Are you tired of spending money on gym memberships that you never use? Or maybe you were pressured into signing up for a membership by overbearing “fitness experts” while visiting your local fitness centre? Or perhaps you invested thousands of dollars on a new treadmill, only to have it turn into the world’s most expensive clothing rack?
Don’t be embarrassed to admit it. You are definitely not alone. Even I’ve been there!
Many years ago, I went with my roommates to explore gym membership options. It was for a local gym and one that had positive reviews by friends and colleagues. We didn’t have smart phones back then or apps to let us know which businesses were the top rated in our area. We had to use our best judgement.
The three of us had a lot of fun. But it wasn’t until after I signed that one year contract for a membership I didn’t need – that I realized my friends were benefiting off my impulse decision. They received discounts for referring friends to the gym.
As luck would have it – the very next day after signing the contract, I wound at the hospital due to an unexplained pain in my stomach. I was diagnosed as having a hernia – likely caused by over doing it in the gym. Or perhaps working out at the gym made the already existing hernia much worse. And oh, the pain. It was bad.
Ending a gym membership was more painful than the hernia
Not even 24 hours after signing the contract, I was on the phone with the gym’s accounting department. And even though I had a doctor’s note to verify my illness, they would not let me out of the contract.
“You signed a contract. You can pay $100 to end it,” the clerk told me on the phone rather rudely. The funny thing is, that was during the time I worked at a collection agency. I knew all the tricks of the trade.
“But I have a doctor’s note, and proof,” I said. “I haven’t even used this contract. It’s less than 24 hours old.”
“Doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t have signed it,” she said.
“But I was pressured by your sales staff to sign,” I explained, “I didn’t really want it – but I had three people all staring at me pushing the papers at me.”
Learn from my mistake. Don’t sign those contracts without reading the fine lines. I wound up paying the $100 for a membership I never even used but be damned if I was going to pay the monthly $52.00 fee.
Since then, I have discovered many ways to get fit – and save money while doing it too.
Drop in classes – community fitness centres
Since that experience, I have made it my life long mission to avoid gyms memberships like the plague. Instead, I opted to visit my community health centres and paid for entry fees per fitness class. Since I was only going once a week to aqua fit, this worked out to about $12.00 x4 visits a month. Sure, I spent about the same amount of money as a gym membership. But with community centres, you can come and go on your own schedule – and your own dime.
Depending on your area, you can take all kinds of classes like aquafit, water zumba, zumba dance, or yoga.
Make it a social event – join a meetup group
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. If you’re athletic, look into amateur sports leagues in your area. Meetup.com or Facebook are great places to meet new people.
A friend of mine who is retired and in her 60’s has always been an inspiration to me. She is at the gym at 5:30 am at least five days a week. She ran several marathons this summer and finished a 10k marathon in just under 3.5 hours. Not too shabby, eh?
On my suggestion, she joined a local meetup group dedicated to hiking. She found a hiking group and soon our Saturday morning brunches were replaced by these group outings. I can’t blame her though. We found a new day to meet up on and she’s so much happier for her experiences and new friendships made.
When I was in better shape, hiking was my time – the one time I could just connect and be with nature. It also gave me a chance to explore nature photography. I miss it a lot. I only got lost once… lol.
Make it a family outing
My friend, who drives taxi during the day, says the only time he can exercise is with the kids. He and his daughter will hit the community gym while his boys take their swimming lessons. During the summer months, he would take his kids out for a long walk.
Our family often participates in fundraising walks. My dad was wheeled around in this year’s event with a proud smile on his face during the annual Parkinson’s walk. Unfortunately, due to health issues, I was unable to attend.
Doing something fun and in the outdoors is a great way to get a little vitamin C and do something the whole family can enjoy.
Workout at home
With sites like YouTube, there are millions of videos out there with workouts that you can do for free in the comfort in your own home with very little equipment. My own home gym cost about $150 CDN. What do I use at home?
Mini cycle to pedaling
I have used a mini-cycle for about five years now and love it. The best thing about it is that it’s great for condo or apartment use. The cycle is quiet and compact, and can be easily stored under my desk. It has a basic calorie and distance counter which is all I need for circulation. While it may not be as effective as a stationary bike, what I like about it is that you can take it anywhere.
Exercise ball and resistance band
The exercise ball and resistance bands can provide a full body workout when executed properly. However, many of the exercises are focused on the core section of the body (abs, hips, stomach).
Other equipment that you can invest in that is budget friendly include dumbbells, kettle bells and yoga mats. Amazon is a great place to find deals on fitness equipment. You can also look on Facebook marketplace – people are literally giving their treadmills away for free!
Word of advice – if you live in an apartment building, make sure that you are allowed heavy equipment as they can produce a lot of sound. I learned the hard way back in 2014 when I ordered a treadmill from Sears. Now that experience is making my eye twitch. So, I think I’ll sign off now.
Are you stuck with a gym membership you don’t use? Did you manage to negotiate your way out of it? If so, let me know in the comments!