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4 Times to Save (and 3 Times to Splurge) on Your Fitness Routine

Gym memberships, exercise equipment, and the latest fitness fashions can all add up. When can you justify your personal trainer cost and when should you save when it comes to fitness? Here are times when fitness is worth an investment and a few times when you should dial back the budget.

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Save: Boutique studio classes

Barre, spin, and other specialty studios are popping up all over the country and some charge upwards of $25 per class! These studios usually hire instructors with a cult following and provide the most up-to-date equipment; some even hire a DJ to run the class playlist. Since classes like this are an experience, grab your girlfriends every so often and make it an event. For the day-to-day, check out your local gym schedule. Chances are, you’ll find fun and qualified instructors and a more diverse class schedule for a much lower cost, even after you factor in membership fees. No matter where you enjoy your favorite class, here are a few things your group fitness instructor won’t tell you.

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Save: Fitness tracking bands

Unless you are a full-blown tech nerd, the excitement of your newest toy will wear off almost as fast as the new piece of fitness equipment you bought last New Year’s and vowed to use every single day. If you’re trying to squeeze in more steps per day and you are goal motivated, pick up a simple pedometer or lower-cost fitness tracking band that offers these features and skip the latest, fanciest watch with a gazillion features you’ll probably never use. (Here are some bizarre things your fitness tracker knows about you.)

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Splurge: Personal training

There is nothing like in-person accountability and personal trainer cost can be well worth it. Many personal trainers claim they feel more like a therapist than a trainer most of the time and that is because weight loss is so much more than calories-in, calories-out. Having someone encourage you and push you along is priceless but, to reduce your personal trainer cost, most trainers will be happy to meet with you fewer times per week and set you up with some “homework” on your off days. Personal trainer or not, here are a few good ways to motivate yourself to exercise.

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Save: At-home fitness equipment

Unless you are in the rare minority, you probably won’t really use that treadmill or elliptical after a few weeks. A yoga mat and a few hand weights will probably get enough use to justify the cost but, otherwise, fitness equipment will likely end up being one more thing collecting dust in your garage. If you like the idea of working out at home, check out an app or online fitness membership that offers classes that require no equipment. Some of the country’s top instructors teach for sites like FitnessGlo.com and YogaGlo.com and there are countless body weight-based fitness apps available now.

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Splurge: Workout and running shoes

Shoes are the only fitness wearable that can have long-term impacts on the rest of your body, especially for runners. Even if you’re a casual runner, the wrong shoes can cause knee, hip, and even back pain and the wrong size of shoes can lead to foot pain and missing toenails. For general fitness enthusiasts, make sure you chose comfortable shoes made for your favorite activities and for runners, head to your local specialty running shoe store to have them analyze your foot strike. You can always shop online afterward to find their recommendations at a better price. (Related: Check out these ways to jump-start your metabolism.)

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Save: Fitness fashion

A few years ago, this might have been worth a splurge but nowadays, cheap workout clothes can be just as fashionable and functional. Look for fabrics with wicking material and handy features. Pockets are a must for runners who need to store keys but they can also be useful for anyone to stash hair ties and tissues. Consider cost-per-wear to stay budget-smart about fitness fashion. Shop for discounts on super trendy items (think wild prints and colors you wouldn’t normally wear) at stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx, and don’t feel bad about spending a little extra on timeless basics like high-quality black leggings.

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Splurge: Nutritionists

Again, there is nothing like that one-on-one accountability and having someone help you dig into the “why” behind your nutritional past, present, and future. You often hear fitness and health professionals claim that weight loss is “90 percent diet and 10 percent'” exercise. Diet plays a bigger role in your overall weight, so if this is your weakness, seek the help of a professional. Just like your personal trainer, your nutritionist should be willing to meet with you at a frequency that works for you pocketbook. Here are 37 diet secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.

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Toss up: Gym memberships

To determine if your gym membership is worth it, be honest about how often you’ll go and what you plan to do while you’re there. Also, consider how close you live or work to your gym of choice and the weather in your area. If you just need a simple treadmill and elliptical to get you by, there are plenty of cheap gym memberships available, but if you’re attracted to a health club with all the bells and whistles, make sure you’ll use a lot of the services before you sign. If you aren’t sure, ask about month-to-month memberships or an extended trial period. Consider these tricks to save money on a gym membership.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest