This week I thought we’d talk a bit about how I plan to meet one of my goals, specifically my workout goal of 5 days a week without spending too much money. Then we’ll see if my routine is actually cost effective compared to going to a gym.
Personally, I don’t think I need a gym membership. I’m decently knowledgeable in working out so for me the membership would just be to use the equipment, especially when there is inclement conditions for outdoor exercise, rather than learning. That’s not to say I wouldn’t learn more from going to a gym, just that it wouldn’t be the main thrust of it.
But if someone were a beginner, there are definitely advantages one can get with a gym membership. Every gym I’ve been to has been full of knowledgeable people that have been extremely helpful for learning and helped me avoid injuries. I can also see the membership as the push some people may need to actually stick with it. It’s a lot harder to put off the workout once you’re actually at the gym than it is when you’re at home.
First let’s talk about all of the exercises I’ll be trying to do. We’ll break it down into the exercises I’ve been doing every day and those I only do once a week, namely calisthenics and weight workouts.
For the calisthenics I do: push ups, crunches, lunges, squats, bridge, forward planks, side planks, supermans, and wall sits. All of these require no extra equipment. I try to work every part of the body everyday through this routine. Currently I do 3 sets of 10 each for each workout that is counted by reps and 1 minute for each workout that is timed.
Push ups are a classic workout, that I have included to target my upper body. I’ve found the current regime to be rather easy so I’m going to increase the reps this week.
Instead of sit ups, I do crunches as they’re healthier for your back. I also plan to increase the number of reps I do next week. This targets my abs.
Lunges are fairly standard, I plan on extending this into several other kinds of lunges that I’m familiar with such as side and angled but that will be a spring activity. I’m going to increase the number of reps I do next week. This is a more targeted leg workout that also helps a bit with balance and coordination.
For the last rep/set workout, I do bodyweight squats. I’m going to shoot for a more significant jump in the number I do next week, one or two steps ahead as these are far too easy. This is another workout for my legs but more of a general one.
To transition to time based workouts, I’ll start with planks. Currently I do regular planks and two side planks. I plan to add back planks in the near future probably in the spring when I expand my lunge circuit Next week I plan to start increasing the time. Another workout that targets my abs.
I also do bridges. These are also at a minute and I think I can increase the time. These activate my glutes and hamstrings.
I also hold superman’s which activate lots of my back muscles. I’m thinking I’ll jump this up two steps next week and see how that feels. I plan to expand this with more back workouts for a form of back circuit, probably once again in the spring.
For a final general lower body workout, I do wall sits. I also plan to bump up in time.
Currently that’s what I’m doing for my calisthenics. My overall goal for all of these workouts is at least 100 reps in a row or 3 minutes held this year.
Short term workout goals
Let’s take a quick look at what my shorter term goals are and then I’ll go over what the terminology I’m using is.
For the rep/sets workouts:
|Sets||Reps||Extra set’s reps|
For the timed workouts:
Now let me explain how each of these will work. Over all I treat each goal as a something to work towards. For instance on push ups I’ve been doing the first row (3×10) but I’m going to start shooting for the second row (3×20) while I think I’ll be able to hit 20 no problem. I’m treating each of these goals as ranges though as long as I’m between 10-20 reps and 3 sets, I’m good. I then also have an “extra set” this would just be an uneven set, I do this when I start to get close to 100 reps overall. I’ve mostly sought to design this to increase overall muscular endurance with each step. These are subject to change, if I find it’s not working I can always try to do 3 sets of 40 instead of that last set only being 20. I’d also like to add in dips in at some point but currently I haven’t planned for that.
But onto the financial part of these workouts. I track them in Google Sheets which is free. The most equipment required by one is a timer which my phone has built in, I guess I could try to include some of the costs of my electricity here but we’ll just assume I’d use the same amount of battery otherwise. So overall the costs for these workouts are $0. On top of that, they’re easy on the body so down the road I can expand them to 7 days a week.
Now onto my weighted workouts I break it down into four categories at the moment: arms, back, shoulders, and legs.
Currently for these I don’t have weight goals as I haven’t honed in on what weights give me a good workout for all of the different exercises yet. I’m hoping to be setting goals by the end of March.
On Monday, I do my arms which consist of the following workouts: triceps overhead extensions, triceps push ups, bicep curls, and bicep curls with supination. I will note that triceps push ups are a body weight exercise, but currently I do them once a week with my other weighted workouts.
Tuesday is back day where I do the following: back rows (6 sets) and cross body cleans.
Wednesday is shoulder day which consists of: shoulder press, lateral shoulder raises, and delt fly.
On Thursday I do legs which consist of: weighted squats, weighted lunges, and deadlifts.
I plan to add in a chest workout for Friday’s at some point still just trying to figure out what workouts that will entail as I do not have a bench at the moment.
