How To Get Fit (Or Stay Fit) on a Budget


This is Santa Monica’s gorgeous gym at Memorial Park. Just $3 to get in for the day.

So say you’ve settled into your new digs in Santa Monica, or maybe you just need some new ideas for getting exercise. Luckily for you, Santa Monica is a great place to access affordable or no-cost options for getting active for no matter what your age. Below, I share the findings of my research and experiences as an adult in my late 20s and early 30s living here in Santa Monica. By no means is this list comprehensive. Please share your experiences and tips in the comments.


A large group takes a lap around the track at Corsair Field at Santa Monica College Saturday as part of this weekend’s Relay for Life fundraiser.

Personally, my favorite thing to do for exercise is walking. Luckily, Santa Monica is a fantastic place to walk. And if you want to keep it interesting, try going on the Santa Monica Conservancy’s walking tour; it’s terrific.

Tip:  Especially at night, I wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight or a lantern.

COST: Free.


My deal with running is that it’s as simple as putting on my running shoes and getting out the door. Because it is beautiful out there. If you’re not into running on sidewalks, here are suggestions for spots with limited conflict with cars (or I guess Bird scooters?):

Running Groups

LA Leggers
LA Leggers is a nonprofit that helps people train for the LA Marathon. Each January, they also do a Couch to 5K. I did it in 2015 for just $25. It got me off my couch. LA Leggers does its practice runs along the ocean, and they start in Santa Monica. If your free time is on Saturdays, you owe it to yourself to check out LA Leggers. Your travel time to the starting point is practically negative.

Downtown Run Club
Once a month, Downtown Santa Monica organizes a ‘run club’. They promise to welcome runners at all speed. The Downtown Run Club was founded by Hector Valdez-Soliman, the mobility manager at Downtown Santa Monica Inc., in order to give those who work and play in Downtown something social to do while waiting for the traffic to go east died down. The best way to find out the date and time of the next Run Club is to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.


This being Santa Monica, there are no shortage of yoga studios. They exist at a variety of price points.

Starting with FREE
A number of stores in Downtown Santa Monica host free yoga classes on weekend mornings. As of this writing, they include:

  1. Lululemon on Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica on Sundays.
  2. Patagonia on 4th St. in Santa Monica every Sunday at 9am.
  3. West Elm on 4th St hosts a free yoga class every Sunday at 9am.
  4. Athleta on 4th St. hosts a free yoga class once a month (usually on a Sunday, at 9:30am)

Donation-Based Yoga
A Google search will yield many options. Here are the two I can vouch for:

  1. Bhakti Yoga Shala on Arizona Ave. in Santa Monica.
  2. Power Yoga on Santa Monica Blv

ROGA (Running + Yoga)

ROGA (running plus yoga) on the Pier is a lovely way to start your weekend. Beach living at its finest. Rein in the giggles when your instructor says “Open up your hands in a strong warrior two and reach your hands towards Malibu! Gaze towards Catalina!” Photo by Patty Amranand.

What if you like running AND yoga? There’s a way to get to that. ROGA is a recurring event organized by the Santa Monica Pier Corporation. It calls for convening at 8AM at the top of the Santa Monica Pier to run for roughly an hour along the strand, then practicing all-levels yoga at 9AM led by an instructor in the area. ROGA is free to all participants and has some sponsors, usually purveyors of aspirational food items. I totally mock this event, and yet still I go, because there is nothing more awesome and effective in reminding me my good fortune, than getting to run and practice yoga on the Santa Monica Pier on a Saturday morning before it gets really busy.

To find out the dates of the next round of ROGA, I suggest becoming a fan of the Pier’s Facebook page and/or subscribing to their emails.

Transit: Most of the Big Blue Bus lines convene near the Pier; Route 8 directly serves it.

Bicycle Parking: There are bike racks along the Pier, but most people appear to tie their bikes up near where we practice at the end of the Pier

Vehicle Parking: I don’t even know why I bother to write this out, but if you insist, you may park your vehicle for a fee at the Santa Monica  Place or at the lot literally on the Pier, but don’t say I didn’t warn you it was easier to take transit or a bike to the Pier, even if it’s quiet in the morning.


Luckily for you, the City of Santa Monica operates three beautiful pools that are very affordable for even the occasional visit.

Santa Monica Swim Center 

Parent and Me at the Santa Monica Swim Center is a very popular class.
Photo by Juan Matute

Located on the Santa Monica College campus, the Santa Monica Swim Center is a state-of-the-art facility operated by the City of Santa Monica. There are two pools on site, one deep water and one shallow. The cost of entry is very affordable – just $3.50 for residents ($2/class if you buy a 20-class pack) – as are the swim classes. I’ve taken Aquarobics and adult swim skills classes for just $5.50 per class!


  1. Registration for youth swim lessons moves very quickly. Online registration opens typically on a Wednesday at 6am. You’ll need to prepare by putting the classes you want into your shopping cart BEFORE online registration opens, then be prepared to log into the system at 5:45am. If you wait to log into after 6:30am, you’ve waited too long.
  2. Don’t plan on driving there during the week. The parking surrounding SMC is permit only and there’s no option to pay by the day in the campus parking garages. SMC is busy at night too. Parking is ‘free’ on weekends, however.
  3. Go at night at least once. There is something mystical about floating on your back in the shallow pool, looking up at the dark sky and seeing palm trees in the corner of your eye. It’s so quintessentially LA and California.

Low Cost Fitness

Memorial Park Gym

The City of Santa Monica has a workout room chock full of equipment that I am told is actually newer and better maintained than what you might find at a gym that charges you a monthly fee. The cost per visit is just $3. Never feel guilty about having a monthly membership at a gym, and never actually going (or going enough) ever again!!!

Read More

Note, there is no air conditioning.

Transit: Big Blue Bus 5; Expo at 17th Street/SMC Station

Sirinya Matute
Sirinya Matute
Sirinya Matute is a Santa Monica-based urbanist, writer, and full-time working mother. She began her writing career at LA Parent magazine, and has contributed to Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog LA, and The Source, the official blog of LA Metro. In her free time, Sirinya is active in her PTA.

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