How To Get In Shape Inexpensively

Simple question – how to get in shape inexpensively?  I actually think that’s a good question.  The reverse is pretty easy.  If you’ve got cash to burn, getting in shape shouldn’t too hard – the only x-factor would be your desire and want-to.  The rest is a slamdunk.

But if you’re on a budget or basically got no disposable income, ie. your paycheck  runs out long before the month (or week) ends; it’s not such a slamdunk.

Good news, though – it’s doable, really doable.

In fact, lots of folks get in great shape with just a pair of sneakers – and I ain’t yakking about running, though that’s one way.

Because here are the things you don’t need to get in really good shape:

  1. Weights
  2. Bench
  3. Pull up bars
  4. Bowflex
  5. Bodylastics or any other resistance bands
  6. Home gym contraptions
  7. Late night infomercial ab crunch/circle/rocket/atomizer/whatever/etc.
  8. Fancy, schmancy fitness club/down nor dirty, dingy, stanky throwback gym/etc.
  9. And so on…

Here’s what do you need to get in shape:

  1. Desire and Want-to
  2. Decent pair of sneakers, or not
  3. Couple of sturdy chairs (optional)
  4. Broomstick (optional)
  5. Shorts/socks/t-shirts – unless you like doing in the raw

Strength Training

At Home

  • Pushups – basic movement, if regular pushups are hard, then start on your knees. Or do them against a table.  Just reach out arms from a waist high table and step back about 4 ft or whatever is comfortable.  As you get stronger, lean against a lower table until you are doing it on the floor.
  • Modified Pullups –  Take the 2 chairs and put it back to back about 3ft apart.  Put the broomstick across the top and hang from it between the chairs and pull up.
  • Dips – Bring the 2 chairs together about a foot and a half apart and do dips – make sure the chairs are sturdy.
  • Deep knee bends – Keep your back straight by rolling up on your toes as you go down.  You can hold the back of chair for balance if need be or without would be better.  If that’s not challenging; then grab/wear a backpack and toss some books in it
  • Leg ups – Lie on the floor and lift your legs up until they are perpendicular to the floor.  Lift your head and shoulders off the floor.  While holding your head and shoulders off the floor, try to touch the ceiling with your toes while keeping the legs perpendicular.  If that’s too hard, either keep your head/shoulders on the floor or bend your knees.
  • Set/Reps – One workout, do all exercises in a row without resting; after all 5 are done, rest a minute and repeat 2 times more for 3 total sets.  For reps, just do maximum.  Do one total set for a week or 3 works (working out every other day).  For the second week, shoot for 2 total sets and 3 total sets by the 4th week.  Then just keep at.  Once you get to 3 total sets and the reps are in 30 to 40 range, just improvise to make each movement harder.
  • Once those are done, finish by doing plank exerices.  Get down in the pushup position but on your forearms instead of your hands; hold the position as long as you can.  Once you get to 60 seconds, elevate your feet.

At The Park

  • Pushups – you may want to elevate your feet on a bench for more resistance.
  • Pullups – if not pull bars, improvise and use the kid’s horizontal monkey bars.
  • Dips – again, improvise if no parallel bars; look to do handstand push-ups.
  • Deep knee bends – do one leg squats if your legs are in good shape.
  • Hanging leg raises – Easy, just hang from a pullup bar or monkey bar and bring your knees to your chest.  As you get strong, straighten your legs.  Ultimately, you want to be able to bring your legs all the way up until your ankles touch the bar.
  • Set/Reps – same as above.
  • Same plank hold as above


Alternate between running 1 to 3 miles at a slow, steady pace.  Your conditioning will dictate distance – but start easy and work your way to 3 miles in 30 to 36 minutes.

With HIIT sessions with 8 to 12 laps.  One lap is sprinting or running hard for 30 seconds and walking for 45 seconds.  You can play with the duration to meet your conditioning.  The key is not to cheap and slack off.  Just do it diligent and it’s over in about 15 minutes.

Obviously, you can combine the two by jogging 2 miles, then finishing with a HIIT workout of 6 to 10 sprints – depending on how wasted you are.

