Want to give someone -- or yourself -- the gift of fitness without spending a fortune? Score a major deal on a gym membership with these insider tricks from New York City exercise physiologist Kate Vidulich, ACSM. She spent 10 years working in gyms as a membership consultant and personal trainer. Here she shares how to get the goods for less.
Boost your trials. Many gyms will give you a free trial before you sign on the dotted line. But don't limit yourself to just one. Test out several gyms before you commit.
"Sign up for a few different 3-day, 7-day, or 14-day trial offers near work or home," Vidulich says. "You could even trade in a trial offer for a discounted first month."
Negotiate. "Don't be afraid to ask for a better deal," Vidulich says.
In the world of gym memberships, she says, everything's negotiable.
Ask recruiters to waive the initial fee. See if they'll match or beat a competitor's rates. If they don't slash your price, ask them to sweeten the deal by tossing in something for free, like personal training sessions or guest passes.
Join at the end of the month. "Membership consultants typically have quotas they're trying to meet," she says. They may need to sell a certain number of memberships every month. If the end of the month is approaching and they haven't met their goals, they may be more willing to make you a deal.
Pay for what you use. Ask the gym if you can pay less to use less. You may get a lower rate if you pass on extras you don't use, like the lap pool, sauna and steam room, or exercise classes. Some gyms cut their membership fee if you're willing to use facilities at off-peak hours only.
If you're a part-timer or you're hooked on one specific class, ask for a 10-visit pass and pay as you go, Vidulich says.
Watch for coupons. Some gyms post coupons or promo codes on Facebook or Twitter. You can also keep your eye on local daily-deal web sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Gilt. You'll pay a lot less and you'll likely get a short-term package, which can be a boon if you're not sold on one gym.
"You can get a five-pack or 10-pack to try different facilities in your area before making a decision," Vidulich says.
Use personal discounts. Many large companies offer discounts on gym memberships, she says. "Ask your human resources department if they have any affiliations with local clubs. If not, ask if they'd be willing to set one up."
You may also be eligible for a discount through your insurance provider, warehouse club, or automobile association.
Request a family rate. Many fitness facilities will cut a deal when a bunch of people join at the same time, Vidulich says. Ask the manager if she'll give you a special package rate if you sign up with a few family members or friends.
Get a referral. Some gyms reward members with a referral fee if they recruit a friend. Find out where your pals work out and do a trial run. If you like it, ask for a discount.
"Gyms are more willing to offer a better price if you know current members," Vidulich says. "Your friend will be handsomely rewarded, too."