As you may already know, I recently embarked on a month-long challenge to get fit for free. It went really well, and I found myself making good use of old fitness equipment and also improvising a little with things around the house.
November and December often sees us wishing ourselves fitter, and setting fitness and health resolutions for the New Year. Having said that, any time is a good time to start. The seasonal sales often turn up a few bargains, but not always. In particular you tend to find offers on sportswear and trainers, and sometimes on fitness equipment and tech.
Having said that, I’d advise starting simply and avoid going right out and buying anything that’s extremely expensive or top of the range. How many people do you know who have pricey home gym equipment gathering dust in their spare room, or shoved under their beds after their enthusiasm wanes?
Think about what you’re most likely to use on a regular basis. If you aren’t using it, you’re completely wasting your money.
For example, we have a folding exercise bike that’s tucked into a corner near the TV for easy access. The rule here is that if you want to watch trashy TV (often a default setting on cold, rainy wintery evenings), it has to be done from the bike – so that’s an extra motivating factor on top of wanting to be fitter. It hardly takes up any space, so can be kept in the living area where it’s more likely to be seen and used. As the bike folds open and locks very simply and easily, it’s not fiddly to set it up at all which makes it highly convenient as well. Don’t underestimate convenience.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of boredom. A treadmill stuck in front of a blank wall in a dark room is going to bore you silly, so think about how you could set things up to watch catch-up TV, listen to the radio or enjoy your own music playlists (all easily doable for free). I’ve also seen people reading books and magazines, etc. Think about how you’re going to keep yourself motivated and interested.
Small-ish gadgets etc
Depending upon your goals, you might be able to pick up useful smaller equipment and gadgets very cheaply. For example:
- Skipping rope
- Exercise / pilates ball
- Exercise / yoga mat
- Resistance bands
- Small weights
- Pull-up bar
These regularly turn up on eBay, Amazon, Argos and so on. As a general rule, the more quirky or weird the gadget, the more likely you will be to stop using it! I’ve had a lot of luck buying basic small pieces of equipment at supermarkets such as during Lidl special offers, and at out of town sports superstores.
Larger pieces of equipment
Don’t buy anything without doing a decent amount of research. Read consumer and specialist reviews of specific items and the retailers that sell them. Read the small print about guarantees, spare parts, delivery and setup costs and so on.
Also, once you’ve found the right makes and models for you, go and check them out in a showroom or shop somewhere if at all possible. For example, I’m fairly petite so I need to make sure I can adjust seats and weights comfortably for my body frame size, and anything with wide handlebars or grips can be a bit of a no-no (other people might have the opposite problem).
Found the right fitness equipment? Okay! Now, don’t buy it.
What I mean is don’t buy it there and then on the spot. Shop around using all the traditional money-saving methods (discounts, coupon codes, seasonal sales, cut-price retailers, haggling etc) and also do some price tracking.
For big ticket items it can be crucial to know how often the prices fluctuate, and by how much. Visit online shops regularly for a few days or weeks to see the variations. You can do this in a very handy way for items on Amazon UK by looking at historical data and setting price drop alerts with apps like CamelCamel and The Tracktor. The latter has been somewhat glitchy of late, but it’s still useful for getting a rough idea.
As an example, we knew what model of folding exercise bike we wanted, but when we first looked the cheapest Amazon UK price was over £115. A look at CamelCamel suggested that this was the top price and was a bit high as it normally cost about £89 or so. Prices fluctuated from day to day as stock changed with various retailers on the site, and we were eventually sent an email alert that the price had hit an unusually low £60. It was a 1-day deal so we took full advantage of it using cashback, Amazon gift vouchers, and a free delivery code. In the end, the bike cost us £20.50 delivered.
If you’re more patient, you might be able to find something for free although you’ll have much more restricted choice. Try any of the following:
- Ask around friends, family and colleagues
- Ask anyone you know who’s emigrating or going home after their work visa/sabbatical ends
- Check noticeboards in local shops, at work, and online
- Put out a (polite) request on your local Freecycle or Freegle
- Try the free section of sites such as Preloved, Gumtree, Craigslist
- If you have access to a car or a van, look for free ‘buyer collects’ offers on eBay
Remember personal safety issues if you’re going round to people’s homes to collect. Take a friend with you if possible.
Do you have any other tips for finding cheap / free fitness equipment? Favourite retailers, etc?