Around this time of year we start thinking about compiling lists of things we want to do or change in the new year. These resolutions often remain just that – lists without much action. Prominent on most lists is getting and staying fit. On this blog we’re all about productivity and almost nothing is more important to remaining active and productive than a healthy body and mind.

Stepping out on your own with a solo practice, small firm or entrepreneurial venture severely limits the time and funds available to join a health club or invest in equipment, and it’s a very slippery slope to getting consumed with work, holed up in a home office and abandon your fitness routine. The very same routine that gave you the energy to be productive. I know, I’ve been there.

Hemorrhaging productivity

After leaving law firm life and starting a solo CLE venture I was necessarily consumed with getting it off the ground. I still hit the gym fairly consistently. But as funds dried up and work and trying to get work consumed me (yeah, my business plan needed some work), I found myself without a gym membership for the first time in my adult life and a layoff that stretched from weeks into months into an agonizing year. I gained weight and lost energy.

Getting off the couch

“But I don’t have the time or money to join a gym”. Eliminate that term from your vocabulary. It’s an excuse we can use for just about anything. You will find the time to do what you want to or need to do. Anyone that cares about maximizing productivity needs to have a fitness routine.

Forget about the expensive options that you had when your paycheck was triple what it is now. I was a member of a gym literally next door to me that cost upwards of $125 per month. Sure it was convenient (opened until midnight, my preferred gym time) but the preening prima donnas that it attracted made the experience less than optimal. Then I joined the New York Sports Club, a garish fluorescent lit chain that’s somewhat affordable at around $90 per month. Then I let that membership lapse.

Affordable options

But even $90 a month can be a burden for a solo on a tight budget. Fortunately there are affordable options.

Municipal recreational centers – I decided to cautiously step back into the ring and the New York City rec centers were the most affordable that I could find. At $75 for 6 months, it’s one of those hidden gems in the City. Many municipalities around the country have similar centers. Although this may be a perfect fit for some, I immediately knew this was a temporary solution. The Center was great if you wanted to play ping-pong, join an indoor basketball league or swim laps, but I just wanted to hit the weights and treadmill. The Center’s gym rivaled a discount hotel chain’s. Not cute. Sure I could hop on the No. 7 train and hit the one built for the the failed Olympics bid out in Queens, but let’s be honest, I wouldn’t. And didn’t.

Gyms, not health clubs – We all know those fancy health clubs with exotic classes and wheatgrass bars. Sure they’re great but you’ll probably get sick from the monthly sticker shock. Go with the middle-tier gyms like Planet Fitness or Bally’s — at around $20 per month they’re a ridiculously great value. Just remember to bring your own towel. As my 6-month, less-than-enamored tour of duty came to a close at the Center, I decided to check out Bally’s. Though just a recent development, it’s made a huge difference in how I work out. A reminder that even though it’s good to challenge yourself, go with what you like and are comfortable with when starting out or starting back at the gym. I’m eager to give the 24-hour Planet Fitness a test drive when it opens down the block in a couple of weeks

If you’re getting back into woking out after a layoff, start slow. 10 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes of stretching and weights and another 10 minutes on the elipitical to close it out. And please, don’t bring work to review. Sure it can be tedious sitting on a stationary bike for 30 minutes, but leave the work at home and listen to music or a podcast instead. This is your time.

Now there are lots of ways to get fit like training to run a marathon, signing up for a weekend sports league, etc, but the neighborhood gym is the easiest and most accessible option. And affordable. So cross out “fitness routine” from your new year’s resolution list and start now. Join a gym.