I hate gyms. I can't stand being in a room full of huffing, puffing sweaty people all facing a television as they trot along on their stair masters or treadmills. I don't like dressing room floors. I really don't like paying $50 a month for the feeling that I'm doing something good for my health. Let's face it, you never get to the gym as often as you are certain you will (For a great read on this, visit: Paying Not to Go to the Gym).
Now that the weather is nice, I'm starting to think about wearing bikinis and tank tops, so of course I'm thinking about the winter weight that always seems to creep up. With that, here are some ways that you can get/stay in shape for free or really cheap.
Walk around the neighborhood. I like to go for power walks with a friend and talk rather than go out for coffee.
Swim at the beach. If you are near the ocean or a lake, find a free beach and go often. When I lived in Chicago, I was 8 blocks from a beach, so Trucker and I would head over a few times a week to swim and roughhouse. The nice tan was a great bonus.
Commute by bike. If you live relatively close to work, you can ditch the car and take the bike. One job I had was 3.5 miles away from home. If I were to drive, it would take me 20 minutes to walk all the way to my car, drive to work, park and walk in to my job. It took 30 minutes to bike the same distance. So I got an hour's workout for the cost of 20 minutes, and I saved gas wear and tear on my car, and parking.
Go hiking at a park. I love to spend an afternoon hiking. I like to visit metroparks and state parks and delight in getting lost in nature. These don't usually charge fees like the National parks do, but are still beautiful.
Rent a video. If you do well working out in your own living room to exercise videos, you still can do it without spending anything. Libraries offer all sorts of videos from Sweatin' to the Oldies to dance to yoga. At Family Video, they have a small selection of exercise videos for free for five day rental.
Lift hand weights. I picked up a couple 5 lb hand weights at the thrift store for a couple dollars. I lift while watching a movie or listening to music.
Take a class. Community centers have lots of great programs from groups sports to dance to martial arts. At my community rec center, classes are usually around $25 for a 3 month class, no more than $50 and sometimes free. I've found yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, volleyball, tango lessons, Zumba, and belly dance.
Dance around your living room. I'm the first to admit that I am a horrible dancer. I am not graceful and no one will ever be awe-struck to see me move. That doesn't stop me from dancing all over when I'm alone and a good song comes on.