Body & Fitness: Excess baggage

Duke Nelson, above, opts for the more personal environment and one-on-one training he gets at Trainer Daddy Fitness Studio. Smaller facilities are trending as an alternative to big gym memberships. (Photo by Rich Lopez)

Admitting to yourself that you don’t use your gym membership is the first step to recovery — the next is figuring exactly what to do now that you’re over it

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer

Drat those New Year resolutions. Every year for the majority of the population, the first day of the new year is the day to start getting in shape. With the onslaught of gym membership advertisements offering steals of a deal, joining one is clearly the right thing to do. Hey, this writer did it.

The only thing is — weeks (and in some cases months) later, you can count the check-ins on one hand. In the meantime, you’re bank account is depleted on a monthly basis. Frustrated? Broke? Buyer’s remorse? Join the club. But there are some options on what to do with that membership.

Cancel your membership: Well, this is the obvious first step. Hopefully you’ve signed on to a monthly plan that will make this a whole lot easier. Just be strong.

“When you let a health club or fitness center continue to bill you for a membership that you no longer use you are throwing money away,” local trainer J.R. Brown says. “I believe they pick a price point that you won’t miss every month and hope that canceling is just too much work and some gyms make the cancellation process almost impossible.”

A recent call to 24 Hour Fitness to cancel a membership was, overall, easy. But they didn’t go down without a fight. Brown has definitely seen this first hand.

“We will offer you a coupon for an hour of personal training while you reconsider,” said Raymond (just Raymond) at 24 Hour’s membership services line. So if you change your mind, you get the coupon — not get the coupon to change your mind. It was baffling but felt, you know, wrong.

After that was declined, an offer of putting the membership on hold was next. A monthly expense of $38 was being charged, but for $7 a month, it would go on hold for six months. Since it was akin to paying for nothing, this wasn’t overly enticing.

Once Raymond had finished his attempts, he was quite amiable about the total cancellation. The customer service was good and compelling, but never aggressive or guilt inducing.

Sell that sucker: Bigger named gyms likely don’t allow this, but check with your smaller ones. Less corporate types just want to be sure they get paid. Head to Craigslist to post or even buy a membership.

Consider gym alternatives: Yes, it’s nice to think you’ll be going every day after work to the gym, but try to be realistic . Do you have commitment issues? Do crowds bug you?

Consider a training studio that offers training in a smaller gym environment rather than a place to go to with gym equipment.

“At least spend the money where it will do you some good,” Brown adds.

His studio, Trainer Daddy, offers working out in a different fashion and the trend is growing among newer mixed-use developments and their in-house gyms. Trainers work with residents and, of course, clients offering supervised training rather than leaving you to your own devices. Plus, if they are like Brown, there can be no monthly fee and you can skip the crowds.

“Some people prefer a more private environment and they only get charged for training,” he says.

Wait it out: This isn’t about sticking it to the gyms out there. Sometimes we don’t read the fine print and just have to stick with what we started with. This is the time to research what the gym offers that may interest you. Classes may have more appeal than working out without direction. Network with people you know to workout as a group or in pairs. And gyms like 24 Hour offer online fitness training available to members.

The website eHow.com covers the topic of how to motivate yourself in going to the gym. They suggest to “think of the gym as a place to relax, not to work… as a change of scenery from the office and the house, not something obligatory.”

Yeah, right.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright