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 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

Target: What do you think?

In today’s Dallas Voice, I wrote an article about the unofficial Target boycott.

I’m not boycotting, but I haven’t been shopping there either, at least until something is resolved.

Yes, the president of the company apologized, but no, he didn’t do anything to show his remorse. The fact that he just hired right-wing Sen. John Thune’s former chief of staff said to me that the donation and sudden sharp turn to the right was intentional.

While researching the story, I stopped by Target in Oak Lawn. In the article I wrote:

Employees at Target at Cityplace refused to say whether or not their business has been affected but told this reporter to leave the store.

Here’s what happened: I approached an employee who did not have any customers nearby. I identified myself as a reporter and said I was working on a story about the boycott of Target. I asked if she’d noticed any difference.

“You need to get out of here now,” she said.

I thanked her and told her she would appear in the paper. And regardless of whether the boycott ends with a happy resolution, I probably won’t be going back to Target anytime soon.

The incident was really no big deal, but it seemed to indicate how on edge everyone at Target is about the issue.

David Ethridge, a gay Dallas man who’s been going after Target, had a lot more to say than what I included in the story.

“I’ve heard several people attempt to defend Target by pointing out its past benevolence to our community,” Ethridge said.

“Here’s the thing: I may help you move or give you a ride to the airport, but if I’m poisoning your tea behind your back, then I’m not your friend. What Target did was short-sighted and indefensible. Its leadership should act like adults, apologize, and make it right, so we can all go back about our business.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have pledged to take their fair-minded money elsewhere, but it’s too early to know what impact that will have long-term. The biggest advantage that Target had over competitors Like Wal-Mart and Kmart was image. The company’s image has been very carefully cultivated with millions of dollars in slick ads and designer collaborations over the years to appeal to a more style-conscious and progressive value shopper. The long-term detriment to the company may lie in the damage to that image.

“Effective social media is crucial to retailers in today’s economy. Target’s Facebook and Twitter pages have been a complete wreck for weeks, with customers screaming back-and-forth at each other. The company’s consumer reviews on sites like Google Maps have taken a dive as well.

“Back-to-school is Target’s second-busiest season. But instead of promoting those products, or their new collections from Shaun White and ‘Punky Brewster,’ they’ve been forced to constantly defend their political contributions. They have to ask themselves if this is all really worth some imagined benefit on a future tax form.”

So what do you think? Are you boycotting? Waiting and seeing? Can’t afford to shop elsewhere since Target generally has the lowest overall prices? Don’t have patience to run all over town to other stores? Or is Target not that convenient to you anyway? And what about Best Buy? We don’t shop there as often, but the LGBT community tends to be loyal Best Buy customers.

NOTE: I just got an e-mail from Paul Schmelzer, editor of the Minnesota Independent. I like to give credit when we know who to credit and Paul broke the story about Tom Emmer and his connection with Bradlee Dean and the Christian band You Can Run But You Cannot Hide. Dean’s the one mentioned in the print article that thinks Muslims have it right with putting gays to death.

—  David Taffet