Happy New Year! And with the new year comes the annual New Year’s Resolutions. We all do it. This year, I’m going to be better than I was before. It’s as if flipping the calendar is a personal reset and we’re able to start anew.
One of the more popular New Year’s Resolutions is getting healthy, and with that frequently comes gym memberships. Pretty much every gym out there is currently having some sort of New Year’s sale. Sign up for cheap! Get those resolutions started!
But is a gym membership worth it?
Well, it depends. Will you use it?
One major way that gyms keep costs down for their members is through annual memberships that don’t get used. That’s right, they actually expect people to sign up for a one year contract, use the gym for a month or two, and then never come back. Or at least rarely come back. And some of those gym memberships are pricey!
However, you know me. I’m a triathlete. I workout 5-6 times a week. So you know I’m not here to strictly talk you out of getting a gym membership. I just want you to calculate the cost.
First, you have to take a look at the cost of the gym and what you’re going to get out of it. I talked to two friends who use two very different gyms. I visited the gym with each of them.
Friend A goes to a super fancy gym with all sorts of included classes, indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, all sorts of cardio and weight machines, saunas, etc. This place is nice. It also costs $120 a month for an annual membership. A is committed to working out, joined the gym 6 months ago, and has been going at least four times a week. It’s definitely been worth it for her. Thankfully, I live just far enough from this gym to not make it even a possibility for me. Because let me tell you, that place is nice.
Friend B goes to a bare bones gym. It is significantly less fancy. No pool. Lots of cardio machines, lots of weight machines, and that’s about it. It’s simple, but it’s clean and nice enough. However, it costs $10 a month. B also doesn’t have any sort of annual commitment. She pays $10 a month and can cancel whenever she wants. B knows she’s not going to use the gym a lot, but wanted a treadmill to use while its too cold to run outside. She says she wants to try using the weight machines too, but just isn’t sure she’s going to do it. She plans to get there 1-2 times a week.
Now, looking at the math, A is clearly still paying more per visit to the gym, but she’s getting a lot out of that membership. B is getting a pretty good deal, and the fact that she isn’t locked into a membership is pretty huge. That said, since the cost is only $10, it’s probably pretty easy to say “Oh, well, I didn’t use the gym this month, but it was only $10, so it’s not a big deal. I’ll go next month.” And suddenly it’s the end of the year and you haven’t seen the inside of the gym since February.
These are two extremes on the gym membership spectrum. Sure, there are memberships that are more expensive, and maybe there are cheaper memberships too. Your average is probably in the $50-$60 range. But again. Will you go?
You don’t need a gym membership to get fit. Weather permitting, you can walk and run outside. (Some people will tell you the weather doesn’t matter. I am not one of those people.) You can get some dumbbells and lift at home. There are plenty of great programs available online, either for free or for a reasonable cost. You can find all sorts of workout videos online. You can look to see who might be selling an old bike or treadmill or other piece of exercise equipment and try those out. (Note that the reason used fitness equipment is easy to find is the same reason that gym attendance peters out early in the year – people think they’re going to get fit and then give up. So be smart if you make the purchase.)
What about me? What do I do? When I lived in my apartment, I had a gym membership. I loved running, and knew that the gym was the only place I was going to be able to run indoors in the winter. Did I use it enough to make it worth it? Certainly not. So when I bought my house just under 6 years ago, I cancelled the gym membership and bought a treadmill. And for me, it was worth it. 6 years later, I’m still on the treadmill at least twice a week, usually more in the winter. I also own a bike, a bike trainer, and hand weights. Obviously, I don’t have a pool, so I pay $5 per visit at the local community pool. It’s not at all fancy, but it works for me.