Before I plunge wholeheartedly into the frightening world of fitness, I thought I’d get some advice from a seasoned professional. Andrée Deane is chief executive officer of the Fitness Industry Association and has trained the likes of Rosemary Conley and Mr Motivator. She was kind enough to give me the following seven tips for getting fit on a budget:
1. If you fear the gym, exercise at home
“We recognise there are people who don’t like fitness clubs,” she says. “So at the FIA we signpost people to their local walking and jogging clubs. In our Active at Work project instructors go into the workplace and take people out walking. There are also videos you can use at home and it’s becoming more acceptable to use gadgets, like Wii Fit. But you’ve got to be sure about your technique. Otherwise you’ve no way of knowing you’re exercising correctly. Going to a class once a week should help.”
2. Check out local leisure centres to keep costs down
“Some budget health facilities are very good,” says Andrée. “And if you don’t fancy your local leisure centre, we’ve got a new breed of health clubs emerging from Germany which are open 24 hours and cost about £15 a month.”
Andrée defends the 12 month contracts some gyms tie members into. “A lot of gyms have them for good reasons. If you want to get results you need to be committed. And it’s likely your mobile phone ties you into a contract anyway.”
3. Exercise little and often
“The government recommendation is five 30 minutes exercise sessions a week,” Andrée explains. “Most people can fit in 30 minutes somewhere into their routine. It could be 30 minutes of walking. Simply adopt the mentality of being more active. Walk up the stairs etc. Park further away so you have to walk to places. Everything adds up, especially if you’re just starting to exercise.”
4. Exercise with a friend!
“Start doing something that’s non-intimidating and do it with a friend,” she says. “If we make an appointment with a friend we’re more likely to keep to it.”
“If you sign up to do a charity event linked to the exercise, you’re more likely to stick to it. The marathon is the ultimate and you can see the fever it generates. It’s just the same with Race for Life or a local fun run. Everyone needs a goal.”
6. Make sure your gym operates an induction
“If a gym isn’t offering an induction they’re not doing their job,” warns Andrée. FIA members have a code of practice. The level of instruction is also very important. In some no frills gyms you won’t get much attention so they suit people who have exercised all their lives. But also, if the place is based on personal trainers then there might not be a fitness instructor on the floor. You want a well staffed gym.”
7. Don’t fear the lycra!
“A radio presenter told me recently he didn’t go to the gym because he didn’t fancy getting into all that lycra, but it’s not a fashion show anymore. People wear tracksuits now, not lycra! Gyms are friendly places and there are cafes and a social calendar.”
Andrée also points out that while you won’t need to spend out cash on gym training clothes you will need a decent pair of trainers.