Now these workouts are a little more expensive than the calisthenics. All of these workouts just require a set of dumbbells. Just before I started pursuing FIRE I bought a set of adjustable weights and that’s what I use, I think it cost about $200. But looking on Walmart’s website just to get some prices, it looks like about $20ea for a dumbbell at a weight I could use so it’s not crazy expensive to get some basics set up.
Now walking or biking 1 hour a day. It’s pretty much just getting some cardio in every day. It’s been quite a bit warmer recently so I’ve been able to get out. As for costs, the bike lubricant I use costs like $20 for a small bottle and I’ve yet to run out. Other than that some basic wear on the bike and its components have costs but I don’t have hard data on that. Looking online I found one total tuneup estimate of $55 in my current area if you pay someone to do it and it should be done based on mileage (links to an external site). Although I think that’s including labor to have it done in a shop. Walking is free, though I guess the extra wear on my shoes could be considered a cost as I’ll have to replace them more often. I could take up running again but that can be rather rough on your knees long term. So I’m trying to avoid that.
Overall, I’ve found that working out is fairly cheap and you don’t really need a gym membership to get a really good workout every day. Of the workouts that have recurring costs, those will be relatively low, especially if you handle the labor portion of these costs yourself and most of my workouts just have a one time cost such as buying dumbbells.
What about comparing it to a gym membership?
For the sake of it, let’s compare my rough costs to a YMCA membership. I’m picking the YMCA as it was the gym I used to go to back in high school, as infrequently as I went to lift. A membership costs $31/mo. I’m sure there are more cost effective gyms one could choose for this same comparison. We’ll assume for bike maintenance we’ll do four tune-ups a year. For dumbbells we’ll assume a total of five sets bought at $40 a set, which will be roughly the total I paid for my adjustable dumbbells. We’ll also compare it over a few years to see when it becomes cost effective to workout from home. We’ll assume you take good care of your dumbbells and bike so they won’t need replacement over the period we look at. To keep it all easy, we’ll assume that the associated costs with both methods stay the same year to year and that you’re doing the same workout at the gym and at home.
|Category||Year one||Year two||Year three|
|Home Total ($)||420||220||220|
|Gym total to date ($)||372||744||1,116|
|Home total to date ($)||420||640||960|
Some brief analysis:
At the end of the first year it actually would have been more cost effective to get a gym membership. I was a little surprised by this result. I actually expected it to be a little cheaper. But that’s mostly because of the high initial costs involved with the dumbbells.
However, by the end of year two you’ve started to save some money compared to working out at the gym.
The diververgence isn’t really all that significant even by the end of year three you’ve only saved about $200. This could be due to some of the flaws I used when projecting my numbers.
I’m including quite a bit more maintenance from the bike than may be realistic. From what I saw in the article I sourced my data from, linked above, you might be able to get away with two or less a year, which would mean you break even by the end of year one. Furthermore, you can lower costs by not just biking and instead doing something else such as running or hiking to lower your costs where the associated costs are much lower and the mileage on your bike would decrease allowing you to extend the maintenance schedule.
As mentioned above, the price sourced above also includes the cost to have a mechanic do the work on your bike and not doing it yourself. That could drop the price a bit once you’ve gained some experience with the tune up process. That’s my plan at least.
I’m assuming that I’m doing the same workout at both locations which is most likely not true. At a gym there are plenty of machines and other kinds of equipment you can use to target more specific muscle groups or just different workouts from what I’ve been doing which would be a benefit.
I’m also making a rather high assumption for the price of the dumbbells, a quick google search got me prices as low as $59 for a set of adjustable dumbbells. I have no clue about how good those adjustables are that price point, but one can definitely get lower numbers than my conservative price estimate.
I’m also ignoring the price of the bike itself. With the bike I bought it’d probably take until year 6 or 7 before I’d break even. The unspoken assumption here is that you’re buying the bike regardless of whether you get a gym membership or not. But the bike has other uses as a means of transportation, I don’t plan to just use it to bike for a set amount of time to workout every day, I may use it to get from A to B.
I went with the low end price of the maintenance, assuming that you’re taking good care of it and don’t need a $300+ overhaul to your bike every year. I also ignore the wear of components, you could probably add a cost for different components wearing out every year and needing to be replaced.
As I mentioned above you can probably lower the costs of going to the gym with a different membership. A quick google search got me $10/mo for Planet Fitness but I’ve never used one so I can’t comment on the equipment or if it would be able to support everything I would need it for. It might also be worth looking to see if you can get access to a gym through other means, one job I worked had a gym that any employee could use for free.
While a little surprising how close the gym membership was in price to just doing it yourself, I think there are plenty of ways to save cash in this comparison. Just cutting the bike maintenance costs in half gets you a savings of almost $300 a year. At that point you’re starting to get some fairly good savings a year.