While the expression is “you get what you pay for,” you can access some excellent fitness resources for free:
Ottawa’s Rogers TV community channel offers a variety of exercise programs that let you exercise conveniently right from your own home. “Yoga for Runners” with Donna Davis teaches introductory-level yoga. Megan Campbell’s “Yoga for Women” will get you feeling limber and relaxed, while the “Warrior Workout” provides a series of challenging exercises. “Better Strength Better Balance” offers safe beginner-level chair exercises for older adults. Most of these shows are offered daily, or at least several times a week. Check the schedule at www.rogerstv.com.
Exercise videos on YouTube are another free resource. Caveat emptor: YouTube performers aren’t vetted for competency. I’ve seen some incorrectly-demonstrated, potentially unsafe exercises online. Look for videos from qualified fitness professionals.
Free 12-week Better Strength Better Balance group exercise classes for adults 65 and older are offered in a number of locations throughout Ottawa and surrounding areas. For dates and locations, call the Ottawa Public Health Information line at 613-580-6744 or go to www.ottawapublichealth.ca and type “better strength better balance” in the search box at the top of the site’s home page. You’ll be able to search for a program near you.
Free yoga classes sponsored by lululemon athletica are offered from May through August every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. on Parliament Hill. What’s more zen than doing a downward dog in the fresh air and sunshine along with hundreds of like-minded people? Just take a mat and water bottle.
Other free yoga classes are offered in the Ottawa area as well. Several yoga studios offer yoga classes once or twice per week by donation. Some of these studios have a $5 cash minimum donation; others leave it up to your discretion. Free yoga classes are also offered seasonally at Ottawa City Hall, Lansdowne Park and the University of Ottawa. Information is available at www.yogaland.ca.
Moms and babies can participate in free Mommy and Me Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. on the third level of Bayshore Shopping Centre in Festival Hall. Fathers are welcome too. Children must be between eight weeks and three years of age. For details, contact Bayshore guest services at (613) 829-7491.
Free strollercize classes are offered at St-Laurent Shopping Centre on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Participants meet the instructor at Guest Services, which is near the Toys Y Us store.
Free Salsa Baby classes for parents and babies are offered at Ottawa City Hall.
Free one-hour strollercize classes are offered through the Boomerang Kids stores.
Free running and walking clubs are offered by The Running Room at several locations. Mountain Equipment Co-op offers some free running and walking clubs. Bushtukah Stittsville has a free trailing running group on Saturday mornings. Contact the stores for more information.
The Kanata Parkrun is a free five-kilometre timed run open to runners of all levels. It takes place every Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Beaver Pond Trail. Register at www.parkrun.ca (no cost) before you run the first time. Most of these clubs and groups are led by volunteers who love to share their passion with others, so you’re sure to have a good time.
Ottawa’s many tennis courts, indoor swimming pools and skating arenas can be used for a small fee. If you find the fees are an obstacle – they do add up for the whole family – the City of Ottawa offers a Hand in Hand recreation-and-culture fee support program for low-income individuals and families. To see if you qualify, go the City of Ottawa’s website at Ottawa.ca; type “hand in hand” in the search box on the home page. You’ll be able to print the application form; complete it and take it to your local recreation centre for approval.
The Ottawa Public Library has thousands of free books, e-books, audio books, videos/DVDs and magazines, many dealing with fitness topics.
Enjoy Sunday Bikedays between Victoria Day and Labour Day. Cycle, rollerblade, run or walk along the 52 kilometres of parkways, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Colonel By Drive, which are closed to traffic between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on summer Sundays. On those days, the Gatineau Parkway and other parkways in the region are also closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Free things involve give and take: Share or donate any wellness-related books or magazines that you’ve read and/or start your own walking club and experience the rewards. You can find free exercise resources and opportunities in every community; it just takes a bit of legwork (pun intended) to find them.