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Gym survey results – rates, discounts, and some fries

Okay, maybe money isn’t as taboo as I thought. I asked how much you pay for your gym membership and I got over 100 responses. One of you also told me your favorite sexual position. (Confidential to Marla: After reading your comment, my mother wanted to know what the reverse cowgirl is. Actually, I think she didn’t want to know what the reverse cowgirl is. I will spend the rest of my life trying to blot that conversation out of my memory.) I read every single response. Here’s a summary of the results for those of you who don’t want to mine the raw data:

  • People pay anywhere from $9.99 to $139.00 a month for facilities that range from hole-in-the wall joints, community gyms, facilities with movie theatres and one place attached to a pub where you can charge beer and fries to your membership.
  • People automatically scored free or discounted memberships by:

    • Being a firefighter
    • Living on an army base
    • Being a student
    • Working at the gym
    • Working in the same building as the gym
    • Working for Nike, Microsoft, the state, or the Minneapolis school system
  • People were able to finagle a better rate by:
    • Signing up for several years or months upfront
    • Signing up with other people to leverage a lower rate
    • Being referred by a friend or referring a friend
    • Mentioning a special the gym ran earlier or just waiting for the next special
    • Telling them another gym would give them a better rate (and not mentioning that the other gym smells like wet dog)
    • Not signing up immediately, but coming back the next day
    • Signing up for $98 a year in 1975 and never letting their membership lapse.
  • Several people get reimbursed part of the membership fee by their employer or insurance company if they go to the gym a specified number of days a month. People still find this hard to do. I recommend we attach $20 bills on sticks in front of a treadmills and see if that helps.
  • The YMCA does not negotiate. However, they have a sliding scaled based on your salary and you can usually work something out. That’s very Christian of them. You can also work there and get a discount or a free membership.
  • Beware fly-by-night gyms that open up, take lots of start-up fees, and disappear with their Stairmasters in the night
  • Check your contract for their policy on rate hikes. Otherwise you might find out about them on your credit card bill.
  • If people thought they were already getting a good deal, they didn’t bother to negotiate a lower price. Some people also didn’t negotiate if they thought the gym was too corporate. One person tried to negotiate, but couldn’t get them to budge even when she went all the way to the CEO. Some people didn’t even think to negotiate.
  • You can check your local universities to see if they sell passes to their facilities.
  • If I ever do a survey again, I’m using poll software because, OMG, do you know how long it takes to read 143 comments?

As far as my own gym adventures go, I met with Aaron, the Bally’s personal trainer, on Thursday night. As advised by Sally, I told him upfront I couldn’t afford his services. We went through a full-body workout in the studio area and I learned a couple good exercises, including one where I did mountain-climbers on a stability ball and amazingly didn’t smack my teeth on the floor. But I could tell he wasn’t that into it.

I don’t think I’m going to go back to Bally’s, because well, I was not impressed with their facilities. The lockers are older and a bit rusty, there’s scaffolding for construction hovering over the front door, and the whole place felt like it had a cloud looming over it that had nothing to do with humidity from the pool. It’s surprising, because this Bally’s is in the same shopping center as the Sak’s 5th Avenue, the store where 75% clearance means that a dress now only costs half my rent. In a venue like that, you’d expect the gym to have gold-plated dumbbells. I didn’t find the vibe motivating or encouraging, though I did like their low pressure sales environment. No one tried pushing me into a membership or selling me anything I wasn’t interested in. However, their class schedule is really sparse and that was the feature I’m most interested in to spice up my routine. They don’t even have any spinning classes. A no-spin zone is not for me.

So, yesterday I signed up for the YMCA. You can check my key ring for the plastic ID card complete with poorly printed ID photo. After I nixed Bally’s, the only other serious contenders were the LA Fitness and the YMCA. Both had good class schedules which I could hit before or after work. Both had pretty fair rates when I compared them against the data you guys gave me. Ultimately, I went with the YMCA because, 1) I liked the low-key vibe better than the flashy feeling of LA Fitness, 2) It’s closer to my apartment and, 3) I can use any YMCA in the Indianapolis area, including the one only a couple blocks from my work. Hopefully the YMCA near my work isn’t skanky or scary. I might be able to steal away during lunch to hit a class or train for the mini-marathon. They also had a “Pay the Day” discount going where the joining fee was equal to the date, so I only paid $13 instead of the typical $50. The other cool thing? The women’s locker room at the YMCA near my apartment has a private exercise area with a bike, treadmill, couch and TV for people who don’t feel comfortable exercising in front of everybody. That seemed very thoughtful and in touch with their customer’s needs.

I’m looking forward to trying spinning and step classes. Regardless of its effects on my heart rate, it should make good blogging material. I shall keep you posted.

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33 Comments

Maria • January 14, 2008 at 8:06 am

143 comments last post and I’m the 1st for this one?

I’ll spare you my gym details! Glad you found a gym.. hope it serves you well as you ‘do the time’!

Interesting date you posted too.. some of it funny!

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Maria • January 14, 2008 at 8:09 am

Typo!! I meant ‘data’ not date… sorry!

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Red • January 14, 2008 at 9:43 am

Yeah, Bally’s usually tends to be a bit skanky. The YMCA is usually clean, and they really don’t have sales people, it’s more of a “customer service” environment.

Oh, I can’t even imagine having that conversation with my mother. GAH!

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jenny • January 14, 2008 at 9:47 am

Good for you for joining a gym! I worked out at the YMCA for about 2 years and loved it for the exact reasons you pointed out. I’m not at a chain gym, and it works but the comfort level just isn’t the same. Most of the time I think I’m the fattest one in the aerobics class but it gives me motivation to stay!

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Jess! • January 14, 2008 at 10:17 am

I rarely comment but have been a faithful reader for quite awhile. Anywho, good choice with the Y. I work in childcare at my local YMCA and love how staff treats one another and how they know all the regular members. I may be biased but yay for the Y! :)

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Cindy • January 14, 2008 at 10:47 am

Hi PQ,

I’ve been thinking about joining a gym…I did when I lost the first of my weight and I stuck to it for around 6 months ~ until the weather got nice and I could do my exercising outside. Then I never made it back and it has been over a year. I keep active and exercise by walking most of the time, but i miss the classes, where I was learning what my body could do. I find it taxing and scary to “start” up again ~ almost harder than the first time, even though I have lost even more weight since then. I still somehow feel like I am not “gym” material. Which is stupid, of course, but it doesn’t change how I FEEL…

Anyway, you’ve given me something to consider… we’ll see…

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Comrade GoGo • January 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

Good for you for sticking to your guns and finding a place to work out that fits *you* best! Keep us posted on how your workouts at the YMCA go :).

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eva • January 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

That’s going to be so much fun! I hear they have a “salsa aerobics” class. I haven’t joined the Y because the gym here at work is so much more convenient…congrats on the cheapo membership fee!

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Lora Ramirez • January 14, 2008 at 11:40 am

Hi, PQ!

Congratulations on joining the gym!

I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to see “definition” in my arms and legs.

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Melsky • January 14, 2008 at 12:06 pm

I really want to join the y, I just wish it wasn’t so far from my house. I’m looking for a job right now and I’m thinking of getting one downtown so I could go to the Y on my lunch hours or before or after work. Because the gym near my house is just not cutting it, I’m getting tired of being sneered at by bodybuilders. Plus the Y has art classes!

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Bella • January 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Even though I like my 24 Hour Fitness gyms, I have been thinking about joining the Y instead, because the one closest to my house has an outdoor pool. The thought of being able to swim a few laps and then layout and read during the summer just seems so relaxing. Not that I’m in any shape to actually wear a bathing suit in public, mind you. Maybe after I have a significant amount of weight gone I’ll rethink this.

Good luck at the Y. I’m sure you’re going to love it.

BTW, I finally finished reading your entire blog this weekend, so I’m all caught up. I love it. I love your positivity. Oh, and I pre-ordered your book, too. I’m looking forward to May, when it’s set to come out. :)

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coraspartan • January 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Congrats on joining the Y, I am a Y member and absolutely love it!

