A monthly charge of $10 to $30 seems like a small price to pay for getting in shape — and it can be, if you stick to the treadmill, visit your club regularly and avoid getting hurt.
Still, there are reasons why gyms can offer memberships at such a low cost: They generally find ways to supplement that base income. Here are five ways your gym may be getting you to spend more money.
1. Ice-Cold Water
It’s common for people to bring few things with them into the gym, particularly at peak hours when space is tight. They tend to limit themselves to the essentials: keys, wallet and phone. Your gym understands you’re training light, which is why they have a cooler conveniently stocked with bottles of water and other assorted beverages, usually sold at a high markup.
Forking over $3 for a bottle of water post-workout might seem like a solid investment at the time, but if you work out five days a week and consume one bottle of water per day, add $60 dollars to the cost of your monthly membership — and that’s assuming that water is the only thing you buy.
2. Maintenance Fees
Did you read your membership contract before you signed it? Of course you didn’t. I mean, what could possibly be in there that’s worth squinting through all that fine print? Plenty, it turns out. Your gym may advertise that it costs only $20 a month, but your contract likely obligates you to pay an unavoidable, yearly maintenance fee. Where I live, that fee is usually around $50.
If you decide to cancel your membership after your contract is up, be sure to do so before that yearly maintenance fee comes due again, or else you’ll wind up eating those dollars as well.
3. A Juice Bar
Your gym likely makes big business by perpetuating the idea that you absolutely need some arbitrary assortment of nutrients, in an equally arbitrary number of grams, or you will squander your workout.
Most gyms are also adept at making you believe the liter of liquid candy you just consumed is somehow good for you. Because if it didn’t taste good, you wouldn’t drink it. And because it does taste good, you drink it habitually at a cost of about $5. Do that three times a week, and you can add $60 to the monthly cost of your membership. (Keeping track of your finances? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
4.Your Absence as Indirect Income
Gyms are banking on a certain percentage of members to stop showing up — and since most facilities require yearly contracts or offer their lowest price for signing one, anyone who gives up on their new fitness regime after two months has signed up for a big waste of money.
5. Personal Training Sessions
As a certified personal trainer, I feel qualified, and ethically obligated, to tell you I belong to a group of underpaid professionals who collectively only have half an idea of what they are doing. With that said, your gym will do the best they can to sell you a training session with one of these people at, once again, a completely arbitrary price. In my area, that price can be $60 to well over $100 per session.
These sessions appeal mostly to those for whom the prospect of getting into shape is both daunting and confusing. The sessions could prove worthwhile, but they’re also going to cost you. Here are a few ways to cut down the price.