The Budget Friendly Home Gym (No Membership Required)

Let it be known: I do not have a membership to a gym. I do not have a personal trainer. I don't even have any exercise machines in my home (unless you can consider my DVD player). The reason?

I'm cheap.

But I stay in good shape (okay, good enough) with some little doo-dads here and there that I keep in a plastic tub in the living room. Now, if you've ever been down the fitness aisles at Target or Wal-Mart, you know there are lots and lots of doo-dads. Here are the ones that make the cut for my budget-friendly home gym:

* Hand Weights: You gotta have these babies. They are perfect for resistance training for your arms and back, as well as your abs, bottom, and thighs when you do crunches or squats. Don't get adjustable ones because they are too clumsy and time consuming. Just get a variety of individually weighted dumbbells. Three-pound weights are good to carry while you go walking, but get some heavier ones, too, so that you can do more challenging exercises.

* Ankle Weights: These are not a necessity, but they can't be beat when it comes to toning up your legs, hips, and bottom. They are great to use when you are doing leg lifts and cycling. Avoid heavy leg weights when you walk because they could cause muscle strain.

* Exercise Mat: The floor can become particularly hard and unforgiving on that fourth round of crunches. A mat helps ease the discomfort and can be wiped clean after you work up a sweat. I also like to use mine in the living room so I'm not constantly reminded that I haven't vacuumed in a week when I'm doing push-ups.

* Resistance Bands: You don't need these, but they don't take up much room, they're cheap as all get-out, and they make working out a little more fun (if it can even be described that way). They are perfect for doing resistance training on your legs and arms. You can also use them to work your back, which all moms need a little help with.

* Exercise Balls: This wonderful multipurpose tools helps strengthen your core. An added benefit is that the kids love to play with it! (Unless they're like mine and knock it so hard they bust it to pieces. I'm on my third one now).

* Step: No bee-hind should be without one. Using a step really helps tone your lower body, and even better, you probably don't have to buy one because I'm thinking that somewhere in your home there is a step you can use for toning exercises, even if it's on the porch--and don't pay a bit of attention to what the neighbors think!

* Instructional Videos: This equipment won't do you a bit of good if you don't know how to use it. Make sure you get some videos that have received good reviews. If you don't want to purchase any, check out your local library. You can also get some good video downloads from exercise websites.

Remember, fitness doesn't have to be expensive, so don't buy into the idea that if you fork over a lot of money on an exercise machine or a gym membership it's going to get you in shape. It doesn't have the power to do that. Only you can make the decision to work that body, so just do it!