Before you head to the nearest gym and say, “Sign me up!” there are a few things to consider. After all, a gym’s not a bargain if you never go—don’t be one of the some 10 million people who cancel their membership within the year. Instead, find a place that fits your lifestyle and your budget. Our tips show you how to save big bucks so you can lose big pounds.
Take a test drive. The ideal gym will be close to your home or office, with hours that work for you. Once you’ve narrowed down the choices, request a few free day passes so you can test your go-to classes—Spin, kickboxing, kettlebells or Zumba. You can get to know the instructors and see if they impress you. After class, check the amenities: Do they offer child care? Free towel service? TVs on every cardio machine? The elliptical machine you love? These can make or break your workout, so you want to be sure your gym choice offers what you need.
Name-drop the competition. These days, thrift is in, and übercheap clubs with monthly fees as low as $15 have sprung up, forcing midpriced chains to negotiate to compete, says Pamela Kufahl, editor of Club Industry. Point out a competitor’s offer to see if a gym will match it or come close, she says.
Be a social networker. Daily deals sites, such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com, offer big local savings. (SELF saw a recent Groupon deal for an 87 percent discount on the first two months of membership at a Chicago club.) These are often blink-or-you’ll-miss-’em offers, so act fast. Stay alert, too, for social-networking promotions that let you test a new gym: At Crunch Fitness, nonmembers who check into a Crunch on Foursquare.com get a free one-week guest pass, no strings attached. 24 Hour Fitness offers a similar carrot—a three-day freebie—on its Facebook page.
Front the cash. Paying in advance instead of monthly can trigger a major discount. At Costco, you can snag a two-year contract to any 24 Hour Fitness for $320. That works out to $13 a month, versus $37 when you pay in installments.
Gather a group. Send an all-call work email for gym joiners. At Gold’s Gym, 10 or more coworkers who sign up together receive an automatic 10 percent discount. And ask if your company has a deal with a local fitness chain for a group of employees joining en masse.
Try a family plan. Bally Total Fitness cuts its fees by up to 33 percent for friends-and-family memberships; simply name your relative or pal who’s a current member. Some clubs even allow roommates to use a discounted family membership, Kufahl says.
Now that you’ve scored an awesome gym membership on the cheap, put it to good use. To make sure you’re hitting every muscle group and keep your routine from getting stale, try our easy-to-follow workouts for each machine.
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