Make January flash without much cash… how to have fun on a post-Christmas budget

Feeling the pinch this January? Personally, we find everything gets a little tighter in the new year – from general countenance to favourite jeans. So how to beat the blues, have a bit of fun, get healthy and restore a general air of self-satisfied contentment to your life? By following our top tips of course! And our recommendations are all either free or low-cost for maximum smugness value. Read on…

Make this the year that you stick to that oft-made resolution to get fit – and there’s no better way to start that with a parkrun. These fun, free weekly timed 5k runs take place in parks up and down the country (and abroad) every Saturday at 9am. All you have to do is register, print off a barcode, turn up and run!

As well as getting fit, parkruns are a great chance to check out some of the beautiful parks and open spaces we have in the city and county. Try Braunstone Parkrun – which regularly attracts 400-plus runners – or check out the city’s Victoria Parkrun. Conkers, Melton, Loughborough and Market Harborough also have their own parkruns and for kids, there’s a 2km Aylestone Junior Parkrun every Sunday morning at 9am.

Don’t think you can run 5k? No problem – a parkrun is for all abilities, and there are plenty of people who run/walk, or just walk, the route. You’ll be made welcome all the same.

Still feeling the need to get all out of breath and pretend that it’s fun? (It is, honest). Then check out one of the city’s outdoor gyms. With more than 30 of them scattered at parks and open spaces across the city, you’re never far from one. They’re suitable for anyone aged over 14, of any fitness level, and feature equipment including cross-trainers, chest presses, sit-up benches, pull-up bars and leg presses. There are loads of online guides to get you started, for example on the Active Leicester webpages, and if you go with a friend you can encourage each other while commiserating about how horrible it is having to exercise. Good luck! (Top tip: Take a child with you if you want strict, realistic motivation. Sample quote: “you’re a bit out of shape, aren’t you?”)

The city council’s gyms also offer some great deals on membership, which gets you into gyms at leisure centres across seven sites in the city. Join from as little as £15 a month, with new year’s offers including 15 months for the price of 11 on all annual memberships. If your child swims with Swim Leicester, the council’s programme of swimming lessons, they also get free swimming during public sessions at all seven pools across the city.

If all this exercise is wearing you out, relax and soak up a bit of free culture instead. Leicester’s museums are all free to get in to – so you could check out the new Egyptian gallery at New Walk Museum without having to dust off your wallet. Or, with the help of the city’s museums, you could plan a day of Leicester activities that mark you out as ‘Proper Lestah’. These include flushing the fake piece of plastic poo in the exhibit at Abbey Pumping Station, (when you’re tired of this, you’re tired of life); climbing up to Old John in Bradgate Park, not sitting on Daniel Lambert’s chair (because you’re not allowed to!) at Newarke Houses museum and rounding it all off with a great value curry. You might like to call in for an ice-cream soda at Brucciani’s too, but just bear in mind that’s going to mean more time at the outdoor gym, OK?

If you’re still in need of entertainment, especially for the young ‘uns, consider the cinema. A Vue mini-morning or a trip to an Odeon kids’ session – where you won’t necessarily see the newest films, but you’ll pay less as a result – are a canny choice. Leicester’s Phoenix also has a great deal, with a family ticket, popcorn and drink for £7.50.

Finally, the city and county is crammed full of opportunities for geocaching – and it’s great fun. Follow clues from an app on your GPS-enabled phone to find hidden stuff ­– usually a small box or tiny container where you can write your name, before replacing the stash for someone else to find. It’s totally free and there are loads of caches waiting to be discovered across Leicestershire – check out the website comments for clues and to find out which sites are ‘active’ for the best success. It’s totally addictive. Enjoy your treasure-hunting!

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