Betty Says: Fitness When You Lack Money and Motivation

Trails are beautiful, but I don't go far without competition.

We’ll be starting a new feature here at What Would Betty Do: the weekly Ask Betty column. Submit your question for consideration. All questions are fair game, but if you stump Betty, your question may be opened up to Betty’s Facebook fans for their input.

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Dear Betty:
I know that working out in a group is really where I get the hardest work done (will NOT push myself if left to my own devices), but I’m clenched money-wise and am not sure it makes sense to pay to exercise when I’ve been an athlete and could certainly work myself out… if I were another person. Help!
– Restless in California

Hi Restless,

First of all, does it help to know that you’re not alone? I struggle with the same issues. I’ll head out for a run, go for about 10 minutes and then think, “eh, that’s far enough,” turn around and head home. When I go to the gym, I seem to develop a wicked case of amnesia when I walk in the door. What am I supposed to do with a kettlebell? How many reps have I done? Do I know any ab exercises? How does this big ball thing work?

I’ve managed to come up with a few tricks that give me the external motivation to get me out the door and actually doing something without paying a small fortune to a gym or trainer.

  • Your running buddy doesn’t have to be someone you know. Instead of running the local trail or some other route that’s off the beaten path, I stick to crowded spots like the local park. Even though I’m not technically running with anyone, it’s a big psychological boost for me to have someone else to pace myself against, work hard to pass or struggle to avoid being passed by.
  • Set a goal. On weekends, I run to a destination (usually a coffee shop, because I’m starving) and tell the family to meet me there at a set time. Not only can’t I turn back once I get started, but I have to maintain a goal pace to avoid losing the race. Believe me when I tell you that a 4-year-old will not let you forget that he beat you to the finish.
  • I found a friend to work out with. Sometimes we go on brutal hikes, the kind where normal people would turn around and retreat when faced with vertical hills. We also meet at the park and use either a TRX with booklet, or FitDeck cards to guide us through that deer-in-the-headlights, what-do-we-do-now fitness amnesia. You can even use the monthly fitness plans in magazines like Self and Shape to push you to try things that might not otherwise be part of your repertoire.
  • Sneak in exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Ride your bike. I’m not necessarily talking about going for 100-mile bike rides dressed like a Tour de France competitor, although that would certainly kick your butt. This past year I invested in my 13-year-old bike, setting it up with a rack and trunk bag so I could use it to run errands around town. I’ll ride to the coffee shop or do some light supermarket shopping, trading in my car time for a little bit of extra activity.

But having said all of that, sometimes you just need to shake things up a bit and take a class to bust you out of your rut and work you to the bone. That’s ok, too. After all, what are you spending your money on that’s more important than keeping yourself fit, healthy and sane?

How about you, readers? Do you have any other ideas that I haven’t covered here?

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4 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Finding a nearby running buddy has been the 110% solution for me — it makes it far, far easier to get through runs that otherwise would be cut short or abandoned outright when I’m running with a friend. I’m convinced, in fact, that there are a ton of runs that go just fine when running and talking with someone else which would otherwise be in the slog category… the runs just go by quicker, and the effort seems easier.

    I haven’t yet found a city that doesn’t have a reasonable place online to start looking for exercise partners — and if nothing else, on your local runs start to keep your spidey sense alive for other folks exercising who you’ve seen before. Don’t be shy about approaching them to ask if they want to go for a run or whatever sometime, and remember that a LOT of people feel the same way we do, that exercise is better when there are other folks suffering alongside you. 🙂

  2. Alisa says:

    You’ll laugh, Jason: I gauge my daily progress on whether I can keep pace with Red Hat Guy or if Labrador Lady is breathing down my neck. Although last night I was crazy enough to try to keep pace with the coach during hill repeats. Not the most brilliant move ever. Everything from my glutes on down is really, really sore.

  3. We did a fitness accountability group at school so that, even though we were doing different work outs or our schedules didn’t work to exercise together, we all had to report to someone else every week on whether or not we’d made our goals. It really did help on those days I wanted to skip a run or not run as far as my goal specified, knowing that I’d have to admit it to a bunch of other people. I also do much better when I’m working from a training plan than just on my own.

  4. Alisa says:

    I love that my first two comments are from DC readers. Wave and say hello!

    You’re absolutely right about accountability. I noticed this a few years ago when my friend Dyana Valentine did a 40-day challenge on her blog. Just posting my daily results helped to keep me accountable, and that’s a large part of why I continue to post my training on here — not that anyone necessarily cares if I went to kickboxing on Tuesday, but it changes my behavior knowing that I have to admit it to the world (and myself).

    Between you, me and the rest of the internet, I’d really love to find a way to expand Betty using that model of accountability, guiding people along to achieve whatever their goals are, from getting up off the couch to running an ultramarathon. Sometimes you just need the support and peer pressure that a group can offer.

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