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Paying for a gym membership is stupid. It's just dumb, dumb, dumb. Chances are you haven't given it much thought how much paying for a membership affects you financially, on top of how much time you're throwing away every time you go. Sure it's cool to go to the gym and see all the amenities you're paying for, but you use a fraction of what's available at the gym. You go there for like an hour to an hour and a half at best. When you really look at what you did, half of your time spent was resting or walking around.
Okay yea, it might be fun to be around other people. The social aspect of going to the gym with other people around is appealing and might even be motivating for you. But that's what you have friends for! Socialize with them instead and just focus on your workout without giving a thought about being a social butterfly during your workout. It's a waste of time and can end up being costly.
If you start working out at home, you'll save a hell of a lot of time between the drive there and back. That's also not considering getting settled and putting your stuff away and finally entering the gym. In some cases you might even be done with your workout at home in the total time it takes you to commute to and from the gym.
This really hit home for me when I had to start adulting and pay for my gym membership after a few years out of college. A Life Time gym opened 15 minutes from my home. Since it was like heaven, I wanted to join when my parents asked if I was interested. Obviously, I'm gonna say yes if they're willing to pay for it when I'm in high school, so what do I care? But little did I realize, I was wasting my parents' money.
Gyms like Life Time and Planet Fitness are notorious for preying on people who want to feel good about themselves. They make an insane amount of money off these types of people.
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Gyms are set up to make you keep paying
A podcast episode of NPR's Planet Money explains the specific ways low-cost gyms make tons of money charging as low as $10/month. Gyms like Planet Fitness' ideal person for their establishments bank on you not going to the gym. They attract those who don't go to the gym, to keep the costs low for those of us who actually do make it to the gym. Not only that, if everyone went, the gyms wouldn't be able to hold even half the total amount.
An example the episode talked about was a gym that had around 6,000 members but could only safely fit 300 people at a time. If everyone went at the same time, not only would the gym not be able to accommodate everyone, it would have to drastically increase the prices of the membership. If you belong to a Planet Fitness or a similar gym, take notice next time how the gym is actually set up. It's designed to make beginners and those out of shape not feel intimidated and be at ease when they walk in.
Gyms have mirrors everywhere and loud music, and even classes and massage chairs to make it seem like a communal event when you show up. Far away from the entrance is where the people who are serious about staying in shape with the heavy weights and disciplined routines can be found. You don't want those types of people in the front of the gym intimidating the newbies.
Let's take the Life Time gyms. They are all literally identically. To the exact tiles on the floor, the gyms are the same. And surprise, surprise, where is the actual gym? On the second floor! You don't even see the gym when you enter. Literally, the first thing facing you when you walk in is this:
On the right side, there's a place to get your haircut, and in the back on the same side is where you can get a massage. This is what the massage rooms look like:
The waiting room:
The actual massage room:
Here's the Life Cafe directly across from the massage and haircut area:
Oh and don't forget the outdoor pool area where you can take your kids!
This place is a resort. It's ridiculous there's no need. Imagine paying $480/month for your significant other and two kids. That's $5,760 a year. If you saved and invested that every year for 18 years at a 7% performance rate in an S&P 500 index fund you would have $229,011.25. That's literally a full tuition's worth of college.
That gym is a resort, not a gym. There's no need to throw down that kind of money for something you could do at home essentially for free.
Oh yea and also when you walk upstairs to the actual workout area, the first thing you see are treadmills, ellipticals, stair masters and a dance room where you can sign up for classes with your friends like Zumba or whatever else is going on. Sometimes I would see a training class for the treadmills. Literally, any way to make a safe communal effort for those out of shape were the first things you saw. Then way down in the far left corner are the free weights. It's too funny.
I had to start paying for my membership
Then one day, the worst thing ever happened to me. I had to start paying for my gym membership! I canceled it after a month. When I had to actually take responsibility for a monthly bill, that was when it hit me how insane it was to keep paying for this. I was going to have to end up paying $120/month. That's $1,440 a year!
