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Staying Fit Without a Gym Membership

Updated on March 25, 2016
Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie is a seasoned marathoner, triathlete and soccer player with an interest in fitness and nutrition.

Fitness Tips for the Non-Gym Rat

So you don't have a gym membership and your idea of a good time definitely does not include joining an aerobics class at the local YMCA, yet you're still interested in fitness. You are like millions of people all over the world. While owning a gym membership is an easy way to stay in shape, if you don't enjoy working out indoors or joining classes, there are still plenty of options for you to consider.

Staying in shape is, first and foremost, a state of mind. One cannot maintain a healthy body if their heart and mind isn't into the routine. You've heard it said many times that exercise and a healthy diet have to be lifestyle choices, not merely fads that you are trying on for size. That means that you have to be able to live with the choices you make over the long term. If you start a program and dedicate yourself to working out 5 or 6 nights a week, that might not work for the long haul. You likely have a full time job, a family and a host of other responsibilities that over time will become the excuses you use for skipping your gym workouts.

This means that whatever you decide to work into your routine should be both healthy AND fun! Choose options that you WANT to engage in and things that you actually look forward to doing. Most things can be done either outdoors or at specialty clubs that do not require memberships. Many options also have lessons by certified instructors that can get you started in the right direction.

The following are a few fun and different ideas for you to consider. Since many come with a price, mix them up a bit. Maintaining a varied routine will help avoid boredom that is so often associated with the eventual disregard for your fitness plan, and will also help protect your pocketbook.

Rock Climbing

This can be done outdoors if you have the proper equipment and know what you're doing. It can also be done at a climbing gym, which is what I prefer. In my community we have a gym called Boulders. The staff there are climbing enthusiasts who offer instruction to first timers and anyone else who requires a refresher. You'll be amazed at the muscles you work as you climb. I guarantee, there will be muscle groups you discover that you never knew you had! These gyms also offer climbing memberships and clubs if you're interested. Many have women's specific clubs as well. Bring a friend so that you can take turns helping each other work the carabiners. Even that is a workout for your upper body.

Calories burned per hour: 500-900 with minimal rest between climbs

Kayaking or Canoeing

There is nothing quite as serene as paddling across a placid lake on a quiet morning. The fresh air, the sound of your oars slicing through the water, the birds singing and the feel of the breeze on your skin is incredible. All this and you still get an amazing workout! Your shoulders and arms will get a great workout despite the feeling of relaxation you achieve on the water. If you don't own your own vessel, check out rental prices at your local paddle shop. Many are located right on the water so you don't even have to transport the rental.

A 150 pound person can burn up to 357.2 calories per hour of kayaking

Snowshoeing in Vermont

Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing

Schlepping through the snow on a pair of snow shoes is quite an experience and a great cardiovascular workout as well as great exercise for your lower body. You'll get your heart rate up for sure if you pick up your speed and the feel of the cold air on your face can be quite exhilarating. Unlike skiing, which is best done on pre-made trails, snowshoeing can be done in pristine conditions, where, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of wildlife and enjoy the serenity of nature.

But if the kick and glide is more your style, cross country skiing is another relatively relaxing way to enjoy the crispness of winter while still getting a quality work out.

Calories burned per hour of moderate cross country skiing: 537.5


Yes. Bowling. It may not seem like much of a sport, but isn't getting up and moving better than not doing anything? Lifting, carrying and throwing a 10 to 15 ball ball and walking up and down the lanes is better than no exercise at all and can be great fun! Don't think of this as your main means of staying in shape, but merely as a fun supplement to a regular fitness routine.

Calories burned: A 150 pound person can burn 210 calories per 60 minutes of bowling


Skip the cart and walk the course. The walking in addition to the muscles you are using on your tee shots and fairway shots will work your core and give you a bit of a cardiovascular workout. You might swear a little more during this game, as you forage for your lost balls, but it's all in good fun.

Calories burned: a 150 pound person can burn 321.48 calories if carrying their own clubs and walking the course

Rollerblading or Inline Skating

Put on your helmet and knee pads and give this fast-paced hobby a try. It can be great exercise, especially if you keep your speed up. Your legs wil get a great workout and, depending upon the posture you keep, your core can get a nice workout as well, especially if you bend forward at the waist and swing your arms across your body to help propel yourself.

