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Save big with do-it-yourself fitness

Can't bother with the gym? Get fit on your own using these tips from fitness experts.

By Smart Spending Editor May 17, 2013 6:03PM
This post comes from Elizabeth Shear of partner site

MSN Money Partner SiteWith the onset of spring comes the prospect of wearing a lot less clothing. And that, for many of us, means rigorous commitment to an exercise routine. But don't be deterred by thoughts of a pricey gym membership or in-home exercise equipment, because all you need is motivation.

 Young woman sitting on the hood of a car © rubberball/Getty ImagesWe spoke with Kira Stokes, a personal trainer and founder of Stoked Method, and learned how to master fitness on your own. Her focal point is transforming both body and mind. Here is her approach to fitness on your own:

1. Start moving
That means picking up your pace and getting out of your comfort zone. If it normally takes seven minutes to walk around the block, says Stokes, aim for five. Run from one street sign to another and then walk to the next few.

2. Set goals
Setting and then reaching new goals will keep you motivated. Write down both short- and long-term goals, and make the former reachable. Doing 10 knee push-ups during TV commercials is a good short-term goal; losing 15 pounds is not. "If you're feeling frustrated by your inability to reach your goal, change your goal," Stokes says. Don't just give up.

3. Make it fun
Develop a routine that's fun and keeps you accountable. Things you loved to do as a kid, like jumping rope, are usually excellent paths to fitness on your own, Stokes notes, and getting the family involved livens things up.

If you have a long driveway or yard, for example, set up an obstacle course that everyone can traverse. You'll all get in shape at the same time and enjoy a few laughs along the way. Having your family involved keeps you on track because you'll be accountable to them, as well as to yourself.

4. Get toned
Movement is one thing but being bathing-suit ready means adding toning to your routine. Gyms and professional trainers use sliding discs, dumbbells, and stability balls for toning, and you can pursue fitness on your own by shelling out $10 or so for resistance tubing.

But you don't need any of this, Stokes explains, because your own body weight provides the best resistance there is. All you need is five minutes at six different points in the day. For instance, while standing in the kitchen, hold on to the countertop to do lateral lunges  or put your hands on the wall for wall push-ups.

5. Watch your form
Your core -- the abdominal and back muscles that stabilize body movement -- is the key to good posture; the stronger your core, the better you look. Stokes stresses the importance of good form when exercising. Without a professional trainer to spot you, she says to check the numerous online resources that showcase the proper form for specific exercises. (See Ballinger Athletic Performance, for example, to learn how to do a pushup.)

6. Use props
Pursuing fitness on your own requires some creative improvisation. Here are several suggestions:

    •    Instead of sliding discs (i.e., circular, Frisbee-sized objects that facilitate low impact weight-bearing exercises for legs and abs) use towels. Throw two on the floor and do gliding lunges, which will help you clean the floor at the same time.

    •    For a forearm plank, position your toes on a towel, glide your shoulders over your elbows and then slide back. Repeat for 30 seconds and then kick it up a notch: Come onto your hands, pull your knees towards your chest and then push back -- the only thing moving should be the towel under your toes.

    •    Add to a traditional bridge exercise by lying on your back with your legs bent and each heel resting on a small towel. Push up your butt into a bridge position and push the towels forward several inches. Then pull one leg back until your heel is under your knee and your shin is perpendicular to the floor. Slide your heel back and proceed with the other leg; repeat five times.

    •    To firm triceps -- a jiggle zone for many, Stokes notes -- reach for two water jugs or soup cans. Place one in each hand for a tricep extension, tricep kickback, or shoulder press.

    •    If you want to invest in tubing, fitness on your own can include upright rows and lateral raises; the raises help sculpt broad shoulders that make your waist look smaller. Stokes points out that both exercises can be made more aerobic by adding squats or lunges, but don't attempt that until you're totally comfortable with the arm exercises.

Remember, the most important thing about fitness on your own is keeping it fun so that you'll keep doing it -- even after swimsuit season is over. Please visit Kira's website for additional information and tips!

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May 17, 2013 11:17PM
This article assumes everyone has anatomically perfect legs.  For many of us - and I was a long-distance runner into my 50's - the legs won't tolerate consistent exercise without developing tendonitis or sore knees or sore hips, etc.

For me bicycling plus Calorie counting is the answer.  My doctor noted I was 15 lbs lighter in Feb. than Dec. and 16 lbs lighter in May than Feb.  I went from 294 to 264 (6'3") and one of my New Year's resolutions was to get down to 259 before the year is over.  Now it's 240 lb. - the weight at which the BMI tables say I'm no longer "obese," but I'd like to be there by the end of September.

Before cycling, my heart rate was near it's max. walking up a 1/4 mile semi-steep hill.  I even had heart tests done before cycling to make sure nothing was wrong.  Now I go on the steadily uphill 3.5 mile section of the BWI Airport bike trail while staying in the 70-90% max. heart range.

I'm riding a mountain bike on paved county trails 6 miles to 15 miles each ride.  My Garmin 305 GPS/heart monitor watch says I burn up about 90 Calories per mile.  That means every 39 miles burns up 1 lb of fat.  Between my 30 miles/week of cycling or equivalent exercise (lawnmowing, taking our family's preteens to the zoo, etc.) plus 200 calories per day BELOW the amount needed to maintain weight according to (which has a great online Calorie counter). That's 200 x 30 + 30 x 90 x 4.3 = 17,610 calories burned or not consumed per month.  Since 17,610 Calories represents 5 lbs of fat (3500 Calories/lb of fat), it's been adding up as predicted for 6 straight months.  I'm not sure how long I can keep the Calories down with the additional exercise, but I'm hoping to add 5-10 more bicycle miles per week.

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