Tag Archives: nutrition

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Gym Membership

Gym memberships are a costly investment, but the good thing about them is that you can control the amount of pay off by the amount you actually use them. It doesn’t really matter if you’re spending $19 a month or $99 a month, what matters is how often you actually get your lazy butt off the couch and go workout.

Here are 10 ways to make the most out of that costly gym membership:

1. Go, and go often: Ok, this one is obvious, but despite having a “duh” factor, this is the most important step of all. For the past year-and-a-half, I had a $46.99 a month membership to 24 Hour Fitness. I went to the gym a total of 10 times in those 18 months. Quick math shows that I would have been better off splurging on a day pass to a local luxury gym… or buying myself fitness equipment… instead of spending about $70 a visit. Now that I belong to Gold’s Gym with a $27 a month membership I’ve vowed to go to the gym at least twice a week. Not only does this make my gym membership make more sense to my budget, it’s also helping me be more healthy, which will hopefully cut medical bills in the long run.

2. Get a Gym Buddy… Who Isn’t a Close Friend: Having a gym buddy is a good way to encourage yourself to use your gym membership. But if your gym buddy is a close friend, there’s a better chance that one of you will come up with a last-minute excuse on why you can’t go, letting the other back out easily. After all, friends are often more forgiving about these things, especially if the friends aren’t keen on going to the gym in the first place.

3. Take a Class or Ten: Many gyms offer a variety of “free” group fitness classes. As soon as you start taking these classes, your “investment” dollars are being put to work. Assuming group fitness classes, on their own, would cost $50+ a month at the local rec center, taking a class once a week makes the entire gym membership worth a lot more. Go in without any expectations, and be ready to walk if the instructor is awful or the class is really too hard for you.

4. Use Those Machines: One of the main benefits of belonging to a gym is the ability to diversify your workout. Don’t be afraid of the weight training machines (I know I was for a long time). Instead, read the instructions on the side of the machine and start slow. You should pick a weight that allows you to do 15 reps (repetitions) of the same movement until your muscle feels as if it is melting and has turned to jelly.

5. Go In the Morning: I’m going to try to take my advice on this one in the coming year, as I’ve yet to experience the 5am gym rush. Going to the gym in the morning is great because it gives you energy for the day, helps your metabolism, and… best yet… ensures you won’t come up with excuses after work about why you can’t make it to the gym. Also, going in the morning makes you more aware of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, which is ever-so important for weight loss and health (she writes at 2am after getting 2 hours of sleep last night.)

6. Buy a Bunch of Used Fitness Magazines: Fitness magazines often repeat the same information over and over again, so I wouldn’t recommend them for health nuts, but for beginners they can be quite helpful. Not only do they offer advice on workouts, they also will discuss (and show photos) of proper form, which will help you make the most out of your workout and not hurt yourself… both important things if you want to keep using the gym.

7. Don’t Give Up: Easier said than done… but staying on track is more than half the battle. Don’t disillusion yourself into thinking you’ll drop 10lbs a week. If you’re eating a healthy diet around 1200 calories (for women) or 1500 calories (for men) and working out 3 times a week, you will lose weight… like 1lb per every 1-2 weeks. Even if you don’t lose a pant size, any exercise is good for your long term health. It’s what you can’t see that’s the most harmful.

8. Join a Online Health Community: Free health and fitness networks can aid in your journey. Check out SparkPeople.com, a wonderful community where you can track your diet, get fitness advice and surround yourself (digitally) with other people like you.

9. Invest in a Personal Trainer: Personal trainers are very expensive and they’re not all worth their lean muscle mass in gold. Some gyms offer a few cheap personal training sessions when you sign up, so take advantage of that deal. Tell your trainer up front that you’re broke so he or she will be less tempted to try to sell you expensive supplements or additional sessions. Instead, explain that you really want to learn a good basic workout (or, if you’re more advanced, ask for a workout that can help take you to the next level). Get the workout in writing and take notes on any specific proper positioning that isn’t obvious.

10. Eat Healthy: You know that saying “you are what you eat?” Well, it’s true, and it’s most apparent when you’re at the gym. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ve worked out a ton so a good reward would be an entire pizza or slice of cake. However, you’re just sabotaging your hard-earned results. Eating a diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber will give you the energy needed to work out. For good, easy sources of protein try egg whites. Egg beaters, which are milk-cartons of liquid egg whites, are my new best friend. Also, splurge on a good vitamin. I’m no nutritionist, but look into what sort of vitamin would be best for you. It’s cheaper to buy one slightly more expensive vitamin with everything in it you need than buying a lower-cost vitamin and having to buy separate supplements for missing nutrients.

The Cost of Being Healthy

I recently decided that in order to be happy and healthy, I need to revamp my entire life. No more starving myself all day (out of laziness, not anorexia) and eating giant meals at night… or paying for a $46.99 a month gym membership that I used once a year.

In order to be healthy in the coming year, I signed up for another gym membership. This one is at a gym a bit closer to my house, and it’s only $27 a month. That’s still a lot of money if I never use the gym, but I’m going to force myself to go at least three times a week in order to make sure I get as much bang for my buck as logistically possible.

The gym membership isn’t what is going to cost me the most, though. That would be the cost of buying fresh produce and healthier options when I eat out. Since I don’t eat red meat or chicken, my health options are usually fish dishes, often the most expensive at a restaurant. I’ve been to the grocery store about three times in the past month to purchase apples, kiwis, cauliflower, and so on. I keep finding these great healthy (yet expensive) alternatives to things I might eat… like Flax Jacks instead of pancakes (their delicious, easy to make (just add water) and pretty damn healthy) — but cost-wise, Bisquick is the better option.

Now, I’m also focusing on actually eating what I buy, instead of letting it go to waste. Living alone, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of food purchased or made. Most recipes just assume you live with a family full of hungry people, and help you make 3-6 servings of food. If I make 3-6 servings of food either I’ll eat it all (not healthy) or it will just end up in the trash – or worse, stinking up my refrigerator.

Last week I started tracking my diet closely on SparkPeople.com, that site I found when searching for free workout videos on YouTube. It’s actually pretty cool – it’s free (always a plus) and it helps you track everything you’ve eaten and figure out how many calories and other nutrients are making it to your digestive tract.

What I learned this week is how fast calories add up when you’re eating out, and how slowly they add up when you’re eating a small, healthy meal or snack every two hours.

My goal is 1200 calories a day. I’m 157lbs right now, which at 5’3 is not acceptable. I’ve also let myself get so out of shape. I’ve never been the fitness type, but I also tended to weigh in at 145 to 150 without any extra work. Two years ago I was down to 127lbs, my lowest since I was a kid, and I did that by biking to work five days a week (30 minutes each way) and then, well, getting depressed and eating very few calories per day. I don’t want to do that again, exactly, but I’d like to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle for good.

That means I have to throw emotional eating out the door. I haven’t been that bad lately — I don’t think I’ve downed an entire box of Oreos in one sitting since college. Still, I was shocked to find out just how many calories is in one Baja Fresh Nachoes meal — (1890!!!). That’s probably with meat, but still. That’s way more than I’m supposed to eat in a day, let alone one meal.

Another typical meal I’d eat in my “old days” (aka, last month) would be what I’d pick up on a trip to Taco Bell…

$3.14 for…

-A Bean Burrito (370 calories)
-A vegetarian taco (unclear how many calories since I get beans instead of meat, but the reg. crunchy taco is 170 calories)
-The cheesy fiesta potatoes (290)
-A Large Pepsi (100 calories per 8oz, large = 32oz, so that’s 400 calories, maybe a little less given that they put a lot of ice in there, I’ll say 350 calories)

So that $3.14 meal didn’t cost me much in the piggy bank, but it cost me a good 1150 calories. That’s about how much I’m supposed to eat in a day.

Which makes me think that it’s good I generally ate only one meal a day in my, uh, past life, because otherwise I’d be a balloon right now.

The thing is, healthy eating is no longer an option for me, it’s something I have to do. I’m at high risk for so many different problems later in life due to having PCOS, and I’d rather eat healthy now than have to deal with everything down the line. Meanwhile, like any other girl, I just want to feel beautiful and desirable. I don’t have unrealistic expectations, I don’t want to be skin and bones, but… I’d give anything, ANYTHING, to be able to wear a bikini and feel proud of my body.

How much will it cost me? I can’t do fast food anymore, apparently (or — I could do Taco Bell, I just need to get ONE of those items instead of all of them. But it’s probably better I stick to healthier foods that are more filling and avoid the fast food altogether.) The good news is, I’ll be saving money here and there on drinks, since I’m cutting drinks besides water and milk out of my diet for now. I’ll have an occasional glass of red wine with dinner, but no more beer, or cocktails, or soda or juice. All of that has got to go if I want to be able to fit into those size 6 jeans I bought the last time I lost weight!

But the cost of buying healthy food is going to add up too. The vitamins alone are pricey, but I know my body needs them. I wish health insurance would take into consideration my diet, and perhaps accept me as long as I keep eating healthy. It seems I’d be of higher risk to them if I wasn’t do anything about my diet or lifestyle. Well, that would only make sense, and as we all know, the health insurance system in this country doesn’t make any sense at all.

With that, it’s time for my mid-morning kiwi. Did you know that you can eat the skin of the kiwifruit? In fact, the skin is the healthiest part of the fruit, with tons of fiber! Amazing, right? I was always afraid of kiwi skin. It is kind of fuzzy and brown, but if you close your eyes it just seems like the skin of a peach or something. It doesn’t have much flavor, and it’s a total waste to not eat that part of the kiwi.