I especially recommend taking advantage of the classes and the weight machines. Prior to joining the Y, I never had visible muscles in my arms; now they look amazing!

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anonymous • January 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I like the H2O aerobics classes taught at the local chiropractic college. They’re good for the arthritis.

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sarah j • January 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm

The piece I found amazing about the comments was how WORLDWIDE your readership is! That was pretty cool!

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chanda • January 14, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Congrats on finding a good gym membership. If there was a Y anywhere remotely close to anything im my life, I would be there, but alas, Im stuck with ghetto gym. I look forward to hearing your tales from the Y.

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Happy • January 14, 2008 at 5:48 pm

My sister-in-law loves the Y.

How sad is it that I didn’t really consider our Y because I found their website lacking? In retrospect this seems nuts. Especially since …

“The women’s locker room at the YMCA near my apartment has a private exercise area with a bike, treadmill, couch and TV…”

Um, what exercise involves a couch and TV? I like the sound of that!

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Lauren • January 14, 2008 at 7:19 pm

WHERE do you live? Most of the YMCA’s I’ve been to have been skanky.

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Sass • January 14, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Yay! I was gunning for the Y. Even though all of the letters in it’s name other than “Association” are exclusionary of my lifestyle, I find it to be a warm, community-centered place to be. Congrats!

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katrina • January 14, 2008 at 8:23 pm

LOVE the private exercise area! I also envy people who have have the cardio movie theatre. :)

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Katieo • January 14, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Oh yeah. You GOTTA have spin. Sounds like the y was the right choice. That’s the thing I LOVE about my gym are all of the classes; it’s really hard to get bored when you have a bunch of different ones to try out.

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Katieo • January 14, 2008 at 8:40 pm

I’m sorry. I meant to say, “LOVED”

(…as in “used to”…*sob*)

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Michelle • January 14, 2008 at 9:09 pm

I used to belong to the gym that the person from Microsoft probably goes to. Worked in the area. I must say, it is NICE!!!!!!!

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Manic Mommy • January 14, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I’m scared to spin.

Especially if I’m trying out the Reverse Cowgirl!

Yeeeehawwwwwwwww!

Bwahahahahah.

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ordinary girl • January 14, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I didn’t respond to the survey because I’m way behind in my blog reading, but I would like to add that I’d pay more for a membership if I could have a personal trainer that cared.

I had exactly one experience with a personal trainer, and I eventually quit because he spent more time up at the front desk than with me. When I’m paying $45/30 minutes plus a monthly membership fee I expect more (especially since this was also 7 years ago).

But I’ve read about people who have great trainers, so I’ve thought about trying it again. It’d definitely be a motivation to work out knowing someone is there waiting on me and is going to encourage me through the process. I just have to find the right trainer.

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airlie • January 15, 2008 at 4:30 am

thanks for that! i got to answer 24 and opted out – how funny is the beer and fries thing?!?

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Janet • January 15, 2008 at 7:59 am

I joined Gold’s Gym in Lawrenceville NJ in October of 2005. Like most humans, I paid the bill but didn’t step foot in the facility, until I got serious about weight loss 8 months later.

First the answers:

1) Initial cost was $25 a month. After 2 years, the price went up to $37.44 including tax.

2) The upfront ‘membership’ fee was $59.

3) Lawernceville NJ

4) The Gym is fantastic! 2 floors, lots of new, great, sturdy equipment. A pool and a Jacuzzi. “Lady Gold’s” for woman only. A Movie Cinema Theatre, Pilates room, and a ‘Sports’ training arena and Boxing. (both of them cost extra though)

5) I did not feel the need to negotiate a lower price. I don’t think it can get lower than $1 a day.

Now for my news…..there was nothing to help me lose all my excess weight. I was born fat and never had a chance, until I was 54 and met the most amazing GBS doctor.

He told me all the hard work it would entail but it is doable.

