Can I tell you a secret?

I hated running as a child. Okay, that’s not much of a secret…in fact anyone who knew me then, could tell you that. But growing up I hated any form of exercising, and running most of all, so much that I actually lied to get out of it!

Yes. I lied. Isn’t that awful? I’m so embarrassed to say that. But God treated me with such gentle and hilarious grace.

Let me explain:

In a college aerobics class, we were required to run a mile at the beginning and end of the semester to check our aerobic improvement. I signed up to take aerobics because it didn’t involve running, then the instructor pulls that on me? Ugh-I was so frustrated and really did not want to run around the school coliseum.

My fast and, more importantly, sympathetic roommate was also in the class. She actually agreed to run my lap for me, and turn in my name card when she finished. It wasn’t that simple though. I had to start the lap, and my roommate would meet me around the corner, out of our instructor’s view, to take over my run. Well, she took over, and I was left standing there without a way home…I couldn’t go back-my instructor was waiting by the door. Hmmm, we hadn’t thought this plan through. I had to find another way out of the coliseum. Well, the route I found back to my on-campus apartment ended up being a 3 mile hike! My roommate actually beat me home! I came home sweaty, tired and even more frustrated.

It wasn’t until I married my husband a few years later that I gave running a fair shot.

My husband found a really do-able beginning running plan, and on my birthday the year we were married, I tried it. After sticking with the plan for a few weeks, I was hooked. I’ve come to love all of exercise’s benefits -the energy, weight loss and maintenance and a healthy attitude (it’s great for warding off mild depression)! I’ve also learned how to keep it a priority in my life, without spending unnecessarily.

Whatever your sport, here are some ways to keep fitness a priority without knocking the budget out of balance:

1. Take a walk!

One mom I know begins every day with taking her boys around the neighborhood. Isn’t that a great way to start the day-and a great thing to do with you kids?

2. Don’t have a gym membership?

Me neither. Scour Craigslist, Kijiji, Freecycle, thrift stores and garage sales for used equipment and workout DVDs. A few years ago, we bought a commercial-grade treadmill off Craigslist for $200. It was only 2 years old, and the owners were moving and didn’t want to take it with them. Don’t forget to sell your unused equipment, too!

3. Oh, you do have a gym membership?

Lucky you! Want to pay less? Talk to the gym manager about changing your plan. Gyms must be flexible to keep their members.

4. Find local clubs.

Many communities have cycling, swimming, and running clubs, just to name a few. We love our local running club! It’s similar to a Road Runners Club. Often, clubs like these offer free training group runs (at every level-even walkers!).

5. Take advantage of where your taxes go.

Your local library and recreation centers. The library has a wealth of workout DVD’s and books on new sports. Rec centers are also great places to try a new activity for a lower fee than gyms and health clubs. And don’t forget public schools-many have outdoor tracks perfect for a summer evening stroll!

6. Your turn. How do you keep active on a budget? Do share!

Kristen, from Pajama Mama,