Another alternative is this circuit training routine of mine.  The workout is described here at my article, “The Kick “Your You Know What” Workout That Cost Nothing…”  It obviously goes into a detail on what to do and how to do, but if you just want to see the crappy video I made, this is it (hint:  audio came out badly, just turn the audio and follow the exercises):

The key points for the circuit routine is to go as quickly as you can from exercise to exercise. Set up the chairs so that you can do that. Shoot for 3 to 4 circuits. Initially, you may be able to do do 20 or reps per exercise (with exception of handstand pushups – maybe) but as you progress; more than likely, your reps will go down – a lot. That’s okay, just use good form and go to failure.


Nothing too crazy.  On a serious budget, so no supplementation or the like – you don’t need them anyways.

  • Your protein shake/supplement – Whole milk (with nesquik – Rusty’s suggestion, I like it – no hersheys, it has HFCS).  Or you can do with fat-free or reduce fat, your choice
  • Your vitamin/mineral pill – Really work at having an apple, banana, tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic, cherries, etc. every day.  It’s not also easy to get your fruits and veggies daily, but the effort is worth it.  And not too crazy on juices.  Juices can be good but it’s a lot of calories and a lot of sugar without the whole fruit/veggie/fiber benefits.  Stick to whole fruit and veggies with water instead.
  • Your energy drink – Water, really – maybe a cup of coffee before a workout.
  • Your No-no’s – Anything where high fructose corn syrup is the listed among the first, 5 ingredients.  Really try to eliminate it alltogether.  Processed foods like frozen dinners, anything canned, etc.

Learn to cook – Really, it’s fun, it’s cheap, and you control what goes into it.  More than that, it’s easier and simpler than you think.

The only supplements I would suggest if you can afford it would be perhaps on good Omega-3  and a multi-vitamin.

I would suggest joining a member club like Costco.  That 50 buck membership sucks and they do sell in serious bulk, BUT you will more than make that money back over the couse of the year.  For example, most supermarkets in my area sell chicken breast at 5.99 to 6.99/lbs.  Costco sells it at 3.99/lbs.  That’s a huge difference.

An 18 pack of Yoplait costs 8.99 at Costco here or 49 cents a pack.  When it goes on sale, local supermarkets drop it to anywhere from a buck to as low as 60 cents – with regular price around 1.29.  Over the course of the year, you can save a lot.  Yogurt should be a part of your diet.

And those are some small examples.

Upping your whole fruit and vegetable intake will make an even bigger difference as the price range is greater for those products.

So, check it out – make the buck stretch as far as you can – of course you can also go the coupon clipping route.

Last Thoughts

I just want to give you some thoughts on how to get in shape cheaply because you should never use lack of money as an excuse to not be in shape.

In end, just be creative.  Don’t be limited by what you don’t have, rather use what you do have.  Have you tried lunge walking at the park.  After a few minutes of lunge walking, your legs are going to start burning – that’s good.

A lot of parks are incorporating fitness stations and some along jogging paths.  What a great resource.  Look for them.

In the end, it always comes back to your want-to.

You have to want to get in shape.

And you can.

Good Luck.

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  1. says

    Outdoors could help but in some parts we can’t just do anything we want in the park, I personally prefer to go to gym, it’s not that expensive and it motivates me seeing around me people that are trying to get on shape as much as I want it.

  2. Hyo says

    You’re dead-on. I got my iron gym workout bar from kmart a year and half ago. A piece of equipment that pays great dividends. Lately, I’ve been working out at the local park that has a fitness pit (pull up station, parallel bars, horizaontal ladder, sit-up station, etc.). Love doing wide-grip chins. Cost nothing. Fresh air and nice breeze while I’m working out. Can’t beat that.

  3. says

    You’re right that it doesn’t take much equipment to get in shape, just some dedication. One inexpensive thing I bought when I really became dedicated was getting a $30 doorway pull-up bar. It’s amazing how good of a workout you can do just using your body as resistance.

  4. Hyo says

    Thanks for visiing Lucy. And absolutely let me know how you’re doing in a few weeks.

  5. says

    This is the first time I have been to this site, but I am loving it. I will try the ‘cheap’ workout that you listed above. I will get back to you in a few weeks to see if it works. Seems challenging though.

  6. says

    One of my inexpensive way to lose weight is to walk home from work. Here is the technique. If you live within a mile and a half of your workplace, a brisk walk home from work should take you no more than 20-30 minutes. A run home will take even less time. Even if you don’t live very close to your workplace, this idea may translate to your situation. You can get off the bus or T a mile or two from your home and walk or run the remaining distance, or if you take the commuter rail, and parking is generally available in your town, you can park your car a mile from the train station and walk to and from the train station.