The success of these gyms is built on this phenomenon.
There are many people who join gyms, perhaps with good intentions at first, or maybe they already know they are paying a premium for the convenience of having a gym they can go to when they want knowing they may not fully justify the monthly fee – but just how far from justifying the monthly fee, do we realise? It gets paid by direct debit so it’s easily forgotten about.
Fitness First, Bannatynes, Virgin, Reebok, Golds, David Lloyd … there are many successful chains of private gyms so they are all doing quite well out of us.
Or maybe you do get your money’s worth or are not a member of a private gym – in either case then this article’s not for you.
The fact is though; there are many many people out there who this does apply to and my family were a classic example…
My Family Example
In our case, we used to go mainly for the kids – we’d go swimming, let them play in the small outdoor play area and often have a bite to eat and perhaps a couple of over-priced drinks in the cafe.
We could easily afford it but it really wasn’t worth the money. We did (my wife and myself) do the odd class as well – circuits, boxacise, well that’s about it actually, I was going to mention 3 or 4 classes but thinking about it circuits and boxacise is all I can come up with. I think in total I went to about 3 circuits classes and I don’t know how many boxacise classes my wife went to.
We were members of the gym for about 6 years (!!) and after the induction I think I only twice ever used the gym (yes, it was around about new years time, the same as everyone else). We only ever really used the swimming pool – and even that was just to watch our two young children swimming as they were too young to leave alone. Oh and I did use the sauna a little bit.
I’m sure we weren’t alone – in fact I know we weren’t – this particular gym had lots of families who would go there with their kids and just hang out in the cafe. A very expensive hang-out. We paid about £175 per month for the whole family – something like £72 pounds each for myself and my wife and £15 each for the kids.
For the occasional swim.
The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back
Then something happened that made me wake up and smell the coffee.
Even though at the time I had a very well paid job and the money wasn’t really an issue, I still didn’t particularly like wasting money which I was starting to believe that this gym membership was doing. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my mountain bike was stolen from the gym’s secure, guarded, CCTV covered bike racks and they refused to compensate me.
I bought a brand new bike after proudly riding around on a rusty second hand thing I’d ressurected myself from an abandoned bike – I felt I deserved a new bike. Anyway, I bought a half decent ‘Ridgeback’ hybrid bike for about £350. On the day I bought it I rode it to the gym with my son on his little ‘Specialized’ bike. We passed the security guard who watches over the car park and bike rack, locked them up in the bike rack directly opposite the CCTV camera looking at them and went into the gym. 10 minutes later the gym manager came running after me informing me that she thought my bike was being stolen. We ran out to glimpse 2 men in the distance with what looked like my bike.
I went after the thieves in my car but didn’t catch them. Despite the security guard, the CCTV. people seeing the bike being taken, the bike being locked in a supposedly secure cycle rack, I was pointed to a sign that said ‘vehicles left at owners risk’ and told the police had been informed but beyond that the gym couldn’t do anything for me. They wouldn’t even give me the CCTV footage as the faces couldn’t be made out, the cameras were only really intended as a deterrent. I asked if the bike could be covered on the gym’s insurance – no. I told the gym I’d been a good customer for many years and if they were happy to negotiate a couple of months free membership it would make up for this unfortunate incident as that would cover the cost of the bike (i.e. 2x what I had been paying them every month for years £175 = £350, the cost of the bike!). I thought this seemed like a very fair and easy way for them to compensate me for this unfortunate event which happened on their premises, under the eyes of their CCTV, their security guard etc.
They offered me a couple of day passes (worth £10 each) as a compensation/good will gesture but nothing more.
I told them politely that they could therefore keep their membership / offer our places to someone else. The same day I made this deal with my family:
“We can now do anything we like every month leisure-wise, with total freedom and we will just pay-as-we-go. I bet that we won’t spend an average of anything even close to £175 per month.”
I was right.
We started rock climbing for example and really enjoyed that – quite expensive on it’s own at around £18 for the family each time, but still nowhere near how much we were paying to be members of the gym. We ended up doing much more and paying a lot less. And I bought the exact same bike again the next day (much to the amusement of the shop I’d bought it from).
Slight aside: To replace the gym which I never used I also actually built my own at home but that is a different story & not the subject of this article – I’ll write another brief article about this later as I want to tell you about some of the pros and cons of that and what to consider (flooring, equipment etc). This resulted in me doing exercise every single day – just because of the convenience.
So if you’re a member of a gym and you don’t really use it – consider leaving and trying to spend as much just doing what you like when you like (especially if you were paying for a whole family like I was) – you probably won’t spend as much.
Questions & Actions
- Are you a gym member?
- Write down how often you use the gym on average each month.
- Now write down how much you would pay for these activities if you did them on a pay-as-you-go basis
- Which is cheaper – the gym subscription or the pay-as-you-go model?
- What equipment do you use at the gym?
- Would you do more exercise/find it easier if you had some gym equipment at home? (more on this to follow including all pros and cons in a future article)
- Do you own a bike? Do you use it?
- Do you use a running machine at the gym? Is there a park near your house where running (for free) in the open air would be better?