The Best Free Wellness + Adventure Hacks, Apps + Workarounds
I’m all about spending money where it matters: On my health and wellness. And as an endurance athlete, the amount of gear I could purchase is staggering—and I’ll be honest, I love a great new pair of bib shorts or a cool new running cap. So I would definitely not say that I’m the most bargain-hunt-y/penny-pinching athlete around. But I do realize that a lot of people can’t spend a ton of cash on monthly subscriptions to the gym or to fitness apps, or can’t afford the latest and greatest in gear. And eating all local grassfed organic all the time is brutal.
Free GPS Apps
This may sound a bit duh for most of you reading this, but new runners and cyclists may not be aware of how easy it is to log your runs and rides for free using just your smartphone. I know when I first started, smartphones weren’t an option and it felt like such a huge spend to buy a GPS watch (it was pricey at the time!), and I rarely ended up using it anyway. Even as a super serious ultra-runner, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I finally started using a GPS watch (the reasonably cheap $120 Garmin Forerunner 35). But before that, I ran strictly using a free app like Wahoo, Strava and MapMyRun once they became available. (I’ve jumped between all of them depending on what I’m up to!)
I wrote a lot about ways to shop organic/local/ethical, from buying meat in bulk from a local farmer to growing your own veggies (even in an apartment) over on Outside’s website, but I know it can be a huge challenge even with all of that in place. Lately, I’ve been buying a ton more frozen organic veggies versus fresh ones, and that’s been a big cost-saving as well. Buying bulk is obviously awesome for things like rice and oats, and while the sticker price seems high on a massive bag of rice, it won’t go bad. (We eat a lot of potatoes we buy in bulk as well!) But another big thing for $$ saving in terms of healthy eating is consistency. With just a couple of spices (I’m loving everyday seasoning and chili lime from Trader Joes), you can shift the same basic ingredients into a bunch of different tastes and styles: Burgers and fries one day, a ground beef curry with potatoes the next, etc. Basically, have a set of ingredients that you can continually come back to so you’re not always buying new stuff for specific recipes, going out because you ‘don’t have anything to eat,’ or tossing stuff because you used it for one dish and then the rest of it went bad. We eat eggs + veggies and potatoes for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and dinner is some protein + veggie + starch combo. By not wasting food or adding unplanned takeout/dinners out, you save a ton and eat healthier!
Camping gear can very quickly get expensive, but if you’re trying to save money and willing to deal with a bit of extra weight when you go, most of us can get out for a weekend hiking trip with stuff we already have in the house. Crappy old tent? Bring a tarp and some rope. The one we used for backpacking Algonquin a couple weeks ago was a $15 tent from Walmart from 10 years ago, and it was fine with a tarp hung over it to ‘rain proof’ it. Hiking clothes = normal clothing. Camp meals = oatmeal, rice. And while camping in some parks can be pricey, freecampsites.net can show you where you can camp for little-to-no cost.
Free Meditation App
I’m going to come out and say it. I don’t like Headspace. I’m fine paying for something that works well for me, but I don’t think Headspace is the right call for me personally. And a lot of people feel that way but pay for it because it’s the obvious popular option. I HIGHLY recommend trying Oak, a free app that does guided, or just timed with white noise, meditations. It’s a great alternative, and I feel calmer already knowing I’m saving $150/year 😉
Hydration on the Cheap
Mason jar = your new eco-friendly water bottle. A squirt of lime and pinch of sea salt? Electrolytes mostly covered. I talk about this one a lot when going through daily self-care/good habits at schools and at shops, because it’s so easy, so cheap and so important. Carrying around a water bottle and sipping throughout the day so you start workouts fully hydrated is just good sense, but most of us end up guzzling water in huge chunks instead of casual sipping throughout the day.
Figure Out the Must-Have
For cycling, I would argue that you can go a very long time with bib shorts + your normal tops, tights, and other layers. The bib shorts, with the padded butt, are the essential piece to get you riding like a serious cyclist. For runners, that’s a decent pair of shoes: Not expensive, just ones that you can run in without blisters. The rest, shorts/top/cap, can come from stuff you already have lying around. (We just had Caroline Schley on The Consummate Athlete Podcast and she says she’s trained for a marathon in just a cotton tshirt and casual gym shorts. Boom.) As I’ve Kondo’ed a lot of my athletic gear and packed for trips that would take me away from home for 3 months of training, I’ve realized that most of my gear can double-duty. Jerseys can serve as run tops, leggings are for running and living—I don’t need separate types for each, rain jackets act as windbreakers and can go from biking to running to hiking to daily life. Basically, pare down to the lowest common denominators of what you need for the sport you’re doing.
Say it with me… SLEEP
I’ve written a ton about the importance of sleep before but if there’s one thing that can make you more productive, alert, ready for training, etc., it’s getting enough sleep. And sleep is a free activity! (Even if you need to drop a few bucks on an eyemask and some ear plugs to get dark/quiet, that’s the cost of a coffee.) I know it’s often easier said than done, getting that 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but seriously, there is no supplement or buy-able product that will do as much for you as getting enough sleep will.
Seriously, the other best thing you can do for your wellness is free. Get outside. Forget the expensive gym, forget the right gear, just get your ass out the door for a few minutes and go for a walk.
Support the places you do care about
So, all that money-saving is great, but I’ll throw a quick addendum in here. I’m all about cost-saving, but I also firmly believe in supporting places that provide you with value. If you find a ton of value on this site, check out the shop, or visit the Shred Girls site and check out the books and swag on there. Personally, I donate to outdoor causes I believe in, support friends like Sonya Looney and her Moxy + Grit apparel. You don’t have to do that stuff, obviously, but consider supporting the places that support you!