Healthy Living: 5 mostly free ways to get in shape this spring

With spring in the air and swimsuit season coming up faster than the federal deficit it's time to start getting in shape. While the basic premise for any get healthy now article is the same; eat right, exercise more, and avoid fad diets I've found a few cool new tools and tips to help you, and me, get in shape.

1. Personal Fitness Plan: The first free tool to whip you into shape is a free fitness plan tailored to your lifestyle, goals and current physical characteristics. Many insurance companies offer a plan like this in an "improve your health" section. Signing up with my carrier took about 10 minutes and provided me with tailored advice to my lifestyle. Since I spend an insane amount of time in front of the keyboard for my various jobs, I was told to take breaks during the day to add extra movement to my life as well as telling me to keep healthy snacks nearby to handle keyboard cravings. I was surprised how well the advice synced up to my situation and even the standard weight loss advice seemed more useful couched with advice to follow through on my goals.


2. Social Network your way to skinny: My insurance company's fitness plan also provides a reporting and fitness log with videos and a tracking graph but with a little help from my followers on Twitter I was able to find several other websites to help you get in shape. SparkPeople is a flashy fitness website which also offers a free fitness plan and adds a social network feel to getting in shape. You can also join or create a team to hook up with others at your job or who share similar hobbies to get extra support along the way. If you want to make use of your existing Twitter account to get in shape be sure to check out the TwitFitter Community for tips and support.

3. Track your workouts: If you like running and love graphs, RunningAhead.com is the perfect fitness site for you! On top of hooking up with the Garmin Forerunner for tracking, you can map out runs using Google maps integration and keep detailed logs. The ability to keep track of your workouts, equipment and personal bests coupled with the detailed workout planning calendar and easy to monitor reporting tools make RunningAhead a killer app for runners.

4. Go Mobile: If you'd rather track your fitness from the palm of your hand there are plenty of apps that can help you do that on the iPhone, Android G1 and Windows Mobile Devices. The iPhone features a variety of fitness apps in the App store and TimTechs has rounded up five apps to cover everything from eating right to improving your workout. T-Mobile's Android G1 also has a cool fitness app called MapMyFitness which helps you find running routes and tracks your workouts; it even tracks your runs via GPS. For Windows Mobile users the award winning MySportTraining is an excellent tool for getting in shape and offers add on modules for easy access to new workouts.

5. Use a Seinfeld Calendar: All the tools in the world won't do much if you don't stick to your plan so why not try a Jerry Seinfeld productivity trick to stick with it. Grab a calendar and start placing an X over every day that you follow through with your fitness plan. After a week or so you'll have a long chain of successes that you won't want to break, pushing you to keep going. You can use this handy printable calendar, your wall calendar or track it on a Google calendar and share your progress with the world for added accountability.

However you do it, getting in shape is a great way to feel better and save money on health care costs over your life.

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