When I thought about it, all I did was literally go to the locker room, put my backpack in the locker, go on the treadmill, use the stretching area and then use their showers. Every so often I'd go to the free weights area, but I felt like an idiot because I had no idea what I was doing around all these other people who clearly eat, sleep and drink protein shakes. So I'd stick with my reliable treadmill.
On top of that, since I started working, I was only driving to the gym about twice a week, usually just on the weekends. To go only twice a week and pay that much, let alone paying for 7 days a week is just plain stupid. I am literally that person in the podcast episode.
Benefits of working out at home
There are plenty of benefits to working out at home. First and foremost is definitely the time you save commuting to and from the gym. For me, I was saving over 30 minutes by deciding to workout at home. It took 15 minutes to drive there, and another 15 to drive back. On top of that, I had to put my stuff in the locker room and then make my way upstairs. That's over 52 hours saved a year taking that out of my workout routine. How crazy is that?
Since I was only running at the time, I literally completed my workout with time to spare at home.
Now that I moved out and wanted to gain some muscle strength, I bought the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells. It's literally the best investment I ever made in myself health wise. Aside from trying to cut back on the beers. They cost $300, so I broke even after less than 3 months when compared to my gym membership fees. Not only that, I was actually using them every time I worked out, which was 4 times a week when I was living at my parent's place. And I'd also run on my off days.
My workout's changed now that I only workout with them twice a week, but I've literally never been in better shape. I do a full body workout called the Spartacus workout. It sounds so douchey, but it sure as hell gets the job done. It's a high-intensity interval workout. It ramps up your metabolism and kicks your ass. It took me two months to finally not be gasping for air feeling like I was gonna throw up at the end of it.
The best part about it is it's only a 40-minute workout.
Okay, got sidetracked there for a sec. Another benefit is you don't have to worry about looking like a fool in front of those protein munching meatheads when you're first starting out. It took me a while to get used to having the right posture, slowing down and making sure I was using the right sized weights.
Sometimes I would put too much on or even too little because I was guessing. When I did that at the gym, I would get too self-conscious because to me it was so obvious I had no idea what I was doing. I was going back and forth trying to find the right amount of weight.
Another bonus is you get to save all the money you would otherwise be spending on the gym membership. I invested that extra $1,400 and still continue to since I don't go to the gym anymore. If I keep this up and invest the same amount every year in an S&P 500 index fund, with a rate of 7% I could turn that into $307,598 after 40 years. Not only that, I'd be in better shape too!
Do you use everything at the gym anyway?
Think about all the equipment you actually use when you go to the gym. Do you use all of it when you go? Of course not, you'd be there all day if you did. For me, at Life Time it's ridiculous. They have all these amenities to woo and impress you. They have a rock climbing wall (which I never used once), basketball leagues (I played in two games out of a total of 5 years belonging there), they have a sauna, workout classes to sign up for, over a hundred workout devices and all I used was the treadmill, locker room and shower and called it a day.
There was no point in keeping my membership just because it had really cool stuff. I used less than 1% and was paying for 100%.
Oh, and on top of that, everything on the bottom floor you first see when you walk in, you have to pay for. The haircuts, the massages, the food, everything. The massages were $100!
Here are some optional workouts you can do as an alternative to going to the gym
- Walking/running outside
- Weightlifting with Bowflex dumbbells
- P90X DVDs ($139.80 on Amazon. Only $20 more than one month at Life Time)
- Spartacus workout video on YouTube; the ringing bell can be annoying, but you get used to it
So I hope you've at least given some thought and consideration if you really do need to go to a gym to get a workout in. In reality, you hardly need any space to get a great workout in. I used a little patch of floor in our apartment with a yoga mat to do my Spartacus workout and abs. You really don't need a lot of space, just the discipline to actually do it.
I see so many of my friends at work paying for gym memberships. They'll always end up asking what gym I go to and when I tell them I use my own weights at home they just look at me like oh yea, that makes sense. So I ask them why they don't and they literally don't have an answer. I'll get either an I don't know or a but I hardly pay anything so it doesn't matter. But when I tell them I paid only $300 and actually use them every time and save myself the time commuting to the gym, I'll get either a yea whatever or you're right I should actually do that. But then they never do. Don't waste your money. Stop going to the gym and workout from home.
What's your opinion on this?
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