Getting fit doesn't have to cost the earth and not being able to afford a gym membership shouldn't be an excuse for inactivity. We give our top tips for getting fit for free.
Join a local running club
Some running clubs have a joining fee and annual dues, however you may well find that there are running clubs in your local area that are completely free of charge. These will be more casual and relaxed groups, however this is ideal if you are starting exercising as a complete beginner or do not want to feel intimidated by serious, competitive runners.
There are a lot of benefits of joining a running club such as increased motivation, discovering new routes, and companionship. Running is something that anyone can do for free and you may well make some new friends and find a new passion.
Make use of outdoor space
Anyone can train outdoors for free and there are lots of benefits of outdoor training such as burning more calories than inside and reaping the benefits of breathing in fresh air rather than the conditioned air of a gym.
If you are unsure about training outdoors during winter, simply make sure you are dressed appropriately and you will find that winter training becomes much more bearable. Layer up in running leggings to protect your legs and wrap up in a sport hoodie or waterproof jacket to keep you dry in changeable weather.
Ditch the car
An easy way to add exercise into your daily routine is to ditch the car and travel under your own steam. This could be in the form of walking/cycling to work or the local shops. Not only is this free, it will even help you to save money on fuel costs.
This is a great way to get more active without having to make too much of an effort and once it is a part of your daily routine, you'll notice how much fitter you're getting without even trying.
Parkrun is one of the most popular free sporting events in the country and for good reason. It's a way to practise racing for free and in a relaxed and friendly environment. Some councils tried to start charging for Parkrun but were quickly shot down as it is such a great way to get people into fitness and helps them meet new friends in their local area.
Parkrun is a weekly 5k race done in local parks all across the country on a Saturday morning and is free for anyone to sign up. You receive a personal barcode that times your run when scanned at the finish and you can see how you rank up against the other people in your town.
Doing cardiovascular exercise is proven to improve your lung capacity, heart health, as well as aiding weight loss. Many people do not enjoy doing cardio and some don't do it at all. But which is the best type for you?
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
Low Intensity cardio is accessible to most people as you do not need a high level of fitness to begin with and you can easily incorporate it into daily life by going for a walk. Low intensity cardio exercises include things like walking, climbing stairs, or going for a gentle bike ride. These types of exercises are low impact and typically performed at around 40% of your maximum heart rate, which makes them easy to recover from and therefore can be performed on a regular basis. You probably won't break a sweat doing this type of cardio so you could do it on your lunch break at work. Bodybuilders often prefer this type of cardio as it is less likely to break down muscle tissue but can still help you drop body fat.
Benefits of LISS:
- It is low impact so you can still do it if you have a minor injury or have limited mobility.
- You won't break a sweat so you can fit it into your daily routine without having to plan around it.
- It doesn't break down muscle tissue so you can still improve your strength while dropping body fat.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training sees you working very near 100% of your maximum effort for short bursts with short rests in between. This type of training can help to improve your VO2 and cardiovascular fitness very quickly and is proven to aid weight loss. This type of cardio is not suitable for those who are pregnant or those who have injuries. You need a fairly high level of fitness to start with otherwise you will end up feeling very sick!
Benefits of High Intensity Cardio:
- Boosts Metabolism for up to 24 hours.
- Increases VO2 max.
- Shorter workouts are great for those who lack a lot of free time to train.
- Increased Lactate Threshold. Your ability to handle increased lactic acid buildup in your muscles increases.
Do you have to do cardio to burn fat?
The only way you can lose weight is by eating a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you are eating. While you don't need to do cardio to burn fat, it certainly helps! There are so many other benefits to doing cardio other than just weight loss, so it is definitely an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
What is circuit training?
Circuit training was first developed in 1953 by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson at the University of Leeds in 1953. The formula was as follows:
“A circuit consists of 9 to 12 stations, with each station representing one exercise. At each station, an exercise is performed with a specific resistance and for a specific number of reps. Work at each station takes 30-60 seconds, after which the trainee moves directly to the next station on the circuit (with no break) and begins the exercise. An aerobics station requiring 15-180 seconds of work is placed between the main exercise stations.”
Morgan and Anderson developed this form of circuit training in order to enable individuals to work at their own intensity while also training with others. This is why it is a popular training method for army recruits and other team exercise sessions.
During circuit training, the body is forced to work through exercises of varying intensities, resulting in the use of different energy systems all within one session. Training in both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems provides an excellent workout improving overall fitness, speedwork and endurance.
Over the years, trainers have adapted and changed the formula to suit their needs, such as boxing circuits or bodyweight circuits, but the main structure and end result remain the same.
What are the benefits of circuit training?
- Multiple people can train at once and work at their own intensity
- The variety means there’s no room for boredom
- Circuit training boosts cardiovascular fitness
- Circuit training boosts muscular fitness
- It offers a full-body workout in a short space of time
- It's social
- No wasted time as rest periods are minimal
- Significant calorie expenditure
Research Supporting Circuit Training
A study at The University of Alabama found that circuit training can maintain heart rates at near 80% of the max, at this level of intensity aerobic development can occur - this takes place between 78- 85% of the maximum heart rate.
In a study of weight training circuits conducted by The National Athletic Health Institute in the 1970’s participants performed back to back strength exercises with no rest for 10 weeks. The study’s participants gained 3 pounds of muscle and lost 2 pounds of fat. Both men and women achieved reductions in skinfold thickness and increased their overall muscular strength. Despite the lack of any cardio within the circuits, participants saw an improved running time to exhaustion on a treadmill by 5 to 6% and an 11% increase in their VO2 max.
