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Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Sunday
Jan222012

the gym membership contract

A sad truth in the fitness industry is that from a purely monetary prospective, the best members are the ones who never show up. Places like 24 Hour Fitness really have this strategy nailed down: plan on the fact that you won't show up regularly (thereby lowering their operating costs), charge a low enough fee that you don't really complain when you see it every month in your statement, and rely on the psychological deterrent of "cancelling your gym membership". Because as long as you have a membership that means you can go, even if you don't. But if you cancel, which is a pain in the ass, it sends a clear message that you in fact have thrown in the towel. 

Once you're a paying member they have you, with psychology and probably by a contract termination penalty, by the proverbial balls. The only missing link is ensuring that they close the deal once they have you in their clutches, and most gyms have the gym membership "closer" guy. I've seen personal trainers do it as well, essentially guilt tripping you into paying more money.

Why This Pisses Me Off So Much

Fighting back the sedentary life of a non-physical culture is hard. Walking into a gym that you don't feel comfortable in, probably in a body you don't feel comfortable in, and perhaps dealing with meathead assholes or at least people in far better shape than you, is not comfortable. At all. It is down right intimidating, scary, and unwelcoming. 

Anyone out of shape who can walk into a barbell room and learn how to squat properly, especially by themselves, deserves a golden trophy encrusted in diamonds. If that person is deconditioned, alone, and the gym is crowded, the trophy should also have little rocket boosters on the bottom so it can follow them around.

The membership guy isn't the devil, of course. He's some guy who needs to make money and it's his job to sign you up, and he's probably primarily on commission anyway. Certainly his performance is judged by the amount of people he or she is getting onboard. However, and there are books written about this very topic, the membership dude and his boss are both wrong.

Just Say No To Stupid Gyms

Stupid: earings, makeup, bracelets, and especially GLOVES.To provide a working example, I was checking around town for some Judo options. I've always wanted to learn martial arts. I found two options, so let's compare them. They are literally across the street from each other. 

We'll start with Victory MMA, which honestly has great reviews. It doesn't talk about membership fees, contracts, or anything of the sort. Head over to Yelp!, and sure enough it's $90 a month with a $100 initiation fee. You can be guaranteed that they have a "membership closer" guy or girl who will be putting the pressure on you.

Now let's look at San Diego Judo, which amongst other things clearly has their fees listed in entirety. They are a 501(c)3 non profit with $60 a month in fees, and they encourage you to show up and watch or participate in a class anytime you like to see if it's a good match. 

This is a small example and your town size, desired fitness focus, and travel distance all need to come into play. My current gym is a bit of a joke, but I'm grandfathered in by the old no-contract membership plan of the previous owners, and it's extremely convenient for me. Additionally, because the old management knew what they were doing it's stocked decently well with relevant equipment, and the masses are reading magazines up on the "cardio deck".

Give your money to a gym that puts fitness first, and relies on happy customers who are achieving their goals. The pressure sales tactics so commonly used in the fitness industry are, quite frankly, shameful. I have people who want to workout with me because they know I care about fitness and take it (and their's) seriously. Look around for it. It probably won't come in a glossy membership pamphlet and the gym might not have a lot of fancy gear, but I can promise you that a glossy brochure and an elliptical machine have zero bearing on you achieving your fitness goals. 

Reader Comments (2)

Well said, Eric! I've just joined a cheaper gym that is only about 10 bucks a month and it is so worth it. I used to pay 75 bucks a month for all the gloss and glitter! Yuck.

Mike Regans,
Motobatt Batteries

January 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Regans

I will admit I do have a gym membership, but with our schedules (working 40-50 hrs a week) and working on the boat, having a gym 4 blocks away is awesome($65/month with no contract)!

However, you seem to get a better workout when you are doing "activities" rather than the machines at the gym, like running, jumping rope, biking, and like you said martial arts. If I had more hours during daylight consistently i'd forego the gym.

When we move onto a boat the gym will be gone, and we'll have to find other life activities to keep us in shape.
Dani

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDani

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