It’s January, let’s talk gym memberships

You know you don’t really have to get one but you want to because you want to lose weight or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle. Congratulations! You’re one step away from getting started. Except that, gyms actually don’t want you to use their facility. They just want your money!

Yup! You heard that right. Take a moment and think of your local gym that has like a 1,000 members (or at least that’s what the manager/owner told you). Do you think it’s even possible to squeeze in a thousand members in a 2,000 square feet facility? I didn’t think so either.

Here’s something super cool I found on TheHustle:

Gyms bank on you NOT showing up

Each January, when our ambition is riding higher than a SpongeBob wedgie, gyms experience a 50% uptick in memberships.

It’s what one fitness director once called “the perfect storm” — a time when “cold weather [and] a psychological awareness about achieving goals” draw out lofty ambitions. But most of these new signees, like our pal Josh Kline, eventually fall off the proverbial treadmill.

It seems counter-intuitive, but big-name gyms don’t want us to work out.

“If gyms operate at more than 5% of their membership at any given time, no one can use the gym,” explains one branding consultant. “They want [people] to sign up, but they know that after the 15th of January they won’t see 95% of them again.”

The nation’s largest gym chains often sign up 20x the number of people who can actually fit in a given location. They are well aware that most won’t show up.

As Planet Money reported, one Planet Fitness branch in NYC had a max capacity of about 300, but boasted more than 6k members. Similarly, Gold’s Gym and Life Time Fitness often ink 5k-10k memberships per location despite having only being able to house 300-500 people at a time.

In essence, the people who don’t show up “subsidize” membership costs for those who actually do go, allowing gyms to keep their prices down.

Gym Membership Cost,

Shocking? Well, it isn’t. Commercial gyms are a business disguised as a public-service facility. And they want us to fund their investment to break even and then get a return-on-investment eventually… irrespective of your affiliation with them.

There’s a reason why they won’t allow powerlifters and strength athletes (poor me!) to train in peace. If someone drops 300 kilos on their subpar matter floor, it’s gone!

Sorry, I digressed. The point is this — you have to be doubly sure if you actually want to sign up for a membership. Particularly if it’s a named brand you’re interested in. The effective cost turns out to be ridiculously high — insanely high if you show up for 7 days and then quit!

Is there a solution? I’m not sure, it depends might be the best answer here. Let’s analyze the scenarios:

  1. You HAVE to sign up for a gym membership else you’ll die — go for a facility that has the lowest annual cost (the monthly option wouldn’t be cost-effective in January). Aim for 3 days a week and focus on just three exercises — Squat, Bench and Deadlift. Ask a floor trainer to check you with your form. Check out an instructional video a few times before you show up on the first day. Let them not con you into a personal training subscription.
  2. You HAVE to sign up for something else you’ll die — opt for a group class (please not Zumba or Aerobics, they’re good but I can’t imagine myself or you doing that for the rest of our lives) that sell you on torching all that excess fat and “giving you the burn.” (Someone wise once said, “If you want a burn. Light a match!“) Focus on group classes like yoga or martial arts. They’re useful and often addictive. And the camaraderie is simply one of a kind! People say CrossFit is good, I’m not too sure. You can possibly train at a CrossFit box eventually but I don’t think it’s a great place to start.
  3. Set up a home gym — it’s a one time investment (for the most part) and will set you up for life! All you need is your garage, a power cage, a barbell, weight plates and a bench. You can get coaching online for your overall training including a customized program that’s not from (wink, wink). You can obviously learn everything there is to it eventually, but it’s great to start off with someone knowledgable. If you’re living in an apartment complex (like I do), however, keep dreaming. Thankfully, you can still get by with a few kettlebells and your bodyweight! You can get coached on the lifts either online or by signing up for a course. And that is it!

These are great places to start. Of course, if you have the dough, go ahead and splurge! Just that money isn’t enough to get you started or stick with a habit for the long-term. Life gets in the way, procrastination creeps up and soon you’ll get back to square one, which is a pathetic place to be in.

My advice is to simply start small and focus on micro-commitments and scale up eventually.

Yes, I do have a gym membership but I train 5-6 days a week for at least a couple of hours each session! The folks at this gym hate me! I made them change the damn flooring because the deadlifts were getting heavier and they were smart enough to open a facility on the second floor of a mall!

Nonetheless, there are multiple options for you to consider. I would encourage you to evaluate them carefully as I’m sharing it from my own experience. Before getting hooked to powerlifting, I might have signed up for an annual membership at least three times! And each time, I couldn’t go beyond 3 or 4 days! Think about that — 3 or 4 days out of the 365 days for which I paid my hard earned money!

Sure, I tried running (twice) but got bored. I even tried to play Squash for a couple of years but got tired of waiting for my pal to show up late. Every fucking day! (Well, almost. But that’s not the point, I did the math and realized that if I continued to play Squash with him I would end up waiting for 228 days by the time I’m 70!) I discovered powerlifting during my fourth attempt to try and “work out” at a gym. And thank god for that!

I would love to have a home gym. But I can’t! Someday I will, of course, but until then commercial gyms will have to bear the brunt of all that weight I’m pulling and pressing every day.

Be wise. Be smart. It’s your money!

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