A study for Aging and Disease called “Impact of Resistance Circuit Training on Neuromuscular, Cardiorespiratory and Body Composition Adaptations in the Elderly” found that in order to optimise the body composition, muscle strength gains, and developed cardiovascular function from circuit training, the following protocols need to be maintained:
- 2 circuits should be completed weekly and can be implemented with endurance training.
- Circuit weight training should last 30–50 minutes. The number of sets and the repetitions per exercise is going to depend on the intensity of training.
- The loading intensity to promote hypertrophy (build muscle) should approach 60–85% (more highly trained individuals 85%) of 1RM, although low intensity is also recommended (e.g. 40% of 1RM), high velocity contractions on at least 1 day per week to develop muscle power.
- The work to rest ratio is also a critical factor in the prescribing of circuit training. The work to rest ratio 1:1 (30:30 s) may be an excellent stimulus to promote improvements on aerobic fitness, and modifications on body composition (i.e. decrease body fat).
Circuit Training Workout Routine
5 - 10 minute warm up light run.
Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises, try 45 seconds on with 15 seconds rest (just enough time to switch between exercises)
1.Bench step ups
3. Bench push ups
3. Travelling plank
1.Box jumps onto the bench
2.Bench plank rotations
3.Lateral Step up with abduction
1.Bunny Hops with hands on the bench
2.Mountain Climbers with hands on the bench
3.Feet elevated plank
5 - 10 minutes cool down stretches.
The beauty of circuit training is that a circuit can be set up anytime anywhere, you can change the routine to suit the equipment you’ve got, or use none at all. The main factor is your level of effort, as long as your circuit works you hard, you’ll reap the rewards.
Any hayfever sufferer will know how miserable it can be to try heading outside in the summer only to be brought down by coughing, sneezing, and itchy eyes. We give you our top tips so that you can enjoy the benefits of exercising outdoors even when the pollen count is high.
Related: Best Relief For Hayfever Symptoms
1. Have a shower and get changed as soon as you finish your workout
Pollen and other allergens which may set off your hayfever can stick to skin and clothes. By showering and washing your clothes as soon as you finish your workout, you reduce the risk of these allergens prompting your symptoms. This does mean no more coffee with friends after a class, but you'll thank us!
2. Don't dry your workout clothes outside
As mentioned above, pollen and hayfever-inducing allergens can stick to clothes, so if you leave your fitness clothing outside to dry it will likely pick up these allergens and cause your hayfever to flare up. At Sundried, we always try to promote the idea of 'wash cool, sun dry' to protect your activewear as well as the environment, but in the summer, an airing cupboard or hanger may be better.
3. Exercise late morning or late evening
Pollen counts tend to highest in the early morning and early evening, so try to avoid exercising outside at these times as much as possible. If you really want to train outdoors during the summer, exercising late in the evening is usually better anyway as it is not so hot!
4. Wear wrap-around sunglasses
It can be very uncomfortable having itchy, watering eyes caused by hayfever and other seasonal allergies. By wearing wrap-around sunglasses, you can help to prevent as much pollen getting into your eyes and this should help to reduce the symptoms.
5. Exercise on the beach or in a paved area
As is expected, a grassy area like a park will be the worst for causing your symptoms to flare up. Especially if the grass has just been cut, you want to avoid doing your HIIT workout or sprint intervals here. Try doing a beach workout instead, especially as this comes with its own benefits, or find a paved area that is suitable.
Training outdoors has a host of benefits, but it can be hard to get motivated to train outdoors, especially in winter. So why should we do it?
What are the benefits of training outdoors?
Outdoor training increases endorphins
Did you know that the word 'endorphin' is actually a made-up word combining the terms 'endogenous' and 'morphine'? If something is endogenous, that simply means it was made within the body. So, endorphins are basically a type of morphine made by our body. That explains why they make us feel so good!
Endorphins are natural pain-relievers and make us feel happy, just like morphine. Training outdoors has been associated with higher levels of these 'feel good' chemicals being produced in the body. According to a study published in The Environmental Science & Technology Journal, just 5 minutes spent exercising outside in an open green space is enough to significantly lift your mood.
You burn more calories training outside
When you train in a gym or run on a treadmill, your body doesn't have to combat the elements. The surfaces are smooth and man-made and you don't need to work as hard to battle them. When training outside, you have the added elements of wind-resistance and heat from the sun, as well as uneven terrain to keep you on your toes. Research says you can burn up to 10% more calories than your regular gym session.
High oxygen levels improve almost every chemical reaction within your body. Research shows that spending time in fresh air, surrounded by nature, increases energy in 90 percent of people. “Nature is fuel for the soul, “ says Richard Ryan, Researcher and Professor of at the University of Rochester. “Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energised is to connect with nature.”
Outdoor training can improve bone density
The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. In fact, there is a type of vitamin D that we can only get through sunlight and cannot be produced by the body or absorbed through food. Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to absorb calcium and it also improves your mood. Lack of vitamin D is one reason so many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.
According to the National Osteoporosis Society recommendations, we should try to get at least 10 minutes of sun exposure to bare skin once or twice a day. Even if it’s cloudy, your body can still get vitamin D from sunlight; it just takes a little longer.
Exercising outdoors saves money
By training outdoors you are enabling yourself to train for free. You don't need expensive equipment in order to do a good workout, in fact, you don't need any equipment at all! Simply use park benches, trees, and other natural things in order to complete your workout. Just make sure you have the right fitness clothing so that you're comfortable and protected against the elements.