Fitness is often associated with the high life. We might resent certain carefree, imaginary people — those named Mimi and Biff who find time for personal training, tennis and a steam as their Mercedes is being detailed. But the truth is that you can get fit without spending a small fortune on gym memberships or fitness equipment. Here are some ways to get professional-quality workouts at a reasonable price.

1) Save money on an exclusive gym membership

Exclusive gym memberships in New York, LA and other high-rent cities can cost more than $1200/year. Even if you’re paying half that amount, you can do better! Here’s how to save on a gym membership:

  • Play gyms against each other. Shop around for fitness club deals. When you find the best offer, contact the manager of your preferred club. Mention the competitor’s deal and ask if they’ll match it.
  • Find fitness deals online. Groupon, LivingSocial and other websites offer deep discounts and other perks for members. Similar sites publish coupon codes for anyone’s use. These deals are often exceptional: You can get bargains like 50% off a gym membership or two weeks of free club access. Be alert though. These promotions often have very short lifespans.
  • Network with friends and family. Most gyms offer incentives for people who refer new members. You might finagle a free membership extension by convincing your cousin or co-worker to join your gym. Or, working the other way around, you could get a new member discount by namedropping at your friend’s club. That’s the case at Bally Total Fitness.
  • Pay up front. If you can afford it, offer to pay for a full year up front if the club will give a meaningful discount. For example, you might be able to waive the sign-up fee. What is a sign-up fee anyway? You can be sure that the receptionist who records your personal data isn’t doing $150 worth of work! Give the gym one less thing to worry about (i.e., a payment default) and you should be rewarded. One place this definitely works is 24 Hour Fitness: Costco shoppers can essentially buy 24 Hour Fitness workouts in bulk and save about 66%.

2) Build a home gym

If you’re serious about keeping toned and fit, it might be time to create your own personal gym. A durable fitness machine will pay for itself by eliminating the cost of many annual gym memberships. To get a gym-quality workout though, don’t choose a cheap machine. Your body will know the difference! Here are some ways to save on a high-quality home gym:

  • Buy a multipurpose fitness machine. A home gym doesn’t need to be crowded. Just one cardio trainer plus free weights can be ideal. For example, the adjustable Bowflex Treadclimber is a two-in-one value: It offers the lower-body training of both a treadmill and an elliptical machine to stimulate more muscle fibers. Besides that, its incline supports up to 4X the calorie burn of traditional treadmills. Combine the Treadclimber with freeweights and you’ll get incredibly efficient full-body workouts. Or, forego freeweights entirely and get an elliptical trainer with upper-body resistance. Elliptical trainers might soon eclipse treadmills as the most popular home fitness machines.
  • Consider a reconditioned fitness machine. What happens to used commercial treadmills and elliptical trainers? They’re reconditioned and sold as like-new models. You can save thousands on truly gym-quality equipment.
  • Shop online. Once you’ve determined what fitness equipment you want, shop online. You should never pay the advertised MSRP for a treadmill or elliptical machine, and online retailers have less overhead. Shop at Amazon or wait for a sale directly from or another brand’s website. These sales are frequent.

3) Opt for a not-so-exclusive gym

Exclusive gyms’ high fees usually reflect costs for certain workout facilities and classes that you’ll never use. Choose a fitness center with fewer frills and you could save hundreds of dollars annually. Here are some possibilities:

  • Join your local community center. YMCAs, Jewish community centers and similar non-profit community organizations offer inexpensive fitness club memberships and typically have well-maintained facilities. Besides getting a lower price, you might get the bonus of a less pretentiousness environment.
  • Get an alumni pass if you attended college locally. You could get cheap or free access to your alma mater’s workout room, pool, track and more.
  • Use local hotel fitness rooms. Hotels tend to have high-quality fitness equipment that’s only lightly used. Many hotels let neighbors use the fitness facilities for a nominal daily or weekly fee.

A Recap of How to Save on Fitness

In sum, you have alternatives to paying high membership fees at a frou-frou gym. If you crave all the fancy amenities, then snag a discount. If you can mingle with the masses, join a community center. And finally, to save money in the long term, eschew membership fees altogether and establish your own personal gym. A home gym is always open and you’re always the VIP.

Alan Dunn

Written by Alan Dunn – one of our highly talented and underpaid writers. For more information on Alan follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

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