Subscribe

Gyms will try to hook you in January. Don't fall for it.

Joining a gym in January means you may encounter high-pressure tactics. This is the busy season for gyms, and fitness companies are eager to take your money during the post-holiday 'gold rush.'

  • close
    Gina Vita, a personal trainer, works with Rob Struzziero on the exercise floor at South Shore Athletic Club in Cohasset, Mass. in 2013
    Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Year after year, one of the most common New Year's resolutions is to lose weight. Hitting the gym is a great way to keep active during the cold months of the year, but joining a gym in January means you may encounter high-pressure tactics. This is the busy season for gyms, and fitness companies are eager to take your money during the post-holiday "gold rush."

Gyms will use lots of strategies to try and get your business, and then keep you as a member for as long as possible. If you want to avoid overpaying for a gym membership, be aware of these five sneaky tactics — and have a game plan for fighting back.

Free Food/Fancy Food

It's easy to be lured by a gym that offers free food, or a well-stocked snack bar. Many gyms offer a monthly pizza night or bagel buffet. When it comes to free food, chances are the foods in question are high-carb, and likely to set you back on your diet. By eating unhealthy food, you're just going to have to work twice as hard to lose the weight … and that means the gym gets your membership dues for another month.

Other gyms offer high-end smoothie bars or other on-trend snacks. These snacks might be healthier than pizza, but they'll still have a big impact on your wallet. All those $8 kale protein smoothies really start to add up over time.

Our "Don't Fall for It" Tip: Don't go to a gym that offers food. If you must, have a healthy snackbefore you start exercising, and bring a healthy snack from home for immediately after your workout. This is not only better for your post-workout recovery, but also better for your wallet and waistline.

Lengthy, Complicated Contracts

Gym contracts can be pages long, and composed almost entirely of fine print. If you don't read them carefully, you could be squandering your money. Some gyms require at least a yearlong contract. If you want to cancel, you may have to pay an early termination fee. In some cases, you can't cancel, which becomes a problem when you move to another state, or if the gym itself gets sold to another company.

Our "Don't Fall for It" Tip: Only sign up for gyms with month-to-month contracts. This gives you a lot more flexibility, and can keep you from getting slammed with the kind of lump sum payment that might arise if you chose a gym with yearly automatic membership renewal.

Promising Big Improvements

Another tactic gyms use to earn your money is by talking about planned future improvements. A gym employee might try to win your business by promising access to planned features like a new sauna, state-of-the-art machinery, or more exercise studio spaces. You might buy a one-year membership based on the gym's promise to have a new yoga studio, heated pool, and a new bay of elliptical trainers installed by mid-March. But if those improvements are delayed, or canceled altogether, you'll feel like a sucker.

Our "Don't Fall for It" Tip: Only sign a contract with a gym you like just the way it is. You can also try to get a clause added to your contract that stipulates you'll get a refund or the option to terminate early, in the event that the gym's renovations fall behind schedule. Of course, most gyms are reluctant to change their boilerplate contracts.

One tactic you could try is negotiating a reduction in costs, asking the gym to waive any introductory fees or startup costs associated with your new membership. Argue that you're not willing to pay full price for a membership to a gym that doesn't meet all of your requirements … yet.

Multi-Club Access

Multi-club access sounds like a great deal, especially for those who travel frequently for business. You get access to your "home" gym, plus access to other gyms in the same network. However, depending on your membership level, you may not get full access to every single gym location in the chain. And you may have to pay through the nose to get a true "all-access" pass.

Our "Don't Fall for It" Tip: Read the fine print, and make sure that you're paying for multi-club access that you can actually use. If multi-club access is available at locations that are convenient for you, confirm that it's also affordable.

Rewards for Referring a Friend

Many gyms offer a "refer a friend" program. If a friend you refer signs up for a yearlong membership, you often get a free month. This isn't actually the worst deal, but chances are you don't have an unlimited supply of friends you can leverage for untold free months at your local gym.

Our "Don't Fall for It" Tip: If you need to save money out of pocket, try leveraging your student ID, workplace affiliation, or even health insurance provider to get a discount. Some gyms provide cheaper membership options for students, or for people who work at certain companies. And some health insurance companies offer gym reimbursement for any health and fitness facility membership. Simply collect receipts for enrollment or monthly payments until they total at least your maximum allowance, then send them to your provider.

This article first appeared in DealNews.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK