How to keep physically and fiscally fit
The start of a new year inspires many of us to commit to get fit and live healthier.
Such an undertaking requires steeling one's resolve to eat right and exercise. What isn't required is emptying out one's wallet just to break a sweat and shed a few pounds.
It doesn't cost a dime to go for a run in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. Or to do push-ups, abdominal crunches and other exercises that require only your own body weight as resistance. Set your DVR and do a Zumba or yoga routine in the comfort of your own living room.
But if you feel you need to enlist a personal trainer, turn the spare room into a home gym or join a fitness club, you don't have to spend a bundle. Here are tips on how to tackle your New Year's fitness resolutions without straining your finances.
Test your commitment
Are you thinking about joining a gym or buying a pricey treadmill or weightlifting set? A great way to save money on fitness is to not spend it needlessly in the first place. Just ask anyone who pays for a gym membership they rarely, if ever, use. Or someone with a pile of gear gathering dust in the garage or an exercise bike in their bedroom covered in clothes. Before getting locked into a gym contract or buying expensive equipment, spend a few weeks regularly working up a sweat running or doing other exercises that don't require equipment. If you can stick to a regular training schedule for a month or two, it's more likely that you will continue doing so once you join a gym — and your investment won't go to waste.
Use free trials
At the start of a new year, gyms are eager to sign up legions of new members and will let prospective customers try out their facilities free for a day, sometimes even a week. If you have several gyms in your area, take advantage of their free trial periods before making a year-long commitment. Whether you take this approach or not, try to put off joining a gym until February, after the New Year's sign-up rush is over, says Jeff Kaplan, CEO of coupon website Lozo.com. The fitness club industry is highly competitive, so gyms typically offer deals throughout the year, he says.
“Getting into a deal now is probably not in your best interest, unless you're absolutely sure what you're getting into,” Kaplan says. “It's easy to get caught up in the fervor and maybe not necessarily get the best deal.”
Flex your negotiating skills
You've finished your free trials and you've chosen your gym. Now dust off your haggling skills.
Find rival gyms' ads or offer terms and ask the fitness club of your choice to match the deal. Or offer to sign up for a month-to-month contract and upgrade to a longer-term deal, in exchange for a discount.
If you can wait until the weight-loss resolution wave wanes, say in March, you could have more negotiating leverage because gyms aren't getting as many new members.
Even scoring a tiny discount can add up to big savings. Average membership dues for fitness clubs that don't offer racquet sports or pools range from $30 to $60 per month, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, or IHRSA. But prices can range from $9.99 a month at some basic gyms to $200 at an upscale club.
Think through contract terms
To reap the biggest savings on a gym contract, opt for a full-year term and pay for it upfront.
Gyms typically offer memberships that run either month-to-month or for a year or more. Members who opt for the monthly contract can expect to pay more over 12 months than someone who signed up for a one-year contract.
Monthly contracts cost more because the member pays for the ability to walk away at the end of each month. That's great, unless you end up on a month-to-month contract for several years, something that happens to many people.
A 2005 report by Stefano Dellavigna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, economics department, found that people who elected to join a gym on a month-to-month contract were 18 percent more likely to remain members for more than a year than customers who had committed to a one-year contract.
“We find that consumers choose a contract that appears suboptimal given their attendance frequency,” Dellavigna wrote. “In addition, low-attendance consumers delay canceling this contract despite small transaction costs.”
Annual contracts can be fairly difficult to get out of, so avoid signing on until you're sure about the gym and your commitment to getting fit.
And when you do go, go often so you get what you're paying for.
“You want to go at least three times a week to get your dollars' worth and to benefit,” says Denise Austin, fitness expert and author of “Side Effect: Skinny.”
Try the buddy system
It can be tough to get going on your own. Personal trainers can help motivate and instruct clients how to get the most out of their workouts. They can also end up costing quite a bit after several sessions.
The IHRSA estimates that, on average, a personal training session runs from $38 to $82, on the low end, with many upscale trainers charging as much as $150.
One way to cut the cost is to find a trainer who will take on two people at once for less than the combined cost of two individual lessons. This way, you and your fitness buddy can split the cost.
Another option is to find a trainer who will train you for a half-hour, rather than a full hour.
Buy more beans
A big part of the fitness equation is eating healthy. Unfortunately, fast-food items and cheap packaged foods are often less expensive than loading up on fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meats, fish and poultry. The costs are multiplied if you've decided to buy organically grown food or free-range meat.
Still, one money-saving option is to substitute some of the red meat you buy with whole grains and beans and legumes, which are less expensive sources of protein.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Energy companies vie for experienced workers with skills in high demand
- Energy Spotlight: Adam Pope
- Energy-saving tactics pay off in Green Workplace Challenge
- Chevron laying off 162 workers from Moon-based unit
- Former athletes open businesses
- Shale sector won’t gut area workforce
- Bank of New York Mellon 4Q earnings rise to $793 million, but revenue sluggish
- Energy industry says it’s on top of methane leaks, but environmentalists want oversight
- Typewriters back in style, keeping repair shops busy
- Password change can block hackers from wireless cameras
- U.S. Steel plans to close two plants affecting 545 workers