Slimming down the cost of getting fitter

When most people decide they want to get into some sort of exercise routine, their first consideration is often cost. You can start by checking the Sunday newspaper circulars – what’s on sale at Target? Does anybody know of any good workout DVD’s? Does Sears have a decent treadmill that I can put on my credit card?

The good news is that there are even more options than these, some of which are even free.

First things first: start by talking with your primary care physician (PCP) about your specific goals. Your doctor will tell you what they think you’re physically up to doing, and they can often refer you to a nutritionist, physical therapist, or other specialist, if such attention is needed. If your PCP is part of a “patient-centered medical home” (sometimes called a “PCMH”), your health insurance plan may cover visits to your doctor with a reduced (or $0!) co-pay. The key thing here is that you never want to start a new exercise plan without checking in with your doc FIRST.

Second: look at no-cost options. Make sure you actually LIKE the exercise/plan you’re trying out before you invest cash in it. Consider walking or running in your neighborhood before you buy a treadmill or get a gym membership. Cable TV subscribers can often benefit from “On Demand” services offered through cable providers like Cox, Comcast and Time Warner that allow you to view unlimited quantities of exercise videos as part of your cable subscription. Try before you buy those DVD’s!

Third: Use the discounts that you get through sources OTHER than the paper. Many health insurance plans, especially the national biggies (i.e., Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna and Cigna) offer “wellness” programs that include discounts on everything from gym memberships to equipment to apparel. Some insurers also offer rewards for completing wellness activities, like completing online health assessments or going for an annual physical exam. Go to your insurer’s web site or call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card to get the skinny on these discounts.

Fourth: Look at work! Many workplaces have started to offer wellness programs and rewards, sometimes in addition to those offered through the insurance plan. Rewards can be anything from cash reimbursement for specific activities and memberships to discounts on gym memberships, race registrations, and more. Check with the Human Resources (HR) department, as applicable, for more info on what may be available for you.

I’ve gotten some great deals for myself in the last 12 months, like personal training sessions at my gym paid for by my company, and 15% off my awesome sneakers for the marathon (Brooks Addiction) at the local running store, thanks to our health insurer. I know about these discounts mostly because I read the stuff that’s posted on the HR section of my company’s intranet, and I glance at our health insurer’s newsletter before I toss it in the recycle bin. I also occasionally log in and check our health insurer’s web site for new discounts, since deals are often updated there and not put in the printed material. In other words, there are LOADS of things out there to help reduce the cost of getting fitter, and they’re not always hidden in the most obvious places. Happy hunting! (and if you know of other good, semi-hidden/non-obvious sources, feel free to post them in the comments so others can benefit from your wisdom!)

So, I was THAT person at the gym…

NO, not the tool who uses a machine and who fails to wipe it down. (ew)

NO, not the person who sings along with their iPod. (ew)

NO, not the person who lifts 250lbs and grunts like one of those guys from the World’s Strongest Man Competition. (*rolls eyes*)

I was (le sigh) the one who ended up throwing up – and I’m here to say it’s okay. Now, part of why it’s so okay is the fact that it wasn’t entirely due to my personal trainer’s efforts to get me a training routine that will come to the brink of just about to kill me; a lot of it was due to female troubles (*cough*) that have had me nauseous for days. Guys have no idea what manner of shit women have to put up with and they could never tolerate it for even six months in a row, much less decades.

Moving right along…

So, I consulted with the trainers at my office’s fitness center (where I work out) to see if I could get some personal training to help me better prepare for the marathon in September. I don’t have a ton of cash, but I did get some money for my birthday that I could use for this, and work will reimburse me for all but $5 of the 3-sessions’ worth of training that I signed up for. My plan is to use this training to help me get my legs in better shape so that my hips and knees won’t feel like they’re unhinging halfway through the marathon this year. Last year, I finished the marathon. This year, I want to finish strong(er).

