Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'It's totally exhausting finding cheap ways to exercise'

In The Red
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The Independent Online

Those of you who have followed my attempts at budgeting from the early days will be well aware of the problems I've faced with exercise. On the one hand, I'm determined to keep fit. On the other, I can't spend much money in the process. This, as it happens, is much harder than it sounds.

At first I tried to maintain a gym membership by sacrificing other luxuries. Eventually, though, I had to give up: the combination of a new (and more expensive) address, and a hike in my phone bill left little room for the £40 I was paying to LA Fitness every month.

Instead I joined the local leisure centre – a considerably cheaper option then the gym, but a financial drain nonetheless. It didn't last long. A grand total of three months after joining I gave up, and decided to train for the London Marathon instead.

This, I thought, would solve all my problems: no membership fees, and a host of positive side-effects to boot. Because of the hours of free time consumed by training, I'd have even less time to spend money. And because, on days when I am training, I end up completely knackered by 10pm, I'm increasingly inclined to stay in, avoiding bars, clubs and, crucially, cash machines.

Of course, there were a few small start-up costs to consider – the new pair of trainers, the pedometer, the water bottles – but nothing too serious.

Until, that is, last week. Suddenly, I am facing a whole host of extra expenses. I have injured my back (God knows how – it just happened, suddenly, mid-run) and no one seems to know what to do with it. I've been told by a few marathon-running colleagues to go to a physio, but there's fat chance I can afford that, and I highly doubt the problem is so serious as to warrant a referral.

The same spendthrifts are warning me of the hazard involved in giving up training (I've tried running once or twice since the incident and it's just not possible). If I stop now, they say, I'll have to start from scratch all over again.

Unless, that is, I join a gym and keep fit with other exercise: walking on a treadmill, swimming, cross training, that sort of thing.

There is, in fact, a free gym up the road from me – one of those pre-Olympic, government efforts. It's great, but the one thing it lacks is aerobic equipment. In other words, the only type I need.

So I'm torn. Do I give up training only to begin from scratch in a couple of months? Or do I risk getting into an even tighter financial situation by forking out on a membership? Advice, as always, is welcome. I'll let you know how I progress.

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