2009 January 12

For many people, especially students, 2010 is the year of preparation – while only a few of us can expect to actually win a place as an athlete at the 2012 London Olympics, many of us will be enthused by the imminence of the games into taking up a new sport or re-visiting one that we’d abandoned in the past. The streets will be full of T-shirt wearing runners and the gyms and swimming pools will be packed too.

This is good for our weight, or stress levels, our health, and our families, as setting a good example to children is the best way to get them to become, and remain, healthy. But it’s not without cost.  Especially for the thousands of young people who are hoping to be good enough to represent their country in 2012 or 2016, the years of training can be incredibly expensive. What can you do to keep your costs down and your fitness levels up?

There are quite a few things that can reduce the expense of taking up a new sport and make frugal exercising a reality

  • Decide what matters: for runners, good shoes are essential – bad ones can end your running career for good. Second to shoes is upper body wear – most heat is lost through the torso and back, so clothing that keeps you warm in winter, cool in summer and sweat-free is vital. It’s also important that it doesn’t chafe – this means you may want to invest in special ‘wicking’ T-shirts and tops. But lower body wear is relatively unimportant: any comfortable pair of jog pants will do the job, so there’s no need to pay out for specialised clothing. Hats are important but any well-fitting baseball cap will keep the sun out of your eyes and off the crown of your head, and prevent rain making your run too much of a misery – again, specialist (expensive) gear isn’t necessary. For rowers, lower body clothing has to be right because the strain of the boat against the buttocks and thighs can cause serious chafing, but shoes are unimportant and a good cotton top will serve for training sessions. Decide what’s vital to your sport and spend your money wisely
    Sporting clothing exchange: as people move through a sport they also move through levels of clothing. Many karate schools have clothing exchanges where students can buy the unwanted gis and belts of students who’ve progressed upwards. Consider whether your local university, youth club, rugby or football or running club, could do the same?
    Or copy the example of a weightlifter I know. He’s only nineteen, but he’s already got two fully equipped gyms: one at home, one at work,  and all for pennies.  He went round to all the local charity/thrift shops and offered to value weightlifting equipment that was donated to them. This meant that he got to see items as soon as they arrived, because the stores rang him for his advice. And because he can point out dangerous or dodgy gear, they are more confident in selling items that he’s examined. He prices the goods fairly and if he wants something for his own use, he gets several prices from ebay and other sources to prove to the shops that he’s not just pricing down an item because he wants it.  Half of the kit that he’s obtained would have been thrown away if he hadn’t been around to advise on it, because the shops wouldn’t have known how to price or sell it.

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