5 Ways Gyms Trick You Into Spending More Money

There are reasons why gyms can offer memberships at such a low cost: They generally find ways to supplement that base income.

$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.

Image: Tempura

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5 Things You Need for a Successful Home Fitness Routine

Here's everything you need to get in shape at home.

Have you been skipping the gym too many times? Enough with the excuses. Just because you can’t get out (or don’t want to join a gym), doesn’t mean you can’t stay fit. Here’s everything you need to work out at home successfully without going into debt.

1. The Right Surface

If you have a spare area in your home to call your own, create a cushioned surface with Soft Tiles, which are interlocking 5/8-inch thick mats made of a non-toxic ethylene-vinyl acetate foam ($120 at SoftTiles.com for a nine-piece set covering a 6 1/2-foot by 6 1/2-foot space). These waterproof tiles are available in a ton of colors and have attachable beveled edges to create a smooth transition from the floor, so no tripping. Keep it simple with a color or two or use the Soft Tiles “mat builder” feature to create your own design.

If your workout space needs to be convertible, a yoga mat is a good way to go. There are different thicknesses, colors and patterns available, so check out a yoga lifestyle site like Gaiam.com for lots of high quality options.

2. The Right Apparel

You might think you’re just working out at home, so why wear anything special? Think again.

“Gearing up in clothing that’s designed for you to work out is one of the most powerful reminders to get into your fitness practice,” said Tara Mackey, health expert, author of “Cured By Nature” and founder of The Organic Life blog. “When I was first starting to change my exercise habits, I simply left my workout clothes and running shoes out by my bed the night before. This becomes an automatic reminder to make fitness a priority — first thing in the morning.”

I recommend ultra comfortable clothes you can also see yourself wearing for a run or at the gym. For women, a supportive workout bra is a must. The Tasc Performance TTFN (Ta Ta For Now) Studio Sports Bra ($44 at TascPerformance.com) is a mid-impact sports bra with supportive straps and a wide bottom band. It has crisscross straps in the back and side cutouts, so it’s cute under a loose tee if you make it to the gym or have to run out for an errand.

My new favorite leggings are the Luna Leggings from Liquido ($84 at LiquidoActive.com), which are said to help with microcirculation, firmness and reduce the appearance of cellulite. All I know is they are comfy and flattering. They are great to work out in, but are equally as comfortable for all-day wear.

For men, the Shēdo Lane Men’s Short Sleeve Sun Shirt ($28 at ShedoLane.com) is one of the softest tees you’ll own. The fabric has stretch and movement and, if you decide to go for a run, the shirt has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 50+. The Hylete verge II flex-woven zip pocket shorts ($80 at Hylete.com) feel virtually weightless but are durable and have features like a zippered pocket and a two-way drawstring allowing you lace the shorts inside or outside, depending on your preference.

3. The Right Tools

No matter what kind of workouts you prefer, it’s wise to stock up on a few essentials should you decide to branch out. A good place to start is with an all-in-one kit like the FitKit — Total Fitness in a Kit ($39.99). This kit contains essentials like resistance bands, a door anchor and a jump rope. It’s also weighs only 2 pounds so it’s good for travel. It includes fitness cards to help get you started and you’ll have access to a library of more than 250 exercises. For more workout options, check out YouTube, where you’ll find hundreds — if not thousands — of free fitness videos of any style, length or discipline you can imagine.

Mackey suggests weights as well. “Even if you have to use soup cans (which is what I did before I could afford a set of weights), make sure you are lifting at least a little bit every day,” she said. “Today, the investment is minimal; you can find five-pound weights for less than $20 on Amazon.” I also like to have a couple of kettle bells and an exercise ball on hand.

4. A Good Recovery Rub

Even if you’re working out at home, you can go overboard. For days when you are experiencing soreness, keep a muscle rub, like the Procure Epsom Salt Rub ($5.97 at Walmart) on hand. This lightweight gel is a blend of of Epsom salt and aloe vera to sooth sore muscles. And it’s fragrance-free so you won’t smell like a walking bottle of menthol.

5. An Alternative Exercise Option

And for those days when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, place a Posture Cushion ($37.99 at BackPainHelp.com) on the chair at your desk. Not only is it helpful for back pain and is comfortable to sit on, it functions like a fitness ball. Its unstable surface forces your body to sit actively to stay balanced, which, in turn, strengthens your core. If you’ve invested in a fitness ball, you can replace your desk chair with it for the same effect.

As you begin your new workout regimen you’ll want to meet with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to do the workouts you’re planning. Likewise, you’ll want to check your financial health before buying a bunch of equipment. You don’t want to gain physical fitness at the cost of fiscal fitness. You can start by checking your credit scores absolutely free on Credit.com.

Image: Mikolette

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