Back in August I decided to attempt to lose 10 pounds in 2 months as part of a new installment of Experiments in Frugality. The goal was not only to lose that last 10 pounds, but also to do so with two big caveats.
1. I couldn’t spend any more than I usually do on healthy food (only $2 per day).
2. I couldn’t go to the gym, buy any weight loss gadgets or equipment, or even use any that I currently owned, but the average person wouldn’t already have.
Well, two months has now come and gone and the results are in.
First of all, I was able to stick to each of those rules. You can see the first month’s meals and grocery budget in detail in the first update. The second month was pretty similar except for working in a lot more fall produce like apples, squash, and pumpkin.
As far as exercise is concerned…I tried to do some fairly intense, non-stop circuit exercises for about 20 minutes in the morning and then fit walking or biking with the family in during the evenings. I also played basketball a couple times, played disc golf, and worked out in my backyard, among other activities. The cardio in the morning usually consisted of simple exercises like jumping jacks, high-step jogging in place, planks, and some shadow boxing. I switched it up as often as possible to keep from getting bored, but the goal was always the same…5 one-minute sets of different exercises, repeated 3 – 4 times without any rests (15 – 20 minutes total).
I would have done a lot more pushups, burpees, dips, etc, but I have tendinitis in both my elbows at the moment, so I was forced to stick to mostly lower-body exercises. Either way, I put a simple workout together that worked well for my situation and got me off my rump. Sometimes that’s all you need. Here’s a few free workout ideas if you’re looking to get in shape too.
10 Free Workout Ideas
1. Take a long walk
This is my favorite. I love walking. I walk to work (only a handful of blocks), we walk as a family when we have time in the evenings, and I can’t think of anything I’ve enjoyed more than hiking among trees, dirt, and wildlife in places like Olympic National Park in Washington or the redwood forests of Northern California. Go for a walk. You’ll think more clearly, smile more readily, and lose weight more rapidly than you will stuck in front of the computer. I don’t even mind if you stop reading right this instant.
2. Workout at your local playground
When was the last time you tried to make it across the monkey bars? It’s probably been awhile, so you may have forgotten that they’re not as easy as you think. That is, as long as you don’t use your grown up height on a set of 5 foot tall bars. Don’t cheat There’s an endless number of exercises you can do on a playground. Decline pushups with your feet on a swing, climbing a pole or rope, pullups on the monkey bars or uneven bars, and practicing your balance on the balance beam are all simple examples of putting a playground to use. Just remember not to go when there are too many kids out there. You don’t want them to show you up, do you?
3. Take advantage of your own body weight
You know that feeling of having to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? You’re grunting and grumbling just to lift your big head off that nice, comfy pillow? Ok, then you’re familiar with how strenuous lifting your own body weight can be. You have everything you need to get yourself in shape. No extra weights or gadgets required.
The most recent workout trends all incorporate simple movements like pushups, squats, lunges, burpees, pull-ups, and planks. There are literally hundreds of different body weight exercises that can be done to target specific muscles, depending on your needs. Just Google “body weight exercises” and you’ll find plenty. Also, slower, more deliberate movements like the ones in yoga and Pilates will kick your butt into shape. Take it from the super-duper-inflexible guy who tried Pilates in college, not realizing that a little stretching could make me hurt so badly and look so stupid.
4. Play with your kids
The little buggers that are always racing around your feet and getting into trouble would love nothing more than for mom or dad to join in on the fun. Trying to duplicate the endless energy that still springs forth from their soul will, no doubt, make you sweat. Don’t have kids? Go visit your nieces and nephews.
5. Use what’s around you and get creative
A bucket full of water or sand for curling, a tractor tire for pushing end over end, or a tree limb for pull-ups can all produce a very effective workout. I recently created an obstacle course out of empty cardboard boxes and totes. I set them up in the backyard in such a fashion that I had to jump over them again and again – some long, some high - and wore myself out within 5 minutes. Just because it’s not normally used as workout equipment doesn’t mean it can’t be. Take anything that looks heavy out of your home or garage and use it as extra resistance. Who knows…maybe the “stock pot full of dish water workout” will catch on?
6. Don’t forget your favorite sports
I love sports, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to make time as my life becomes more complex and cluttered. In high school and college, all I wanted to do was find a basketball court. Now, I haven’t played more than a handful of times this year. 3 or 4 years ago I was playing tennis 3 times a week. I only played three times this summer. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the pace of the adult life, but don’t forget your favorite sports. It’s the most fun you’ll have while burning a bunch of calories.
7. Try the “Newborn Workout”
I’m shocked that babies don’t have six-packs. Watch them. Once they become fairly active, they start working their abs constantly. My boy, Landry, always had his feet off the ground, his arms in the air, and he would shake them back and forth all day long. It looked really difficult, so I thought I’d try it, and sure enough, it is. So, I’ve developed the “Newborn Workout” to give you that rock-hard, baby belly you’ve always dreamed of.
Ok, so the slogan needs a little work, but here’s a quick video of Landry to demonstrate how it works. 4 or 5 months ago he used to do this pretty much all day long. The technique…flail your arms and pump your legs frantically until you simply can’t do it any longer, then make sure you rest only briefly with your legs and arms off the ground to continue the burn slightly. Good luck.
8. Use YouTube to find workout videos and ideas
Why spend money on a workout DVD when you can find similar material on YouTube for free? Zumba, Crossfit, Yoga … Everything from super simple to super intense can be found on YouTube.
9. Get your bike out of storage or lace up your running shoes
Most everyone has a bike and some running shoes, so there really isn’t any additional cost associated with either activity. Both are great for you and couldn’t be much simpler. My best advice for those who want to bike or run again is to keep track of your accomplishments. Setting goals and keeping track of your success is a great way to motivate yourself on the days or weeks when you’re a little extra tired or starting to get bored. Make it a competition between you and a friend or even you and yourself. The USA Track and Field website will help you track your distance and set a course. I use it all the time.
10. Volunteer to rake someone else’s yard
Raking, shoveling snow, and mowing the grass can burn a decent number of calories. So, when you’re done with your own yard, head over to your neighbors. What’s better than doing something really nice for someone while you lose your love handles? Nothing.
By the way, I almost forgot…I was able to lose a total of 10.4 pounds from August 15th – October 15th. I started at 171.4 lbs and ended at 161.0 lbs. Not too shabby.
The goal of the experiment was to demonstrate that weight loss and healthy living does not have to cost a bunch of money. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and some will power. Get creative with cheap, healthy staples like oatmeal, rice, chicken, fruits, and veggies, and have the will power to get off the couch occasionally. It doesn’t have to be too much more complicated than that.
**I am obviously not a doctor, so make sure that you consult your doctor before trying any of these activities.**
Dumbbell image courtesy of zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net