Why You Should Spend $0 on These Free Fitness Apps Instead of Joining a Gym This Month

I will be the first to admit that I am not a gym person. The exhibitionism, the awkward semi-competitiveness, the complicated machines (why do treadmills need so many buttons?), and the questionable nudity rules all scare me away.

Instead of paying for a gym membership, I’ve run outdoors since middle school, so my only consistent fitness expenses the past decade have been new shoes, apparel, and headphones from time to time. But a woman cannot live on cardio alone, so I’ve had to find other ways to train for free.

I live in an under-500-square-foot apartment with just two pairs of hand weights for gym equipment. This being DC, where there are many health-crazed young people crammed into small spaces, I’m guessing I’m not alone here. But just because you don’t own a Bowflex doesn’t mean you can’t get in a good cross training workout at home.

Use the free apps below, and not only will you get sore and sweaty, you’ll save around $1,000 or more throughout the year that would otherwise be spent on a monthly membership.

Instead of a group fitness class, try…

Nike Training Club

Completely free–no matter how many workouts you download–this app mixes high intensity interval training with low-impact yoga and strength training. You’ll spend the 15, 30, or 45 minute workouts following the timed exercises on-screen, completing jump squats, burpees, planks, dumbbell rows in an exhausting circuit that will make climbing the stairs a challenge the following day.

Instead of an exercise bike, try…

Map My Ride

A novel idea: Use a real bike to go real places, instead of sitting stationary, pumping your legs to make yourself progress down a faux wooded path projected on a screen. The app will track your miles, calories burned, and speed, just like an exercise machine. Plus, it will map your route as you go, so you can return to favorite trips later.

Instead of a gym nutritionist, try…

My Fitness Pal

Many gyms will offer to set you up with a licensed nutritionist to get your eating on track, and while we’d never try to dissuade you from seeing an expert, if you’re looking for a more affordable way to control your diet, My Fitness Pal can help. You’ll enter your height and weight, and the app will calculate how many calories you should be consuming. Throughout the day, you’ll log everything you eat (the app has a database of over 5 million foods, so it’ll know how many calories are in many of the things you eat), and the app will subtract what you’ve eaten from your daily allowance. The app also links to exercise apps like Map My Ride, to take calories burned into account as well.

Instead of a step counter, try…

Apple Health App

If you have a newer iPhone, you already have this app. Instead of paying $80 and up for a wearable step counter, use the one thing you already take with you everywhere you go. The Health app will count your daily steps, sync with other fitness apps, such as Nike Training Club and Nike Running, and help you manually track your weight fluctuations.

Instead of a treadmill, try…

Nike Running or Map My Run

If you’re into knowing whether you’ve PR’d or setting weekly goals for total miles run, Nike Running and Map My Run are two run-tracking apps that make it simple. Turn them on when you start your run, and they’ll tell you how fast you’re going, how far you’ve gone, how many calories you’ve burned, and what your records are. Afraid you’ll freeze during winter outdoor runs? Just put some clothes on–you’ll be fine.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.