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.