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Fiscal fitnessWomen get creative to find exercising bargains

Mandy MacNeil’s birthday present from her husband was a set of 10 personal training sessions at their Oakland Township, Mich., home from Leah Veprauskas of Lake Orion, Mich.-based Leah V. Fitness.

When the prepaid classes ran out, MacNeil, a 38-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative, got creative.

She didn’t want to continue to shell out the $60 per session cost of the in-home trainer, and she didn’t want to commit to a gym membership.

“I wanted to keep Leah, but I couldn’t continue at $60 a session,” MacNeil said. “I asked her if she had any interest in training a group of women. So I just e-mailed a group of friends.”

Now, Veprauskas works with MacNeil and six to 10 other women in an Oakland Township, Mich., group nicknamed the Driveway Divas that moves basement-to-basement or yard-to-yard twice a week, depending on everyone’s schedule.

Splitting the cost makes it affordable, about $10 to $15 a session, MacNeil says. The women -- including a pharmacist, a CFO who works from home for a New York City-based investment firm, a photographer and a philanthropist -- knew each other through their children’s school.

“Leah provides all the equipment, so all we have to do is show up,” said MacNeil, a mother of three.

“You don’t have the extra expense of the gym or really even have to drive” because the women all live in the same neighborhood.

Excuses for avoiding exercise -- I can’t make it to the gym or I can’t afford the gym -- don’t cut it anymore. Personal training at home, around town and online offer affordable, time saving alternatives to the gym, motivation included.

“Fifty years ago, we did not have gyms, and we were way fitter,” said California-based celebrity coach Valerie Orsoni, the creator of the online personal training Web site www.LeBoot Camp.com.

He advocates working exercise into daily regimes. “It’s really going back to the roots.”

Orsoni points to a study published in January that found those who worked exercise into their daily routine were fitter than those who were mostly sedentary but visited a gym.

Research shows that the lack of ongoing exercise manifests itself in the form of larger waists, higher blood pressure, higher levels of triglycerides and lower levels of the good HDL cholesterol.

“You can be fit without going to a box -- that’s what I call a gym,” said Orsoni.

For $15 a month for six months or $29 for a month-to-month program, Orsoni and her team coach clients through an online weight-loss and exercise program.

“I live in a bad neighborhood and can’t get out and walk. I have 12 kids. I get off at 4 a.m. We have heard all the excuses,” Orsoni said. “If people don’t have the time, they are right. It takes a full hour to go to the gym.”

Orsoni coaches through a minute-long “Message of the Day,” a quick hit of motivation before clients fill out a daily tracker of food, exercise and water intake.

The website tracks weight loss, provides tips and recipes for healthy eating. And there’s a weekly menu of exercises, with an exercise video for each day.

LeBootCamp’s personal touch comes through 40 U.S.-based certified nutritionists, physiologists, fitness trainers and life coaches who respond to client’s e-mail questions or concerns.

“It’s basically you write, we answer, until we find your perfect program,” Orsoni said.

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