I was not an athletic kid. I didn't do much by way of teams in high school. I have what famous female triathlete Sally Edwards coined "adult onset athleticism". I have had very positive experiences training for things with groups. First, I raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and hiked in the Grand Canyon (I'm strongly considering fundraising and hiking with them again). I met great friends that I still see frequently five years later. The best thing about those friends is that we share an interest in hiking so we can get together on the trails instead of just going out to dinner.
Right on the tails of that experience, I signed up for a training group for my first triathlon. I paid for the training group, which I attended twice a week. I went the all women route for comfort for my first race and I loved it and was totally hooked. I have been a volunteer workout leader with the same coach every summer since then. Again, I have made a wonderful group of friends who I can meet up with swims, bikes, and runs, as well as a few dinners.
Through my experiences, I came up with a little list of things I think are worth splurging on and other things I think you can save your money on.
- Gym membership. I currently have two. One I love for it's classes. I, myself, am more motivated to get to the gym if there's a specific time I have to be there. The other gym I go to for it's total convenience. There are no classes but it's open 24 hours a day and I can walk from my house. Of course, you can totally do amazing workouts without a gym but I think if you are just starting out, a little structure can help.
- Healthy foods. Produce can get pricey but if you love strawberries so much and you know you will eat them, they are worth buying even if they are not on sale. Since for me the alternative would be snacking on something that will make me need to go to the gym for, it's better to just spend the extra dollar or two.
- Fitness magazines. I get three of these sent to my house. The articles and tips give me new ideas and help get me back on focus. Just seeing the cover of my Runner's magazine reminds me that I need to schedule a run.
- Proper footwear. I get fitted for my sneakers to make sure I am buying the kind that best suit my run/walk. Knock on wood, I have never had a foot/knee/leg injury thus far from running.
- Music. I get excited to workout if I have new songs to listen to on my Ipod.
- Race entry to an event you really want to complete. Having a day on a calendar that you have to work up to is extremely motivating. Don't set an unrealistic goal; start small. But it's doable!! Races can be expensive so don't go overboard and sign up for a ton. Pick wisely-read up on what kind of goodies you get, look at pictures to get a sense of the race environment and pick something that fits your style. I think women's races are super supportive and I try not to do a race that doesn't have a shirt I want:)
- Fancy workout clothes. Unless buying a snazzy new outfit motivates you to go, I find I have collected a ton of wicking fabric shirts from the races I have done. You will likely find there are a few specific items you really want to purchase. For me, it was tri shorts, which are like bike shorts with a little less padding but they really help the comfort on the bike. But the first year I hiked, I didn't go out and buy fancy moisture wicking underwear and gear. I wore wool sweaters and casual swishy pants instead of the high tech zipper pants.
- Supplements. If you do a tiny bit of research, you can find natural food sources that replenish you as well, if not better, than workout products. For example, chocolate milk after a muscle workout. I now use a powdered drink mix on my bikes and runs that I love but it took a good amount of learning about what my body needed before that was a good purchase. When you are starting out you don't need to load up on products.
- Fancy equipment. Again, don't spend a ton of money on a hobby that you aren't sure you love yet. If you start biking and love it, you can buy last year's model for a cheaper price. I started on a cheaper bike my first season and only upgraded year 2 or 3, when I knew the hobby was going to stick around.
- Name brand stuff. Kind of back to point one, you can get a good sports bra at Target for a fraction of the price you would spend at one of the specialty stores in the mall.
- Workout videos (if you don't actually use them!!). You can also try a bunch of them out on Netflix.
- Personal training. Ok, this one is controversial. I think personal training is great and motivating. I just think that you should get to the gym and try out some of the cardio machines to see if you can really roll with this environment before you spend big money on something you don't want to stick to.
- Low fat foods/Frozen yogurt/diet products. Low fat foods tend to have more sugar than the original. Get the foods you really want, regardless of whether they are low fat or not and eat in moderation. If you deprive yourself of something entirely, you will go nuts focusing on it. And diet products are generally not healthy and are just gimmicks. I knew a woman whose sister dropped dead in her 30s from appetite suppressants. They mess with your heart. Do it the healthy way and load up on fiber and water.