Health on the Cheap
Get fit without paying an arm and a leg
Photo by Shannon Cornman
While it’s natural to seize the opportunity represented by a fresh calendar to start thinking about self-improvement, a healthier way of life this new year – good nutrition and fitness classes or gym memberships – can pack a punch on the budget. But there’s good news: Better health on the cheap is readily available in the 405 on both the fitness and nutrition scene.
“No matter what your budget, there is something for everyone,” says Jennifer Henry, a certified track coach, yoga instructor, triathlete and marathoner who has long been entrenched in the city’s fitness landscape. “Price shop your fitness centers and classes, get creative at home and find those cheap or free class offerings.”
Her choice for a gym is the YMCA. “You have your main gyms: You have the YMCA, LA Fitness, Mercy Health Center … and you have your big gyms that, on average, run you $50 to $115 a month for a family membership. The YMCA is currently $38.75 for an individual and $58.25 for a family.”
She likes the access to YMCAs in any city, and the variety the facility offers with its pool, treadmills, weights, classes and indoor running track.
“You’ve also got these little ‘ten’ gyms that all have different names and cost $10 a month,” Henry continues. “They are open 24 hours a day, members get a key and it’s no frills, no classes, just weights and treadmills.”
Boutique gyms, like Cycle 360 and Urban Row, are popping up, specializing in disciplines such as biking and rowing combined with yoga. Users can track them on Facebook to access special offers and discounted packages. Yoga studios dot the metro, as well, and surprisingly to Henry, class prices are rising.
“If you are only going to do yoga and want excellent instruction, normally I’d choose a yoga studio,” she advises. “You do have to do your research. Give each studio and teacher more than one try. Ask if the teachers are certified, are [the spaces] heated, is there music?”
Most studios offer a free first session, and most offer at least one community class a month for a minimal fee.
Longtime yoga instructors Ted Cox and his wife Martha McQuaid, owners of Spirit House Yoga, came up with an idea over lunch to open a no-frills yoga studio with a pay-it-forward concept, adjacent to a lower-income neighborhood. YogaLAB, located in the Plaza District, offers quality yoga for $6 per class.
“We put little sticky notes up that cover the cost of a class, and a person can come in and hand one to the teacher if they can’t pay the $6,” Cox says. “Someone else paid for that class.”
Downtown community class offerings include Lunchtime Yoga at the Civic Center and Yoga in the Gardens at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
The October 2016 issue of Runner’s World ranked Oklahoma City the 49th best running spot out of 250 American cities. The study cited sanctioned clubs, parks and trails, climate, healthful food and pedestrian safety.
In a nutshell, get outdoors. Walk, run, bike, row. Check out Mitch Park, Hafer Park, Earlywine Park, the Oklahoma River, Joe B. Barnes Regional Park, Bluff Creek Trails, Arcadia Lake and Clear Bay Trail near Norman.
Many enjoy the camaraderie of a group. The Landrunners, an Oklahoma City running club, offers just that, training runners and walkers targeting marathons, half-marathons and 5K runs.
“Every weekend we get together and strive to find routes all over the Oklahoma City area,” says Director Matthew “Willie” Wilcoxen. “The cost to join is $20 for an individual or family.”
Other fitness challenges to ponder might include the early morning free boot camp offered at Stars and Stripes Park or Higher Ground Running, a one-of-its-kind treadmill studio that charges $15 a class.
For the self-motivated, consider online workouts at home.
“There’s a ton of classes you can stream, from yoga to boot camp to Pilates,” Henry says. “Classes online are organized by duration, style, teacher and level, and many offer free two-week trials.”
FUEL FOR THE ROAD AHEAD
Another important component of a healthier lifestyle, nutrition is the subject of a tremendous amount of conversation and even – brace yourself – occasional disagreement. While much-touted organic foods cost more, in part due to more expensive farming practices, the consensus between registered nutritionists and dietitians Petra Colindres and Ryan Baggett is that organic is not necessary, but vegetables and fruits should be the stars of your diet.
“Set a goal to plan out your weekly menus, focusing on simple breakfasts and lunches and vegetable-heavy dinners,” Baggett says. “Cut back on your meat, buy seasonal – and when you see staples like chicken breasts go on sale, buy extra and freeze [them].”
Baggett’s vision of a healthy plate is half vegetables (fresh or frozen), one serving of a whole grain or starchy vegetable and three to four ounces of protein, followed by a piece of fruit for dessert.
Colindres, who often steers her patients to supermarket chain Aldi to cut expenses, wants people to understand grocery store marketing.
“Grocery stores put their most costly items at the front of the aisles and around the perimeter,” she explains. “Often, more expensive items on the inner aisles are placed at eye level.”
Study the weekly circulars, buy store brands over national brands and don’t forget the biggie in cost cutting: don’t go shopping hungry.
“Buy only what you need,” Colindres says. “Eliminate snack foods and just eat leftovers as a snack, which is more sound nutritionally.”
Buying seasonal foods helps level the playing field, Baggett said. Winter is a good time to buy bananas, grapefruit and potatoes. Both agreed that buying frozen vegetables can be cheaper and because they are flash-frozen, the nutrition value remains high.
The healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets, according to a 2013 Harvard School of Public Health study. The difference is small compared to the economic costs of diet-related chronic disease.
Getting off the couch in concert with buying smart at the supermarket contributes to quality of life, possibly a longer and happier one.
“Our health is one of the most important things we have going for ourselves,” Henry says. “And there’s no breaking the pocketbook.”
► Fitter You, Fatter Wallet
Fitness gurus, nutritionists and dietitians agree: When considering fitness and healthy eating options, do your research to keep costs down. The 405 is thick with opportunities. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
GetMovingOKC.org lists the best trails throughout the metro.
Lunchtime Yoga meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the mezzanine at the Civic Center. Bring your own mat. Cost $5.
Yoga in the Gardens meets every Tuesday from 5:45-6:45 p.m. Check in at the south lobby of the Myriad Botanical Gardens. Cost $10 (free to Gardens members).
The boot camp at Lake Hefner meets at 5:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Stars and Stripes Park. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a towel, as you do get on the ground. It’s open to all fitness levels, and the group meets on occasion for happy hour. No cost.
The Landrunners running club offers a 5K program for walkers, along with half and full marathon training programs for runners. Spring session begins in early January. Meets every Saturday or Sunday. Visit okcrunning.org, sign up for weekly emails and find out meeting locations. Club membership is $20 per person or family.
Run with the pack on fun runs hosted by Red Coyote Running and Fitness, which also has a newbie running program. Visit redcoyoterunning.com. All abilities, walkers and runners, dogs and strollers welcome.
Download the MINDBODY app and find yoga, barre, indoor cycling, Pilates, CrossFit and boot camp classes. Sign up for a class directly from the app. You’ll see deals for new clients, class schedules and locations. Can be used in any city.
Research online classes including the gold standard Pilatesology website that offers unlimited Pilates classes for $19 a month. Classes are organized by body type, home equipment, level of expertise and duration. Free trial period. Visit pilatesology.com.
Create your own baseball or softball team through the Oklahoma City Parks & Recreation Department’s adult sports leagues. Adult teams cost $350 (10 to 20 members per team). Visit teamsideline.com/okc.
Scout out seasonable produce and recipes at sustainabletable.org/seasonalfoodguide.
Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for ideas and tips on how to build a healthier eating style.
Browse flipp.com and see weekly grocery circulars that include Target, Walmart and Aldi.
Grow your own vegetable garden from seeds. Visit moneycrashers.com/how-to-save-money-with-a-home-garden/
Visit dietitian Ryan Baggett’s website irunonnutrition.com for healthy recipes.
Buy Leanne Brown’s New York Times bestseller, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/day.