One thing has become abundantly clear to all of us of late: Our country is in the midst of a devastating recession. Psychologically speaking, this news effects people in many different ways. Some become anxious, others opportunistic, and, still, others resigned. Yet, despite the variances in our emotional states, there's one pragmatic thing we all have in common- a heightened level of scrutiny surrounding our spending habits. We're not spending as much or as often. We're looking for ways to streamline our budgets, protect our assets, or simply stay afloat financially. We direct this scrutiny toward a greater number of purchases each day. What began as "Do I really need a vacation this year?" has become "Do I really need the brand-name cereal versus the generic one?" in just a few short months.
Our spending on health and wellness is shifting too. People used to inquire where they should go to practice yoga. Now, they often ask me how they can do it at home. While gyms still seem crowded, spas do not. One well-established yoga teacher pal recently lamented that her private client list has been dwindling for months. Another confessed that she's been practicing solo more often than attending classes at a studio; she's watching her finances more closely, and, in a pinch, she figures she may as well teach herself.
However, not everyone can be his/her own yoga teacher, personal trainer, or nutritionist. City apartments hardly double as health clubs, and DVDs can't replace your favorite teachers and coaches. Still, there are ways to streamline your fitness budget without expanding your waistline and defray costs without fraying your nerves for lack of a healthy outlet for stress (economic or otherwise).
Curtail Extraneous Costs: Rather than sacrifice your workout of choice, simply pay more attention to the nonessential costs you accrue while participating in this activity. For example, are you bleeding funds on periphery costs that provide little payback, such as buying water when you could bring your own water bottle from home (for free), paying the parking fee in the garage of your swish gym when you could walk, or renting a yoga mat each class rather than bringing your own? Think about where the price of your workout could stand to slim down and make a commitment to nipping those expenditures- like an overpaid CEO relinquishing his private jet.
Consider Your CPW: Some workouts are pricier than others. Plain and simple. Not to mention, when you consider the information above, there are a host of trivial expenses that can creep in, making any activity even more expensive than necessary. The key is to invest in efficacy. Buying a yoga mat, new pair of running shoes, or shiny new snowboard might seem indulgent when you're trying to cut corners; however, when you divide it by the usage you will get, you arrive at your "cost per workout" or CPW, as I like to say. Rather than habitually rent equipment, consider investing in your own. If you know that a sharp pair of sneaks will kick-start your running program (no additional costs there; the streets are your playground!), then fork over the cash and feel good about it. Sometimes, a more cost-effective approach to health in the long-run begins with a worthwhile wellness investment up front.
Double-Book Your Workout and Social Appointments: Dining out at fancy restaurants with friends is fun. Sipping a $4 latte while gabbing with your BFF is a ball. Swilling wine or imbibing a few brews while catching up with pals are meaningful activities that I would not begrudge anyone (plus, it's a good way to support small business in your area). However, you can spend precious time with your pals without the guise of buying goods and services as an excuse to rendez-vous every time, and you can even get some exercise simultaneously. Go for a walk; play a game of hoops; take a jog, or allow your schedules to coincide at the yoga studio. You can still dine and drink together if you like, but bear in mind, you can also spend time together without spending money. Moreover, you can get some exercise too.
Om Sweet Home: People often ask me how they can start practicing yoga at home. There's no divine secret here. You simply have to START. One of my first yoga teachers was fond of hailing yoga for being so portable and productive that you can "do it in a prison cell." He had a point . . .
Be Resourceful: Now more than ever, we are living in an age of superfluous information, and much of it is free. To keep yourself motivated, get sound advice, and access workout options on the cheap, scour podcasts and blogs. Call your local community center. Swing by your favorite sporting goods stores or yoga apparel retailers and ask what kind of promotions or partnerships they have on the horizon. Niketown has a weekly running group. Lululemon often offers yoga, dance, or other fitness classes for free in its store locations, either before or after closing. The universe is teeming with health experts who want to help you achieve your goals (myself included!). Find a few resources on which you can depend and use them regularly to keep you atop your fitness game.
Have an Exit Strategy: Investors are fond of this term, as it describes the point at which they terminate ownership in a company and recoup the capital they've invested. If you find that your financial situation has changed dramatically (e.g. you've lost a job or taken a pay cut), then you may not be able to eek by on bringing your own water bottle. In truth, you may feel the need to cancel your gym membership or sell your sweet road bike. Yet, for the purposes of preserving both your physical and mental health, you might benefit from devising a strategy that dovetails from your foregone fitness activity of choice into a newer, cheaper option. Can you pick up a few workout DVDs at Goodwill, as my pal at ShoestringMag.com recommends, borrow your roommate's bike to commute to work, or begin attending a yoga class that accepts donations rather than charges a fee or charges a reduced rate if you can overlook certain amenities? If you contemplate the impact of a recession on your health in advance, you'll be better positioned to manage the changes in your routine and, even, benefit from the creative solutions you might find.
Work "In" Rather Than Workout: Ultimately, there are many, many more important things to worry about other than how you'll get by without private Pilates sessions. Yet, exercise is essential to being equipped to deal with the adversity that life presents. Sure, your booty benefits from a gym membership, but more notably, you need daily exercise to keep your ticker happy, blood pressure in check, and stress levels under control. Perhaps you've heard that the "only thing constant, in life, is change." Times of economic uncertainty are no different. However, while this recession plays out, you don't have to lose your sense of playfulness. And, if, for whatever reason, you can't summon the motivation to exercise while tending to larger, socioeconomic issues, turn your attention inward and try to meditate, even if for a mere 10 minutes a day. I promise this simple activity will pay dividends over time.
Postscript: Om Gal devised this post in her head while running along the Charles River in her New Balance 993 sneakers ($139.99). If she runs a minimum of 4-times per week for 6-months, the sneakers will cost $1.45 per use.
She will be teaching a series of FREE yoga classes in Boston at Lululemon, Prudential Center at 7:00 p.m. on the last three Sundays of March. All are welcome.