Get fit for free

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando

Urgh. They (whoever ‘they’ may be) should really rename January ‘Fatuary’. December’s blowouts may be but a distant memory, but for many of us, the legacy of Christmas lives on, inconveniently draped around our waistlines.

Time, then, to shape the heck up. But that costs money, and that tends to be in short supply at this time of year.  But, as Rocky proved during his Spartan Siberian training regime prior to his encounter with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, you don’t need pricey memberships to 'fitness centres' or hi-tech running gear to get fighting fit – the world is your gym.

Of course, running through ice-cold rivers, pulling sleighs through frozen tundra and scaling craggy mountains (they never did explain how he got down…) aren’t strictly necessary – there are lots of easier ways of getting started that you can easily work into your everyday life. You might not be able to take on a chemically-enhanced Russian champion and set the wheels in motion for the decline the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, but you could just drop a few pounds and feel better about yourself.

"The secret to a healthy lifestyle is not crash diets or marathons but setting your own realistic and achievable targets that fit around your lifestyle,” says none other than Olympic athlete Victoria Pendleton, who’s developed a free Facebook application in conjunction with bread maker Hovis featuring exercises to be done around the home, which include such tantalising manoeuvres as ‘vacuum cleaner lunges’ and ‘breakfast arm blitzes.’

And she’s got a point – unrealistic targets and punishing sessions could do more to put you off in the long run. We’ve rounded up a few methods to kick-start  a healthier 2012 – granted, they won’t give you the body of Mr Olympia-era Arnie or, for that matter newly-buff glamour model Jodie Marsh, but they’re certainly a step in the right direction…

Walk the line

If your job or lifestyle entails sitting on your ever-expanding backside all day, then you’d do well to start using your legs for what they were intended for and walk places, rather than using the car for short journeys. In fact, anything of around a mile or so is fair game for leaving the car behind.

If you get the bus to work, try getting off a stop (or a few stops) earlier. It’s a completely cost-free way of getting more fit that’s easy to implement to your daily lifestyle. It’ll be good for your car, too – short car journeys are notoriously bad for engines. If you find walking dull, try loading up your MP3 player with podcasts or audiobooks to keep your mind occupied.

Potter lot of fun

You’d be surprised at how much energy doing things like cleaning the house or indulging in a spot of gardening burns. And you’ll end up with a tidier house and garden, to boot. What’s not to like?

Born to run

There’s not many better or easier ways of shaking yourself out of the fug of inactivity than taking a bracing run around the block and getting your metabolic rate up.

Don’t worry too much about setting yourself lengthy targets or goals to begin with – the NHS has devised this handy ‘Couch to 5k’ plan, including some useful podcasts, to help ease you into this cheap and easy habit. If you fancy a bit more motivation, you could sign up to a charity run so you’re forced to drag yourself out – regular News contributor and reluctant runner Rachel England has done the very same, and you can read all about it here.

Some people enjoy a bit of a soundtrack to accompany their running – something fairly rhythmic and relentless should do the trick. We don’t think you can go far wrong with a spot of this.

Chin up, old bean

You may have none-too-fond memories of the sadistic PE teacher from school forcing you to do these equipment-free exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and the rather unpleasantly titled ‘burpee’. But without the cruel bark of your games teacher and with the warmth of your own flat and the gentle, emollient sound of Radio 4 in the background, you may find them a hell of a lot easier.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of room, particularly for moves like star-jump, and make sure that any breakable trinkets or pets are well out of the way. If you haven’t got the room head for the expanse of your local park. If you’re greeted by stares of bemused passers-by, harness their baffled gazes and thrive on them.

Got any cheap fitness tips? Email the editor with you best suggestions. (He's in desperate need of them)