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Save money: How to keep fit for cheap in LA

Los Angeles Parks
Los Angeles Parks
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The life of a working actor can be very stressful, with the erratic schedules, the "no, thank you's," the racing across town between auditions, meetings, classes and (ug) day jobs. For us, our bodies are our business, and being physically active and healthy is not just something we know we should do (sigh), it's a career necessity - think of all those 12 hour day, six days a week shooting schedules you're hoping to land. Then think of the press junkets: it's not for the weak. Making time for the things you know are essential (eating right, exercise, sleep, etc.) is not just a good idea, it’s good business.

Don't let the cost of a gym membership be an excuse to stick with couch surfing as your activity of choice. In the City of Angels, we are blessed with a variety of options to keep centered and healthy without trading a week's paycheck.

LA COUNTY PARKS - There are over 144 parks in LA County alone, from local to regional. They offer group activities, group classes and organized sports, in addition to golf, boating, horseback riding, and an extensive system of hiking trails throughout the county, at a variety of levels.

LA CITY PARKS - Maintained by the LA City Recreation and Parks Department, there are dozens of places to go running with your dog, or walk with a friend in the gorgeous city that is LA. There are special dog park, skate park, and even aquatic facility listings on their site, just to get you started.

LA PARKS RECREATIONAL CENTERS - A lot of the above parks have facilities, and it’s a good bet you live near at least one. These centers offer a variety of classes for adults year around. The larger ones have tennis courts, basketball courts, racket ball, etc., that can be reserved in advanced.

LA OUTDOOR FITNESS ZONES - With LA’s gorgeous weather year-round, it’d be a shame to be stuck working out on equipment inside a gym. As of November, 2013, LA’s Department of Recreation and Parks has 44 outdoor workout areas in parks around the city, with plans for 14 more in the immediate future, and no plans to stop there. These fitness zones have equipment providing “for workouts of different types: strength, cardio-vascular, flexibility, and combinations of the above,” not to mention the walking and jogging trails. It’s outside, and it’s free. Win-win.

YMCA - This is a great organization with branches all over Los Angeles and beyond, which offers a sliding scale. Each location has the basics (pool, nautilus equipment, group classes, personal fitness trainers, locker rooms) but also have certain areas they specialize in (i.e., yoga, zumba, group sports). While your membership may be at one branch (i.e., the Hollywood), you can attend classes at other branches three to four times a month for free, depending on the branch rules.

LACC - The community college system in LA is a great resource for getting in shape. You can find cheap classes for California residents in everything from ballet to stage combat, offered for a full semester. College classes also have clear beginnings and ends, unlike open level studio classes, so the first day is everybody’s first day: you won’t find yourself dropped into a yoga class asking, “Downward facing what?” If you’re on the lower income scale, make sure you apply for the Governor’s Fee Waiver at the financial office, a one sheet form that will waive all course fees, leaving only the administration fees.

LACC EXTENSION COURSES - All of the LACC's offer Extension Classes for the community at large. These courses are not for credit, and typically run a shorter length of time. You can find tumbling, ballet, salsa, and other fun athletic classes that run a few weeks or longer.

GROUP DISCOUNT SITES - Sign up for the LA versions of sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local to purchase a book of classes at local studios. These often have expiration dates, though, and the prices go back up once you've used your purchase. They can be a great resource for experimenting with different activities (think tai chi, or barre yoga) without committing.

THE INTERNET - Don't forget about youtube! Sometimes you can't wait for an organized class and just need something to tide you through that you can do at home right now. If you can type it, you can find it there or on some other such video site. Search for "how to video on ___" to wade through search engine listings.