Joining a gym is supposed to be hard work on your body, not your bank balance – as can often be the case.
Australians are expected to spend $6.6 billion on health and weight loss in 2013-14, according to the latest IBISWorld report. Some $860 million of that total figure will be forked out for gym memberships.
The good news for fitness buffs is that the large amount of cash flowing into gyms through membership fees, combined with increased competition for those dollars, means a better quality offering for consumers.
“The number of venues with state-of-the-art equipment, group fitness classes and a wide range of facilities – including pools, saunas and even salt rooms – continues to grow in response to increasing consumer demand,” Karen Dobie, IBISWorld General Manager (Australia), told The New Daily.
So before your willpower wanes, here’s how to get into the gym (and then the sauna) without emptying your wallet.
Treat ’em keen
Before you run out and sign up, check out all the competition in your area and don’t be afraid to play the gyms off against each other to get the best deal.
A major chain might be convenient, shiny and have all the extras, but you must ask yourself if you really need that for your work-out. A locally-owned or community gym will likely have all you need at a cheaper rate. It’s also worthwhile being honest about your budget when you’re asking about what the various gyms can offer you.
Pick a plan
It may look cheaper to sign up on a 12-month contract with direct debit, but don’t be afraid to pay a few extra dollars to go for a monthly option – at least at first. The 12 months won’t seem so cheap if you’ve given up by month three and are stuck paying a costly opt-out fee.
It’s also a good idea to read the fine print to make you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
“When taking out gym memberships look out for hidden fees, pushy sales tactics and confusing contracts,” Tom Godfrey, head of media at consumer group CHOICE, told The New Daily.
“Never take the salesperson’s word when it comes to offers and always take the gym contract home to read the terms and conditions before signing up. Don’t be afraid to walk away and say ‘I’ll think about it’.”
If you end up terminating your membership down the track, make sure that your gym stops deducting payments from your bank account if you’ve set up a direct debit arrangement.
Go the saver
Depending on what works for you, most gyms will offer different rates for less or more access. Major chains have a cheaper rate if you only use one of their outlets, so have a read through the contract and the options available and strip off any extras that you don’t need.
But wait – there’s more
When you sign up, your gym may try to overwhelm you with other discounts on personal training, classes, nutrition advice or novelty extras like boot camp. If you want to save money, don’t be sucked in by these offers.
Go for the sales
Why pay full price when you can wait for a sale? In gym terms, discount offers crop up about as often as you hope you’ll be on the treadmill – daily.
Major chains frequently offer special rates for people who have private health insurance or belong to automobile associations such as the RACV in Victoria, RAC in WA and RAA in SA, as well as corporate discounts for employees at certain major companies.
Some gyms also offer a relatively new discount of one or two months’ free membership when you donate to an affiliated charity upon joining.
Pick your time
There are two peak times a year when greater numbers of new members sign up for the gym. One is in January, when people – still fired up about their New Year resolutions – make plans to get fit. The other is during winter, when some regular exercisers are deterred from heading outside because of the cold.
If you sign up later in the year – say, perhaps, in spring or early summer – you’ll beat the New Year’s rush and, in doing so, boost the likelihood of securing a good deal.
It’s also wise to go at the end of the month, when sales staff are trying to meet their performance targets and may be more receptive to giving you a cheaper rate to get your signature on the bottom line. You should at least be able to waive the joining fee.
Recruit gym buddies
Don’t forget you can get benefits from persuading your pals to sign up. If you manage to rally a big enough group, you might even be able to negotiate a cheaper rate for a bulk sign-up.
Hold it a moment
Most gyms are actually more sympathetic than you realise. If you catch the flu, or you’re out of action for any other reason, it’s worth ringing up and asking if you can put your membership on hold for a week or so. You may be able to do the same when you’re going away for holidays, or if you’ve got a particularly busy period at work coming up.
Get out of gym free
If you’re moving to another area, cutting back on spending or coming to the conclusion that the gym isn’t for you after all, you have several options. Transfer My Membership is an online service that helps you sell your membership to someone in your area. Community notice-boards such as Gumtree are another option if you’re looking to opt out of your membership through passing it on to someone else.
And if you’re looking to sign up, it’s also worthwhile to have a look on these websites to see if you can score yourself a good deal.