around your middle and keeping a straight posture as you do so. Want to know an old hoofer's trick? Imagine you are literally sewing a button onto your body, as though your body were a piece of cloth. You're attaching the button...well, where your belly button is of course & you want to visualize getting the needle and thread all the way through to the other side of the fabric, aka your back. Sounds weird but it works.

Stairs: they aren't so scary!
3. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. We all know fitness experts always say to do that but up til now I have always been too damn lazy to do that. But I finally started and the fantastic results I've seen in a short period of time keep me going. I sit most of the time at my job and I don't have to go up steps or use an elevator to get to my office. Not good! I challenged myself, however, to walk up 5 flights (77 steps total!) to a different restroom at least once a day. It was a struggle to do that minimum at first but now I can walk the 77 several times a day. I still am huffing and puffing a bit  by the time I reach the top but it's less and less each trip. And my legs look amazing! My thighs are whittled down, my calves are more defined and overall my gams are leaner and longer looking.

4. I keep walking on the weekends. Sure I sleep in and laze about a bit but I also get my tuckus moving around the city, even if it's just to run errands, because every footstep counts.

Okay, before you hate me, rest assured I am no skinny-minny at a US size 12/14: I'm tall and carry the extra weight pretty well but I still got a lot of jelly in the jar to lose. I've already lost about 35 lbs --and I took it off very slowly over the course of FIVE YEARS by primarily making healthier food choices and walking more. But now I'm ready to kick it up a notch or two. The goal I set for myself is to shed about 27 lbs, around 12.3 kilograms, by the end of August. I'd love to lose even more than that and by the beginning of August no less but I've picked a goal/timeframe that is realistic for my body shape and metabolism. Believe me, it is hard to keep at it when you're far off from society's standards of "thin", but I'm savoring the small victories that signal I am indeed getting fitter. In the last month, practicing the above 4 steps, I'm already down about 4-5 lbs and have lost over an inch and a half off my waist (I've lost an inch or two elsewhere but am concentrating on the waist as a higher waist circumference signals increased risk of heart disease). I have not been dieting --I don't believe in it-- but I have cut way down on both diet and regular soda and have replaced much of my processed, "bready" carbs with fruits and vegetables. I always drink a lot of water but ditching daily soda-drinking has made a huge difference. My fingers used to be so swollen all the time and now they're lean and mean! Also, soda is such an unnecessary drain on the finances.

Will I reach my goal? I believe I will because I am through with saying, "one day I'll get there" and that day never coming. Also, when one feels at the mercy of a bad economy, getting fit can be really empowering, because while you can't always be in control of your cashflow you can be in control of your health --not to mention regular exercise makes it easier to cope with budget-induced stress! Yes, I will reach my goal, and without an expensive gym membership.


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