10 Fitness Items to Splurge and Save OnTips to Save on Workout Accessories
-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
Getting fit can be a pricey endeavor. From having the proper footwear to the right sweat-wicking apparel to the gadgets, gizmos and equipment that promise to help get you to your fittest and healthiest, you can spend a small fortune on working out. But—and this is a big but—you don't have to! Whether you're trying to find the gear you need to hit the gym or are looking to outfit a whole workout room at home, here's what you need to know about splurging and saving on fitness equipment.
Splurge: 5 Fitness Items Worth Spending More On
For many, money is tight. But when it comes to these items (assuming you're in the market for them), skimping for a cheaper model might cost you more in the long run.
- Shoes. If you've ever bought a pair of cheap sneakers and tried to run in them, you know a good pair of workout shoes is worth every cent. The proper footwear isn't just a matter of comfort—it's a matter of safety! Wearing shoes that don't correctly support the activity you're doing can lead to muscular imbalance, decreased performance and even injury or overuse. If you're just starting out with your fitness routine and aren't sure what type of kicks to buy, try on a variety of cross trainers (these are designed for multiple activities like walking, boot camp, lifting weights and being on the elliptical). Stick to the name brands and splurge a little on the pair that feels the best on your foot! Get more sneaker-buying tips.
- Sports Bras. I know, ladies, sports bras are almost as expensive as your regular bras! But, they're actually almost more deserving of the price tag because the difference between a cheap sports bra and a quality one is huge. Most department stores now have a sports section for bras, so try on a variety of options and find one that fully supports you and is comfortable (jumping up and down in the dressing room is encouraged!). It's worth it to pay a little more for a sports bra with adjustable straps, so that it can size down as you do, too! Find the best fitting sports bra with this shopping guide.
- Pedometer. Sure, you can buy a pedometer for $5, but it won't be very accurate—and it will probably only work for a few months before you need to replace it—not a sound investment, even though it may seem like a good deal. If you want to count your steps, plan to spend at least $25 on a more expensive pedometer that comes with instructions and requires calibration. This is the only way it can truly be accurate! Or, go for one of the technological activity monitors that track so much more than steps, such as the Fitbit or BodyMedia devices.
- Gym Membership. While there's no reason why you have to pay for a big health club with every amenity under the sun (unless you really want to, of course!), you definitely don't want to join any old gym just because it's the cheapest option. Always ask for a 5- to 7-day trial membership first (which should be free). While some chains do have low rates that offer good-quality equipment, it's best to shop around. From having old equipment that doesn't get repaired, to not being clean to not being properly staffed, most of the time you pay for what you get. So pay for what you want. Psst—here are even more tips to save on your membership!
- Home Cardio Machines. It may be tempting to pick up the cheapest elliptical or treadmill when you're on a budget, but when it comes to buying a cardio machine for your home, you definitely want to invest in a quality piece of equipment. Do online research, go to a fitness equipment store and try out a variety of models to find a piece of equipment that is sturdy, feels strong and has a warranty of more than a year. Check out consumer reviews and even ConsumerReports.org. Buying a good cardio machine the first time is far more cost effective than having to buy another model after the cheap one breaks down! And a high-quality model will last you for years and years to come, making its per-use cost much lower than a cheaper model. <pagebreak>
There's no point spending extra money if you don't have to. Look for deals on the following fitness items, and you won't go wrong, but will save a lot!
- Dumbbells. Dumbbells are pretty much dumbbells. Sure, you can spend extra money to get them plastic-coated in pretty colors or cool looking shapes, but if your budget is tight, the basic dumbbells will work just fine!
- Workout Apparel. Nowadays there is so much workout apparel on the market that's affordable and high in quality. The key is either buying the big name brands on clearance or purchasing the smaller-named brands at discount stores. Both Walmart and Target sell high quality technical shorts, shirts and even socks for low prices.
- Small Fitness Accessories. There are so many little fitness toys out there. From resistance bands to medicine balls to yoga blocks and Pilates circles, you could spend a whole paycheck on just workout add-ons if you wanted to. When buying these little extras, start cheap. If you find that—after a few months of using it—you really love and use a particular fitness accessory all the time, then you can invest in a better quality version of it (and even then, you may decide that you don't need to!).
- Heart Rate Monitor. Heart rate monitors can get pricey in a hurry. However, most of the really expensive ones demand a higher price point because of advanced features (many of which the average exerciser isn't likely to use). As long as it has a chest strap, a timer, and a way for you to customize your calorie burn by entering your sex, age and weight, you should be good!
- Yoga Mat. Hardcore yogis may disagree on this one, but if you're someone who casually practices yoga once or twice a week or if you just want a non-slip mat for stretching at home, don't bother spending more than $25 on a yoga mat. Even the cheaper mats should last you several years or more with regular use. And by then, you'll have a better idea if it's worth splurging on a fancier mat.