My trainer set me up with three half-hour sessions, and my first session involved some partial squats (first without and then with 10lb free weights in each hand), some balance ball work and some “monster walks” (moving side to side with rubber bands around my legs). He has three more exercises to teach me, but things were cut short yesterday when I wasn’t able to think straight and needed to rest. The conversation:

Trainer (worried): Are you seeing stars?

Me: No – not yet. (ha ha)

Trainer: OK, well, that’s good. Do you feel like you need to throw up?

Me: Uh…I don’t think so.

Trainer (slight smile on his face): That means that you’re probably pretty close.

Now, I’ve heard of people who throw up from those boot camps, and I feel massive amounts of sympathy for them, because I can’t imagine going into a boot camp program and having my ass kicked in front of many people. Even here, this is in front of work people, but traffic when I go is low enough that it’s typically not a panic-inducer for me. And, thankfully, I had the presence of mind to walk (slowly) to the ladies locker room AND get to a bathroom stall before I threw up, so I consider it kind of a win.

I still need to go back another time to get the remaining 3 exercises down, so I can start the routine of alternating my walking with this. That will be either today or tomorrow. My quads are still somewhat sore at times, making me question just how strong I thought they were; it seems improbable that they were as solid as I thought for how much they were burning last night!

So, semi-humiliation of puking aside, and pain aside, I feel like I’m on the right path. Of course, these exercises have the potential to help me strengthen my legs (good for me and the marathon) and lose some weight (again, good for me and the marathon), so I’m actually looking forward to doing them. I think it’s 100x easier for me to take this on since I have a specific goal and it’s not something that I know I can’t do. I just have to get past having been that person.

And now I have.

Trying to do two marathons at once

So, last year, dh and I did a walking marathon together. I have two bad knees, so running is OUT of the question, but I can walk for days. And, as the theory went, I should then be able to walk for a day straight, right? The answer is, as I discovered: YES. I chronicled this in a series of posts (starting with my decision to do the marathon in the first place), so that I could share what I went through. Part of why I did that was so that others who were interested in learning about what it’s like to walk a marathon could see what my experience was like, and part of it was to make a record for myself, so that I could remember (and not have the same issues with recovering this time out).

I decided that I want to walk the marathon again this year, and I have about 8 months to prepare this time – instead of the 2 months I had last time. I have a bunch of reasons for wanting to do this, but I feel like I have to fight for the time to train against the other marathon I’m in – the constant attempt to balance work, family, home, etc. I was on a Twitter party last night about fitness, and one of the questions that came up was about how you manage to get in your time for a workout when you’re balancing against the other things going on in your life (work, family, illness, etc.). When I was training hard during those two months, I manufactured time and dh was a huge part of that – reworking the schedule so that we could manage to free up time for me to do some lighter training during the week. I never did manage to get my act together to do more than a couple of longer training walks on the weekend.

Some of it is that I’m fighting myself – my desire to get sleep, my desire to keep dinner moving on time, my desire not to screw up dh’s schedule so that both of us can get in the right number of hours at work. Some of it is that dh also needs a shot at working out, and that means balancing the schedule of day care drop off/pick up to make it work for both of us. But, mostly, I know this is me – my block to get past. I have to draw a line in the sand and say that this is what I need to do.

The thing is: I learned last year that I can go an entire 26.2 miles in one day. I wasn’t really sure I could do it until I did. And then, when I did, I figured that I would get hooked and want to do it again. the answer is, naturally, YES. I don’t want to do it lots of times in a year, mostly because I’m not physically in any shape to commit to doing more than once a year. But I’d like to work on that. I’d like not to be a size 14/16 forever. I’d like to look at my legs and see muscle, not jiggle over muscle. Also, I’d like to be able to do that marathon again this year and not spend the last mile of it limping from hip pain.

The only way I see this happening is if I actually commit myself to training better and harder, and the only way that will happen is if I find some kind of way to push myself to go to the gym even when I’m tired, even when I’m worried about how to get dinner to the table on time, even when I know it may mean that I’m bringing work home at night when I’m too tired to think. I still haven’t figured out how to do this, but I have less than 8 months to do it.