Spring break is just around the corner, which means it's time to shed some pounds before breaking out the bathing suit. Fitness classes are a good way to keep up morale while working toward a stronger, healthier physique, but some trendy workouts can cost more than a month's membership at the local gym. Instead, look at these 14 budget-friendly alternatives to popular fitness trends, such as bodyweight exercises, low-impact workouts, and butt-kicking self-defense, that can be combined with tactics that can keep you pumping.
MMA AND BOXING
Between Ronda Rousey's recent astounding loss and Conor McGregor's continued smack talking, mixed martial arts has raised interest in other combat sports involving striking and grappling. Ryan Gosling practices Muay Thai, and even Ashton Kutcher practices Jiu Jitsu. Boutique boxing studios offering heavy-bag work set to high-tempo music have sprung up around the country, but it's possible to get a boxing fix at home. YouTube hosts a variety of exercises for beginners, such as the "Ultimate 20-Minute, In-Home Boxing Workout" from NateBowerFitness.
Whether it's SoulCycle or Flywheel Sports, cycling in rhythm to a pounding playlist and energetic instructors is wildly popular with fitness enthusiasts. Lady Gaga and supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio do it, too. Rather than shelling out about $34 for a class, grab a bike, a favorite playlist, and create your own cycling regimen, following these tips from a SoulCycle instructor.
Rise Nation in Los Angeles features group classes where everyone climbs on tall vertical machines to the beat of energetic playlists and an instructor. The underlying concept stresses the importance of working the entire body and using natural movements. Jennifer Aniston was seen in a group class getting her cardio climbing on. Enthusiasts living in LA can try a first class for free. Outside of LA, save the $26 fee and grab a favorite playlist and supportive sneakers. Head to the nearest flight of stairs and start climbing. Remember to move the arms for a more intense cardio workout.
Anyone who hates running can take a cue from New York's Mile High Run Club. The indoor group running classes feature top-of-the-line Woodway 4Front treadmills that are led by top running instructors who set the pace, music, and program (such as adding kettlebell weights in between sprints). First timers can try a class for free, but classes usually cost $32. Alternatively, opt for free training programs found in mobile running apps such as RunKeeper.
YOGA, WITH A PLAYLIST
New yoga styles that aren't just about controlled flow sequences and slow breathing are attracting a following. Playlist Yoga in West Hollywood offers group yoga classes with hip-hop playlists, and Buti Yoga is all about sexy, fast-paced yoga sequences. Workout hounds curious about these new trendy yoga styles can tune in to YouTube for videos such as this Buti Yoga playlist.
Related: 10 Budget-Friendly Yoga Retreats
Pilates emphasizes building core muscles and endurance. Madonna and Uma Thurman are two out of many celebrities who practice power Pilates. Training is notoriously expensive with group classes costing $50 or more. Mat Pilates classes still cost at least $20. Follow free online Pilates tutorials at home instead. YouTube fitness guru Cassey Ho has a 28-day "Intense Interval Training" workout with a program ebook for $39 -- cheaper than a one-time Pilates reformer class at some boutique studios. Core strengthening workouts can also be created on apps such as Fitocracy.
Weight rooms are filled with racks of dumbbells and barbells, but some of the best workouts can be done with only bodyweight as resistance. Jessica Biel primarily uses body weights and light weights to get an amazing physique. From isolated isometric movements or traditional pushups, these moves can strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular endurance. Greatist has compiled 50 bodyweight exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime.
Intimidating yellow and black TRX straps hanging at gyms signal the presence of an intense workout that uses every muscle. Since feet are strapped in during TRX workouts, core strength is required to maintain form, stability, and balance. People who aren't keen on buying straps for home use can still opt for workouts targeting core muscles and arm strength. Use exercise balls to challenge balance and turn to personal trainer Tara Sabo for a list of TRX-inspired moves to try. Even Mary J. Blige uses a TRX Suspension Home Training Kit when she's on the road.
Hot yoga is an intense physical and mental workout in a heated room, and has remained a go-to workout for many celebrities including Madonna, Beyoncé and Jennifer Aniston. Temperatures can get as high as 105 degrees, and classes cost anywhere from $20 to $35. But it's possible to sweat at home for free, with tips for arranging a home hot yoga studio from Alive in the Fire. After setting up a small room with a yoga mat, full-length mirror, thermometer, and space heater, work on the 26 hot yoga poses. A quick online search will turn up numerous guides and comprehensive videos.
Running and sports can take a toll on joints after a while. Alternative motion machines, such as ellipticals, stair climbers, and cross trainers, take some pressure off because the feet never leave the machine. However, they can cost thousands of dollars. Expensive equipment or a gym membership isn't necessary for a low-impact workout. Alternatives include speed walking, hiking, and biking, and MyFItnessPal has put plenty of low-impact cardio exercises for beginners online.
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
HIIT can be found just about anywhere, from group boot-camp classes to warm-up drills at boxing studios. Tabata training, a type of HIIT, involves maximum effort for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Celebrities like David Beckham and Queen Latifah turn to this exhausting regimen that burns calories quickly. Instead of scouring gym schedules for Tabata, try it at home. A variety of Tabata training mobile apps are available, such as the Tabata HIIT Timer (Android) and the Tabata Stopwatch (iOS). Just plug in a few favorite workout moves and start training.
The extra motivation that comes from grunting and sweating in front of a mirror with 15 other people can carry you through an intense workout. Gyms that offer group classes can cost upward of $60 a month for membership, though, and a la carte classes add up quickly. Booya Fitness and Live Streaming Fitness offer $10 monthly subscriptions for pre-recorded or live group fitness classes that get cheaper with a longer contract. There are also free fitness videos on YouTube and Fitness Blender.
Strength training has always been a go-to since muscle burns more calories than fat. Just look at Miranda Kerr and Jessica Alba as examples of toned physiques earned from weight lifting. Gyms always feature group classes that incorporate weight training with dumbbells, body bars, or Bosu inflated devices. A gym membership isn't necessary for strength training, though. Buy some inexpensive weights (a 40-pound Gold's Gym vinyl dumbbell set is $15 from Walmart) and seek out tutorials online, searching by fitness goals and target areas.
Booking one-on-one sessions with a trainer at the local gym can run well into the thousands annually. These days, people with the discipline to work out at home can find their own virtual trainers. Social media fitness gurus such as MankoFit create and publish free 30-day fitness and diet challenges on Instagram. Others charge fees that still save compared with in-person training. Rauve Suave has 12-week plans that end up costing less than $1 a day and invites Instagram followers to email for custom plans.