By Mimi Gentry
I’ve always been relatively physically fit, but over the years, time and french fries have taken their toll. Once upon a time, my figure might have been compared to the Venus di Milo, but now I’m starting to lean more toward the Venus of Willendorf. Pay attention, kiddies. Gravity is real.
It’s not just about looks though. Ok, it’s mostly about looks. But there are health benefits associated with being fit that I wouldn’t mind recapturing – more energy, improved sleep, and lower blood pressure to name a few. So, it’s time to face facts, bite the bullet and get myself in better shape.
“It’s easy,” you say. “Just join a gym or take a class”, you say. But I’m thrifty (meaning I don’t like to spend money), so I needed to figure out how to exercise on the cheap. I came up with a system and I call it, “The Cheapskate’s no-low-cost Exercise Plan.”
I have, for the first time, bought exercise wear. You’d think, that after parading around Japan and parts otherwise in my underwear, I’d not care much about some-body seeing me coming out of a dressing room in exercise wear. But I’ve got to admit, I felt peculiar about it.
At first, when I saw people wearing activewear out in public, I thought it was a little scandalous, walkers and joggers exposing their limbs to the elements. But as the seasons wore on, and people of all ages started wearing it for jaunts on Carrollton’s GreenBelt, I grew accustomed to seeing it. Finally, I thought, “If the ‘Glam-mas’ can get away with it (that’s glamour and grandmother combined) I can too.”
Let me warn you. Exercise wear is not cheap. In fact, the first time I picked up a pair of such pants, the price tag made me put them back down. That’s when I moved my shopping expedition to the Goodwill. I know the thought of this brings discomfort to a few of my favorite germaphobes– I assure you, I wash the garments in hot water, so it’s no different than using a hotel towel. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
Now, I’ve since become quite the fan of active wear but I must say, you don’t need a pair of fancy pants to get it into a fitness program. Just wear something comfortable – sweats, overalls, whatever you’ve got. And get creative.
I wanted to get a yoga headband. At the local big box, discount retailer, they were asking $11 for one. So I just made one myself. I got a pair of men’s sweats and cut off the bottoms (I had to hem them anyway). Abracadabra – two yoga headbands, for free. Sweat bands? Cut the feet out of a pair of cotton socks that you don’t wear anymore. For cold weather exercise, add hole thumbs on the sides. Your hands will stay dry and warm (not to mention being stylish) for free.
Concerning footwear, I know that older feet need support, but it sure is hard to let go of a $150 for a pair of sneakers. So, I often wear hand-me-downs.
My sister is a cake and pastry decorator and stands on concrete all day. It wears out her sneakers fast, so she can’t keep them long. Lucky me – I get her mostly like-new sneakers. For those of you who don’t have a cake-decorating sister with your same foot size, wear what you have: boots, moccasins, or deck shoes. The type of footwear doesn’t matter; so long as it gets your feet moving. There’s no need to wait for fancy sneakers.
Health club memberships have many benefits. Exercising in a climate-controlled environment (no ice, rain, or humidity) has great appeal. Also, club membership adds accountability (like Santa, your trainer knows if you’ve been bad or good). So, I totally understand why “gym people” are gym people. But I like my exercise environments un-climate-controlled and non-supervised, not to mention free-of-charge. So, instead of a membership at a club I prefer a membership at the GreenBelt.
If you’ve been living in a cave for the past couple years, let me tell you about the wonder that is our GreenBelt. It is the largest paved loop trail system in the state of Georgia – 16-miles of concrete track that connects existing neighborhoods with the city school campus, the University of West Georgia, city parks, and several commercial shopping areas. Around west Georgia, you’ll find other walking options that include McIntosh Reserve Park, UWG, John Tanner Park and Sweetwater Creek State Park. If you’re in the mood for a drive east into Alabama, Cheaha State park in the Talladega National Forest (Alabama) has great trails.
Bikes are another low-cost exercise option, once you make an initial investment. Not for me, because I have the balance of a one-legged kangaroo. But for anyone who enjoys biking, it offers a high-calorie and low wallet burn.
The folks at Perpetual Bikes in Carrollton told me their bike shop sells some refurbished bikes that offer a considerable cost savings over retail (sometimes as much as 40%). Perpetual Motion also rent bikes for the day. But maybe the most economical way to enjoy biking in west Georgia was to rent a Zagster Bike on the GreenBelt. You can rent a bike for $3 an hour (the cost of a milk shake), or it’s pretty easy to join the Zagster Bike Share (only 25 bucks a year). A rider can pick up and return the bike at any Zagster station. Invest in a good helmet, though. That beautiful brain should be preserved at all costs.
When I started researching my Cheapskate’s no-low-cost Exercise Plan, I turned to the experts on Facebook and found inexpensive or free classes all over the place – cross training, zumba, yoga, even bellydancing. These classes are happening at surprising places like local libraries, churches and Tanner Health System.
Here are some recommendations that my friends shared:
• “Nice and Easy” for seniors at the Bonner Building in Carrollton, M-W-F.
• Free stretching and toning class at Tanner, M-W from 7:40- 8:20.
• Paddle a canoe/kayak in Lake Carroll or at Sweetwater Creek State Park.
• Zumba class at Tabernacle Baptist.
• Free yoga at the Mount Zion Senior Center, Tues-W, 10 AM.
• Free Yoga at the Neva Lomason Library Tuesday, 6PM.
Also, somebody reminded me that Netflix has workout videos that you can stream on your computer, so you don’t even have to leave your house. Long story short, there are tons of free (and almost free) exercise-class options in the west Georgia area. My favorite suggestion? “Increase your water intake. It’s free out of every tap in the US of A.”
If you really want to get in shape, you need to add some resistance to your cardiac workout. Using weights is a great way to achieve maximum burn and the Cheap-skate’s no-low-cost Exercise Plan has everything you need.
Watch yard sales for weights (More people buy them than use them, so there’s always a surplus). I personally walk with two aluminum baseball bats that give me a great arm workout (also discourages strays). I do lots of reps, above my head, behind my back, out to the side (this one gets complicated on the GreenBelt, because you might “clothesline” a cyclist). I use a gallon jug of water for kettle bells, and quart-sized orange juice bottles for dumb bells. Our home is filled with workout options. I wouldn’t, however, recommend trying to do pull-ups on a shower rod (that’s another story for another day).
When I step back and look at all the free and almost free exercise options that are available in west Georgia, I’ve come to the sad realization:- I can’t use being a cheap-skate as an excuse anymore.
When it comes to staying fit in West Georgia, money truly is no object, and it’s time to get fit!