The Best Fitness Tips on a Budget

A few months before my wedding last year, I totally splurged and hired a personal trainer. She whipped me into the best shape I’ve ever been in, but once the wedding came and went, and Mr. Practical came on board, I, unfortunately, couldn’t keep on splurging. If I ever when the lottery her services will be the first thing I buy!

That being said, this Fall I’ve been yearning for a different project and a way to get in shape beyond my normal elliptical routine to combat the happy marriage weight about which I keep being warned. I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon, and since I live in one of the flattest, if not flattest places in the US, I decided it was now or never. (I still have nightmares from hilly runs in Virginia my roommates goaded me into going on with them).

Budget Fitness TipsNow before you say, “I could never run a half marathon,” let me just say that when I told one of my closest friends from college that I was running a half marathon a week before the race she said, “but… since when do you run?”

Which was a very fair question, because two years ago the answer would have been never to rare. Since then it’s grown to runs when the weather has been nice. But as our newest Budget Bud, the Saving Scientist said, “Running is cheap. All you need is your investment in your running shoes.”

You can’t argue with that, and through my training I’ve actually grown to like running. And if I can run a half marathon anyone can, and more importantly, it doesn’t cost that much money to train properly. Below see some of my tips on training on the cheap.

1. Find a free training schedule that works for you: There are plenty of free ones online, such as ones from Hal Higdon, which were suggested to me by the Saving Scientist and a fellow friend who have run multiple half and full marathons. Another important piece of advice the Secret Scientist told me was to not get too stressed and bogged down about the daily schedule, but to definitely keep up the long weekend runs. This turned about to be great advice, or I might have thrown in the towel after skipping some days of training at first. This is good to know when you’re busy at work you have a social engagement you can’t turn down.

Side note: I will say that whenever I kept up my runs during the week, I was much less sore after my long Sunday runs.

2. Don’t let missing your post workout runs derail you. If you find it difficult to run in the dark or hate running in the gym, running clubs are a great, social way to train. Happy’s Running Club meets at, you got it, Happy’s in the CBD on Wednesday evenings. The run is a little over 3 miles and starts at 6:16. And there are drink specials after, take that for motivation! There’s also Louisana Running Group in Mid-City, which departs at 6:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and offers both a 3 and 5-mile loop. I’ve been to Happy’s, but haven’t been to Louisiana’s, although the Saving Scientist has. Both groups have a variety of runners on different skill levels at varying paces. So, if like me, you’re afraid of being the last one- don’t! In addition, Varsity Sports also has a calendar of different runs around town all week.

3. If you hate the treadmill, try intervals: First of all, I hear you. Four miles is about as far as I can run on the treadmill, even when my favorite crime show that Mr. Practical refuses to watch with me is on TV. (Don’t knock it till you watch it). I did find that doing intervals on the treadmill (also recommended to me by the Saving Scientist) was a way for me to get my workout in at the gym, and keep the boredom at bay.

4. How to deal with the long run. I, of course, was terrified the morning of the first long run I had to complete. How could I possibly run five miles? Six miles?? Seven??? But you can do it, and it’s important to build up gradually. For my first six mile run, I ran with a friend, who gave me a lot of moral encouragement. Pick a scenic run and download some music or a great podcast. Also, another great piece of advice I acquired was to pick a new route on your long run days to keep yourself interested and energized.

Side note: As far as long runs went, my favorite route was to either start running up St. Charles, followed by a loop around Audubon Park, and finish running down Magazine, or to head down Camp, go through the Quarter and then up Esplanade and back.

5. Register early to save money on the registration fee. I signed up for the rock n’ roll half marathon, which provided bands along the way and an after-run concert, so it was a little bit more than others at $120. (I also registered late December, so I could have gotten more of a discount if I hadn’t procrastinated.

6. How to save on running shoes? Running shoes can be expensive, but there are ways to offset it. Some running stores will give you a discount when you turn in your old shoes. The last time I bought at Louisiana Running Company, I found a shoe on sale from the previous season. They looked and felt the same to me, but were about $40 less than I had budgeted. I really could care less what season my running shoes are, so I was thrilled. (More room to buy much needed running accessories. Who says you can’t look stylish when you run?)

7. Do lunges to prepare as well. The day after the half marathon I felt like I had done 300 lunges the day before. I walked with a slight limp, and did worry it would be permanent. I wish I had done more weight and cross training workouts to intersperse with my training like these.

8. Find healthy food on the cheap. Eat plenty of lean meat, beans, and grains like quinoa. One of my favorite new dishes is taco chicken bowls from budget bytes. They are seriously so delicious and cheap. I’ve started paring it with quinoa instead of rice, to get some extra protein. I also loved eating toasted Ezekial Bread for pre- breakfast runs topped with peanut butter.

9. Get yourself some inexpensive luxury. You need Epsom salts for a bath to soak your sore muscles. Also, a foam roller is a great investment to roll out your sore muscles. And community yoga classes are key for stretching out those hamstrings.

10. Pick a great post-race brunch spot. For my celebration brunch I chose Shake Sugary. I might have gotten looks when I ordered an apricot turnover, a blueberry galette, a sweet potato-bacon biscuit, and ginger snap cookie (and to think Mr. Practical thought I’d be sharing with him). But could you blame me? I had just run 13.1 miles (which I did keep announcing loudly so people wouldn’t think this was my normal Sunday breakfast), and the thought of those treats got me through the last every mile. And it only totaled $12 including tax and tip, so could you really blame me?

It was mile four and I was already dreaming about Shake Sugary. If you think a half marathon is out of the running for you, register for the Shamrockin Run, which is only 4.97 miles. Register before 3/1 to save on rates! Have any other tips I missed? Let us know!

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