On January 10, 2007 I had my Roun-y procedure. I just celebrated my one year ‘Surgiversary’ and I am proud to report that through hard work, commitment and dedication I have lost 129 pounds.

I would like to lose another 20 pounds…..wish me luck.

I go to the gym everyday after work and workout for an hour. First 30 minutes are cardio.

I have tried a trainer 3 different times, don’t like it.

I tried step classes, and dance classes….both are not for me.

What works for me is strapping on my iPod Shuffle and working out solo. I work hard, smart and I sweat a lot. I DON’T go to socialize. I can not talk to folks while getting fit. Besides, I can’t talk, listen, sing and count at the same time so chit-chatting is out.

When my gym was celebrating the third anniversary of it’s opening, they ran a ‘Member Loyality Special’. If you extended your contract by 1 year, you got 1 month free. If you extended it by 2 years, you got 2 months free AND you got locked into a ‘forever’ contract that will never increase when it does for others. Of course my daughter and I both extended for the 2 years, and found out that the 2 free months come at the END of the second year, but that’s ok, because I am now a GYM junkie and will be working out at ‘My Gold’s’ for a very long time.

The owner just bought another gym, so we are able to use that facility as well, and he is opening a Gold’s in Langhorne PA that we will have open access to.

Three gym’s for the price of one isn’t to shabby, huh?

Opps, I almost forgot. The company that I work for gives us back $150 per year for any ‘Wellness’ purchases. I apply it to my Gold’s membership.

So, $37.44 x 12 months = $449.28 – $150 = $299.28 divide by 12 months = $24.94 a month divide by 30 days = $.83 a day.

Not bad at all!

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Janet • January 15, 2008 at 8:27 am

I forgot to mention, that my Gold’s has a two hour limit childcare service for an additional fee.

Locker rooms, showers, hair dryers, and most important to me, the cleaning staff keeps it sanitized and spotless. Porters are on site working from open to close. Every hour the bathrooms get cleaned.

There are also lots of tv’s tuned to different channels on both floors.

I LOVE my gym!

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sarah • January 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I am glad you found a gym and the classes make you actually want to go! i’m addicted to the classes my gym offers….just a little adivce…get a PADDED BIKE SEAT if you have not been on a bike for awhile! I took my first spinning class on sunday.. it was fun but my cheeks still hurt even with the new bike seat…cant imagine what it would feel like if i didnt have that small amount of gel between me and the seat. I got mine at target for $9.99 good investment if your just starting! Good Luck

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Amy • January 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Haha! Your summary reminded me that my Dad joined “Slenderform Universal” in the 70s with a lifetime membership, one-time fee. Well, he STILL goes there. He has had years where he didn’t, but he kept all the paperwork.

They long ago changed their name and then tried to get him to start a “new” membership recently by asking for money. He found his contract from the 70s and by god he still goes there for free!

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NicoleW • January 16, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Wow … the private exercise area is a really cool idea. There was definitely a time when I’d have been into that.

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Alyssa • January 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Lauren: A lot of Y’s have been upgraded in the past few years, and have gone from skanky to swanky.

Janet Congrats, and your Gold’s sounds great!

Amy: That is AWESOME! Good for him!

I used to go to the Y. Actually, I went to 3 different Y’s, because we kept moving. I loved all of them. Then we moved AGAIN, and I now go to the local Jewish Community Center (hey, I’m an equal-opportunity gym-goer,lol!) and it is REALLY NICE!!!! I started taking reformer pilates there for the first time, because they make it affordable. Now I’m training to be a pilates teacher, and to teach there. It’s also very family friendly, like the Y, and very special needs-friendly. Both of my kids have Autism, and the staff there is wonderful with them.

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Jim • July 30, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Amy mentioned that her dad joined Slenderform-Universal. I too had a life time membership, but cannot find then anywhere. Amy mentioned they changed their name. Anyone know who they are now?

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Douglas • December 3, 2009 at 11:20 am

I also would like to know where the lifetime Slenderform Universal memberships can now be used.

Thanks,

Douglas

dpmcp@juno.com

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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