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Drop those Christmas cookies and get into shape — on a budget

Michael Desrosiers performs his “eagle” move during a workout at the South Tampa YMCA on Tuesday evening. Desrosiers, a Jesuit alumni, is home in Tampa on Christmas break from the University of Florida.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Michael Desrosiers performs his “eagle” move during a workout at the South Tampa YMCA on Tuesday evening. Desrosiers, a Jesuit alumni, is home in Tampa on Christmas break from the University of Florida.

TAMPA — How ya feeling after all those Christmas cookies? Like you want to take a good, long nap? Yeah, us too — for now. But come 2012, we'll be ready to whip ourselves back into shape. And the new year is the perfect time to do so, and not just because of all that feel-good, fresh-start motivation. All over town, gyms and clubs and sports retailers are ready to cash in on your get-fit resolutions, offering special deals and sales and bonuses.

Warm up

If you're planning to stick with your new routine past January, you'd better be sure you'll enjoy what you're doing. As hardcore as you might feel signing up for that killer boot camp class, it's not worth your money if you're going to drop out after a few weeks.

We've narrowed the choices down for you into three categories: Gym rats, lone wolves and social butterflies. Wherever you fit in, there's plenty of opportunities to get fit on the cheap.

Gym rats

January is prime time to hit the weight room, with gyms offering lots of deals to entice you. But don't get swept up in the savings without doing some research into whether the facility offers exactly what you want. Do you need child care? Do you want a pool? Do you want group fitness classes? Do you want personal training, yoga or other specialities? Take your time to tour the facility to make sure it works for you.

Now for the deals:

The YMCA is waiving its $49 enrollment fee for January joiners who donate a new or gently used book to their book drive. (The organization is, after all, first and foremost a charity, explains spokeswoman Becky Bray.)

Lifestyles Family Fitness is also waiving its enrollment fee, normally $79, and its $30 processing fee for January members.

So is City Gym in St. Petersburg, a $35 value.

And YouFit is reducing its joining fee from $39 to $29, with $10 a month memberships, and reducing its yearly membership from $199 to $99 for those who sign up through December.

Lone wolves

Maybe the thought of hitting the gym, with all those sweaty people in your personal space, is enough to send you running right back to the cookies. Maybe you'd rather work out on your own. It takes serious self-motivation, but if you're dedicated, you lone wolves still have plenty of opportunities to get back in shape on the cheap. In fact, you may have the cheapest options of all.

Bryan Martin, manager of Play it Again Sports in Tampa, said all you really need is a jump rope and some free weights. "If you're a beginner looking to dive into it, keep it simple," Martin says. "Some people will try to go all out, and it's just too much sometimes."

His shop sells used sports equipment, including jump ropes for about $5 and hand weights for about 50 cents a pound. You might also try resistance bands starting at $7 each, or if you're looking to spend a little more, used treadmills and elliptical machines for about $125. But be sure you're committed to using it. A hundred and twenty five bucks is too much to spend on a coat rack.

Looking for a little more instruction? Try browsing the fitness DVDs available at Blockbuster or your local library. You can try everything from old school aerobics to new age Pilates, so you'll never get bored.

Of course, nothing beats an old fashioned jog for the ultimate solitude workout. Check after-Christmas sales for deals on sneakers. If you already know your size and favorite style, browse online retailers to find the best price. Zappos.com is a good one — and doesn't charge for shipping.

Social butterflies

Maybe you're somewhere in between. You want the camaraderie of a gym setting, but you don't want to be stuck indoors. We haven't forgotten you.

Outdoor boot camps can kick-start your New Year goals. They don't come cheap, but if you commit to attending every week and doing your homework outside of class (Kiss those leftovers goodbye), they might be worth it. Tampa Bay Adventure Boot Camp, for instance, costs $199 for a four-week, three-times-a-week session.

But if you don't want to fork over that much cash, consider getting a group of friends together and creating your own boot camp. Assign each member an area to focus on — core, upper-body, legs, agility — and teach each other. Start with a couple-mile jog, and end with stretching. But make sure not to cheat. Just because a drill sergeant isn't shouting commands doesn't mean you can get sloppy.

You can also check with your city recreation department to see what activities it offers for free or reduced prices. Tampa offers aerobics, weight lifting, flag football and more. St. Petersburg hosts adult football, kickball and basketball leagues, among others.

Then there are all the private running clubs and tennis pick-up leagues and walking groups all over the area. Shameless plug alert: The St. Petersburg Times' regular Personal Best section includes a round-up of groups and races.

Bottom line

If you put the mental legwork in before the physical, and pick an activity you really enjoy for the best deal possible, you can't lose. Now, go get moving!

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@tampabay.com or 813-226-3337.

Drop those Christmas cookies and get into shape — on a budget 12/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 2, 2012 9:05am]
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