Calories burned per hour: A 150 pound person can burn 857.29 calories per hour of inline skating

Running, Walking or Jogging

It's free and it's great exercise. You can go as fast as you like. The point is to try and keep your heart rate up so you burn more fat and calories. If you're walking, try to maintain a pace of at least 4 mph. If you're running, establish a target heart rate and set your pace at the speed that will help to achieve and maintain that heart rate. For me, that is about 6 to 6.5 mph, though many people run much faster.

Calories burned: a 150 pound person can burn 714.41 calories per hour if running a 10 minute mile

Running, Walking or Jogging on the Beach

Working out on foot is all the more challenging, yet blissfully enjoyable if you do it on the beach. The resistance created by the sand beneath your feet helps to raise your heart rate, work your muscles and burn calories. Plus, you'll have the added advantage of seeing some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets ever while feeling the surf lapping at your heels. What could be better that that?

Calories burned: You can burn 600-800 calories her hour when running a 10 minute mile

Circuit Workouts in the Park

Many communities have workout circuits in the parks, on beaches, or in other public areas. These circuits consist of a set of instructional kiosks, some with benches or handles, that help to facilitate a good workout. You may do standing pushups, pull-ups, stretches, and core work. Check with your local parks department to see which parks in your area may have the exercise circuits. These are especially appealing for added benefits during early morning walks when the parks are less busy and the midday sun isn't beating down on you. Best of all, these stations are free to use.

Calories burned: a 150 pound person can burn between 500 - 600 calories per hour of circuit training


You don't have to have a top of the line bike to get a great workout. You can get by on a cheap road bike, a hybrid or mountain bike. The great thing about biking is that it is so versatile. You can choose to bike on paved pathways through the park or countryside. You can take the mountain bike out for some trail riding. You can ride 5, 10 , 20 or 50 miles at a crack. Maybe even farther. You can speed through the flats or pump up the hills, but whatever you choose, you're in for a great workout. Your quads and gluts will burn after a great workout, so give it all you've got! Most communities that have bike shops will also rent cycles, so if you don't own one, you can still enjoy the occasional ride.

A 150 pound person can burn 571.53 calories per hour of moderate cycling


Make no mistake, hiking isn't the same as taking a walk. At least not the way I envision it. For me, hiking is about going off-road and exploring new terrain. Wear proper footwear that is both water-proof and sturdy. A great hike may include some rock climbing, hilly terrain and maybe even a few water crossings. Feel free to bring a walking stick for stability and safety, but try and keep your heart rate up by walking a briskly. It's not wise to venture into uncharted or unfamiliar territory alone, so bring a friend or at least be well-prepared with supplies such as a cell-phone, compass, trail maps, and food and water for longer hikes.

A 150 pound person can burn 428.65 calories per hour of moderate cross country hiking

Open Water Swim

Never plan an open water swim alone if there is no lifeguard on duty. Always have a friend in tow who also happens to be a strong swimmer. Open water swims can be quite exhilarating and are the best way to train if you are gearing up for a triathlon. Many public beaches have areas roped off for those that like to do "lap" swim. These areas should be free of children playing and not excessively deep. For added safety wear a swim cap to keep hair out of your face and wear clear goggles to maximize visibility.

Calories burned: a 150 pound person can burn 500 calories per hour of moderate swimming

Open Water Aerobics

If swimming isn't your thing, consider water aerobics. You can strengthen your core as well as the rest of your muscles by doing a series of exercises in the water. A few of my favorites include:

The Bicycle: Using empty gallon jugs with the caps on, hold your arms out to each side and pull your knees up until you are floating in a seated position. Start pedaling as if you are riding a bicycle and propel yourself through the water.

The Bird: Float on your back and move your arms as if you were flapping your wings.

The Jogger: Run back and forth in chest deep water, raising your knees to your waist with each step.

The Core: Using the empty gallon containers, float on your back, holding the containers straight out to your sides. Pull your legs toward you and then tuck them under until they are extended fully out the back and you are now floating on your stomach. Then pull your knees toward you again and extend your legs fully out in front of you until you are on your back again. You can also do this exercise by extending your legs fully out to each side while holding the jugs out to your sides.

Calories burned: A 150 pound person can burn 357 calories doing 60 minutes of aerobics OUT of the water. The resistance of the water will increase that amount

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5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Fitness Tips

© 2010 Jaynie2000


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    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much for the great feedback and for another great idea!

    • mwatkins profile image


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      you put so much thought and energy into this - Excellent! All are great exercises. One thing to look at too, might be to investigate your local parks and rec department for inexpensive exercise classes, and the community center for inexpensive monthly memberships. These can be both cost-effective AND budget healthy for those people who need the stimulation of others near them to stay motivated, but who can't afford an expensive gym membership right now.

      Did I say Excellent? - I meant it! Great hub!

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks. If only slow walking through the mall was great exercise! I would have worked out a lot more over holiday break!

    • IdeaMorphist profile image


      8 years ago from Chicagoland

      These are great hints that will provide exciting exercise. My man and I sometimes go the boring route by going up and down stairs, doing crunches or jumping jacks lol

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks GmaGoldie. You're right about the lap swimming. I do swim laps and tend to work out with both kick boards and pull-bouys to strengthen both my kick and pull.

      You're also right about Wisconsin weather...but when does it ever cooperate? Ha ha. I keep saying I need to move to Australia or San Diego!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      Great insights. Loved your open water aerobics. Don't forget about swimming laps with a buoyant device - fantastic workout too.

      I am a gym rat - but love the outdoors too but Wisconsin is not cooperating lately with the weather. Enjoying indoor swim fitness.

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I completely agree! Have a happy and healthy new year!

    • cwarden profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I prefer to exercise outdoors even though I have a gym membership!

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you both for weighing in. It is so important to stay in shape. Not always easy, but always important!

    • rpalulis profile image


      8 years ago from NY

      I have never had a membership to a gym and I am in great shape. The key is I am very active and enjoy all that you mentioned in your hub, especially swimming and hiking. Great hub thanks for sharing.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jaynie2000 thank you for all these alternatives instead of going to a gym. Being in the outdoors and enjoying the weather and fresh air is the best way to get some great well need exercises .

      Great hub!!!

    • profile image

      water walking ball 

      8 years ago

      water walking ball for sale and walking on water ball for sale

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks guys. I am a big outdoor lover so these are all things that I truly enjoy doing. I just wish Wisconsin wasn't so darned cold! I seem to remember liking it as a kid, but as an adult...not so much. Thank goodness for the YMCA, because I have to admit that in the winter I do cheat and head to the gym. My daughter runs with the x-country team all winter. I think they're completely nuts, but they love it!

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thank you for the alternatives for they who have no gym memberships. Good ideas. Thanks.

    • ghomefitness profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago,IL

      Yes in the Midwest we need a gym membership or home equipment. I guess that is a good thing for me because I sell fitness equipment. Good luck skiing, have fun and stay warm!

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much. I agree. I spend way too much money on gym membership because I only use it in the winter. Otherwise I prefer to be outdoors as much as possible. I compete in triathlons and will train in the pool in early spring when the lakes are cold (I don't own a wetsuit) and I hit the treadmills, stationery bikes and weights during the winter. I'm from the midwest, and even though I think the winter sports are fun, I hate the cold! So wish me luck because I'm going downhill skiing this week and it's freezing!!

    • ghomefitness profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago,IL

      Keeping active outdoors is the best for you mentally and physically! Nice work

    • Jaynie2000 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      So true! Thanks, Don!

    • Don Simkovich profile image

      Don Simkovich 

      8 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      Nice Hub and nice truth that gym memberships are not necessary. They provide a wide range of equipment to use. And I like having had one for the past several months since straining my MCL. Kayaking is one of my favorites along with cross-country skiing. And good point that staying in shape is a lifestyle choice. All the gym memberships in the world won't help for those who continue their eating habits or don't go to the gym!


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