What's the best way to tone up?

I don’t need to lose weight, but I’d like to be more toned. I don’t have access to a pool (well, “I would have to pay more than I could afford to have access to a pool” is more accurate) or I’d be going swimming a couple of times a week. I have bad knees, but recently got some of those barefoot running shoes (five fingers) to see if maybe I can jog without ruining my knees.

What exercises are good for improving muscle tone?

If you want to hit the gym or buy for home, lifting weights. Heavy(for you) weights. High weight , low reps.
There’s no such thing as “toning” in the sense of “lift these little, tiny, chrome weights a few times”.

When your muscles get strong, they get toned.

If you prefer working out at home and/or no equipment, try bodyweight work.

I’m a member at Bodyweight Culture. You need to be a member to access everything but it’s free and they don’t spam you.

While they are good on bodyweight work, ignore advice on nutrition, aerobic exercise and other such topics. While there are members with good knowledge, most are abysmally ignorant.

A-yup. Don’t be one of those women with the “I want to get toned, I just don’t want to get bulky” line. You (assuming you’re an average women) couldn’t bulk up on the bulking-up-est day of your life with an electrified bulking machine. Heavy weights, twelve reps, two or three sets.

Running can tone your legs, but you’ll plateau at some point with just running.

Anyway you could cut spending somewhere to afford a gym membership, at a local Y or something?

Not really. We live in a really expensive part of the country right now while my husband is doing his residency.

Yoga and good old-fashioned calisthenics will help you tone your muscles. I highly recommend weight training, but there is a lot that can be done with body weight “compound” exercises.

Check with small, locally owned gyms. The prices may be something you can afford. I pay 250/year at a well equipped gym. It doesn’t have a pool or the glitzy stuff that some of the chains have.

If your husband has a benefits package, it might include gym memberships.

Some high school open their weight room to local residents.

If you have room, weight sets/benches can be very cheap or even free through the classifieds or Craigslist.

Look at local parks for fitness trails or even monkey bars/playground equipment.

Pushups for arms, upper back, and chest. Sit-ups and crunches for abs. Squats and lunges for thighs/glutes. Pilates is pretty good for overall toning if you don’t have access to a gym, there are plenty of instructional videos on youtube.

This, and if you can’t afford the weights, fill up some big milk containers with sand and start lifting.

We have a set of weights… the kind you use in one hand. What kind of weight is “heavy”? I’m 5’3" and 130lbs, and not all that strong.

If you can do more than 10 reps, the weight isn’t heavy. Aim for 6-8 reps for strength building.

Get daily emails from Groupon. Watch for deals from gyms, exercise “boot camp” programs, yoga places. Buy a deal for cheap and there you go.

Thanks. I’ll try it. Any sites that show good form for lifting?

And what about my legs? and my butt? What can I do to strengthen those? I do have one of those mini trampolines…

Lunges and squats are traditional legs / butt exercises. Both can be done without weights until you are strong enough, then you can add weight to make them more difficult.

Home page for ExRx.net.

Exercise directory. Includes animations showing correct form.

Cool, thanks, I’ll check it out

Stumptuous is a really fantastic beginner’s lifting site with a lot of information for women. ExRx has a lot of info, but the presentation leaves a bit to be desired.

This is very good advice. And it’s free.

Check where your husband is doing his residency. There may be some way to get you into a gym for free. Otherwise, your best bet is to go back in time to when you were 25 years old or younger and get in really good shape then.

You can use the MIT Gym on a drop-in basis for $15/day - that’s if no affiliation (student/family/friend/alumni/vendor) discounts apply. $10/day at Boston College.

You could supplement running and at-home pilates, with swimming and weight machines 1 day a week.

I really cannot stress enough the benefit of doing pushups for women. A lot of women try to shy away from them because they’re “hard” and they’re afraid they will “bulk up”. It isn’t possible to bulk up unless you are taking hormonal injections or heavy duty supplements.

Even if you just start at being able to do 2 at a time, do 2. Then the next day do 3. The next day do 4. And keep going until you can bust out 20-30 at a time. You will thank me! (And don’t do “girl” pushups either. Do the real ones, straight legged)