Break a Sweat, Not Your Budget: 11 Cheap or Free Winter Workouts

Low-cost winter workouts
Emily Mills under Creative Commons
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While it’s tempting to sip drinks by the fire or watch movies all winter long, it’s also important to get moving and get a bit of exercise now and then.

Everyone has their own workout preferences, but one thing’s for sure: you don’t need to fork over piles of cash to a gym or personal trainer to have fun, beat the winter chill and get in great shape. These low-cost workouts can keep you moving all winter long and right into the spring.

Of course, before embarking on any exercise program, check with your physician to see if you have any limitations. Ready to get your sweat on?

Stay Indoors

Baby, it’s cold outside. Depending on your climate, you might prefer a warmer workout environment. Try one of these indoor options to get in shape when it’s just too miserable to be outside.

1. Work Out with YouTube

YouTube is more than just a place to watch viral videos. It’s also a great site for free workouts you can do right in your living room.

Try your hand at yoga with the “30 Days of Yoga” seriesthat starts with “Day 1: Ease Into It,” a 35-minute video focusing on easing into a regular yoga practice. “Day 4: Stretch and Soothe” helps continue to warm up a new Yogi, and then the series continues for an entire month of workouts. “Yoga for Beginners” offers another 40-minute videoyoga option, and Pilates-minded people may enjoy “Pilates for Beginners.”

Those looking for a more intensive workout might enjoy the popular 37-minute “Fat Burning Cardio Workout”by Fitness Blender that already has nearly 11 million views. For those looking for a great ab workout, Jillian Michaels’ “6 Week Six-Pack Abs Workout” should do the trick. And Zumba fanatics, you’ll want to try the 50-minute “Easy Zumba Class.”

2. Get a Discount Gym Membership

While YouTube is a great way to get a workout, sometimes it’s better to get out of the house. 24-Hour Fitness offers a variety of changing membership specials, including coupons, discounts and free passes. They also offer an e-newsletter for even more deals. Costco also offers a variety of discount gym memberships, so make sure you’re making the most of your membership.

Check with your company’s HR department for deals as well. Some employers offer discounts at nearby gyms, and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Federal Employee Program offers discounted memberships at 10,000 fitness centers throughout the country. Those with Aetna insurance can also find discounted options.

Many gyms will offer a free day pass to those considering membership, and members can often bring guests for free. Ask around and see what kind of deals you can get, or if anyone may have a spare guest pass. If you’re in high school or college, be sure to ask about student discounts, and take advantage of your school’s facilities.

Wondering how to stay in shape while it’s cold outside? Try one or more of these low-cost winter workouts.3. Join a Community Rec Center

Check your local community recreation center for affordable day rates and membership options. Some offer a wide variety of classes, and even adult sports leagues. My local rec center even has a swimming pool and a water slide! See what your local rec center offers — you may be pleasantly surprised by the options.

4. Sign Up for Indoor Sports Leagues

Find a local indoor sports league to keep fit and have fun during the winter months. From basketball to badminton, many communities offer leagues for every desire.

Whether bowling, racquetball or dodgeball is your style, see what indoor sports leagues are available in your neighborhood to make new friends and keep active all winter long.

5. Try Community College Classes

Many community colleges offer exercise classes, from walking to highboard diving. See what your local community college has to offer. You may even be able to put some credits towards a degree if you’re already in school.

6. Use Groupons and Discount Activity Coupons

Groupon and Living Social often offer discounts on active recreation, from rock climbing gyms to laser tag. Keep an eye out for these daily deals.

If you don’t want to keep track of these deals, consider getting an Entertainment Book and taking advantage of coupons for batting cages, gym passes and more.

Get Outside

If the weather isn’t too frightful, bundle up and head outside to enjoy the wonders of winter while exercising.

Be sure to dress appropriately and pay attention to how your body feels. If you feel cold or numb, or you’re in pain, be sure to get inside and warm up, as hypothermia and frostbite are dangers this time of year.

7. Go For a Walk

Get some fresh air and sunshine along with your fill of Vitamin D. Don’t let cold and wet weather keep you inside. Bundle up, put on a waterproof layer if necessary, and go for a walk. If you’re in an icy area, consider getting traction devices, such as Yaktrax or MicroSpikes to secure your footing.

8. Try Snowshoeing

Enjoy the snow with a pair of snowshoes strapped to your feet. Take a class to learn the basics, or head out with experienced friends.

Pick up pointers beforehand from this video, and check out Snowshoe Magazine’s First-Timers Guide for valuable tips on selecting a pair of snowshoes (which you can can find new for $100 or less), safety tips (don’t go alone, always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back), how to dress (layers are your friends) and potential dangers (including hypothermia and frostbite).

If you fall in love with snowshoeing and want to go even faster, consider entering a snowshoe race.

9. Go Cross-Country Skiing

While downhill skiing can be pricey (but doesn’t have to be), cross-country skiing can be even less expensive.

Plenty of YouTube videos demonstrate basic cross-country skiing methods, but it’s always best to go out for the first time with a guide or experienced friends. Be sure to take safety precautions, including dressing properly, never going alone, and letting someone know where you are and when you’ll be back.

Find learning centers and instructional courses on the Cross Country Ski Areas Association website.

10. Chop Wood

Not only is chopping wood a great workout, it’s a great way to save on your winter heating bill. Be sure to take appropriate safety precautions. What could be better than getting a great workout, then enjoying a cozy fire and wonderful crackling ambiance at the end of the day?

11. Play Like a Kid

Have a snowball fight, build a snowman, hit the skating rink or trudge up the biggest hill you can find to go soaring down on your sled. Whether or not you have kids, these activities are fantastic ways to get some exercise, and have a good laugh to chase away the winter gloom.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite low-budget way to exercise in the winter?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.