After overindulging in stuffing, turkey and holiday cookies for the last month, it's time to step on the scale and assess the damage. When the clock hits midnight on New Year's Eve, it marks the promise of new beginnings, resolutions and, for many, a strict weight loss plan. Before forking over the cash to step on the treadmill at any old gym, read WalletPop's tips on how to find the best gym deals to jump start a new year:
Sample Before Signing Up
Before signing on for a full year of membership, test out the gym. Most companies offer free trials to potential customers. Bally Total Fitness, Gold's Gym, LA Fitness and Lifetime Fitness all offer seven-day guest passes. A week allows enough time to test out the club and classes before committing. "Try before you buy," said Dave Reiseman, Vice President of Communications at Gold's Gym International. "This allows you to make sure the amenities, classes and atmosphere are right for you."
For those who travel often, think about signing up for a gym located in most major cities. LA Fitness, for example, offers users certain membership levels, one of which provides access to clubs all over the country. Choosing a gym close to home also helps ensure plenty of use. Regular attendance helps get the best bang for your buck. Joe Burch, personal trainer at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, said that attending the gym regularly not only helps members get the best value, but also helps them see the best physical results. "The first goal I start my clients out with is simply get to the gym five days the first week," said Burch.
Pay for an Entire Year
Reiseman recommends asking if the gym offers a discount for those who pay for an entire year up front. This helps both the fitness center and the customer avoid inconvenient, monthly bills. Plus, it may help save some cash on enrollment or membership fees.
Hunt for Corporate Discounts
Before choosing a facility, ask your employer if your company gets a discount at any particular gym. If not, ask about setting up a corporate account. "Most gyms have a 'corporate wellness' program, which could mean big savings on your enrollment fee and your dues," said Reiseman.
Refer a Friend
Many gyms encourage a buddy system where referring a friend means rewards for members. At select Gold's Gyms, such as the one in Staunton, Va., members receive a free month for each friend that they refer (up to four months) through December. At some Anytime Fitness clubs, like the Champlin, Minn., location, users get an additional month added to their contract when a referred friend joins.
Bring the Family
Many gyms offer lower fees to add family members onto existing contracts. Through the end of December, most 24 Hour Fitness locations, excluding those in Maryland, New Jersey and New York, are offering a discount. Current clients may add a family member for $25 per month and no enrollment fee.
Explore Different Forms of Fitness
Traditional health clubs aren't for everyone. Sometimes it pays to look into different types of facilities. Corepower Yoga has locations around the country and gets customers in shape, as well as providing stress relief and improved flexibility. Right now, new students can try a free week of yoga. Corepower Yoga offers unlimited months or class packages so members can decide which is the most financially beneficial.
Check Your Health Insurance
Some health insurance plans provide gym discounts as a way to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Health Partners, for example, offers a $20 discount each month at nine different gyms. Blue Cross of Idaho offers members a monthly price cut at Gold's Gym. Not all health care providers give gym deals, but it's worth looking into.
Ask for Flexibility With Enrollment Fees
Most facilities charge an enrollment fee along with monthly dues. Reiseman suggests looking for flexibility here by simply asking a worker at the health club. "Many gyms may be willing to negotiate and give you a significant discount on the enrollment fee," said Reiseman.
The best way to ensure a good bargain is to select an intriguing gym. The worst fitness center bargains are the ones that you stop attending after the novelty of the new year wears off. Picking based on individual interest will make it easier to attend on a regular basis. Connor LaVallie, a personal trainer and consultant for American Council on Exercise, sees a large decrease in gym popularity from January to February, but encourages fitness newbies to stick with it. "If you start with your body, take it seriously and make it a priority, it'll trickle down to other areas of your life," said LaVallie. "A strong body means a strong mind and enhances every other aspect of your life."
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