Saving Money At The Gym

A lot of students want to look great and feel confident about their physical appearance as they stroll around campus.  This often leads them to the conclusion that they need to find a gym in order to keep themselves slim and trim.  Over the years I have noticed a disturbing fitness-related trend amongst people of all ages and students are not immune.  This trend has basically seen the fitness industry manage to commercialize basic workout practices so successfully, that now many people feel that they have to spend hundreds of dollars to truly commit to living a healthier lifestyle.  It is interesting that decades ago, before all the fancy machines, diets, workout magazines, personal trainers, and chemical supplements, people were still relatively physically fit – in fact, they were much fitter than we are today!  All while saving money! So what do you really need when it comes to getting in shape, and where can you cut financial corners without feeling guilty?

Saving Money? There’s An App For That…

Saving Money At The Gym
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The first thing I cannot understand when I look at the gym scene is why so many people need personal trainers?  We live in an age where you can get 1001 tips in the blink of the eye with a quick Google search for the exact muscle group, or body part you want to affect.  There are dozens of magazines out there, and plenty of people at the gym you can learn from just by asking for some free advice (most people are more than happy to show off their knowledge).  If you believe you are a complete neophyte when it comes to the gym and feel an intense desire to hire a personal trainer, you should pretty much know the majority of what they are offering by the end of the first dozen workouts.  Make sure they teach you the proper form and how to use the various pieces of equipment your gym offers, and after that, what do you really need them for?  Many people believe they need the trainer for motivation.  I say, just get out the old Rocky series, pump a little “Eye of the Tiger” on your Ipod, and get after it already.

But I’ll Look Just Like The Guy On The Label!

By far the next biggest waste of money I see happening all around me is the constant use of supplements.  Us Y chromosome types seem especially susceptible to these marketing tactics.  If you are a competitive bodybuilder, or an Olympic-level athlete, by all means, strive for that 100th of a second difference that most supplements will give you.  For the rest of us, do you really need 3 shakes a day?  I know whey protein isn’t that expensive, but I have heard from the vast majority of nutritional professionals I have talked to (ones that don’t have an affiliation with products) that unless you’re working out twice a day, 6 days a week, a balanced diet should be easily sufficient for your protein needs.  Most guys literally just urinate out the majority of what they put into their system.  The hilarious justification several of my friends give me for doing supplements is that they have gotten way bigger since being on “X.”  Well ya… You’ve been going to the gym twice as often to get your money out of the product, and there is also this little thing called a placebo effect.  People were building muscle long before supplements became a multi-billion dollar industry, do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars a month on this stuff?  Putting that much powder into your body can’t be good for the long-term health of your kidneys, and it just doesn’t seem natural to me no matter what anyone says.

Plainly Newer Machines Will Make You More Fit Right?

If you decide that working out at a gym is what you need in order to meet your fitness goals, then you should keep in mind that old weights lift the same way new shiny ones do.  Chances are that if you’re a student, the campus gym offers by far the best deal, and many schools will actually just include gym dues in your user fees.  I think it’s crazy to pass up this deal in favour of a place that has four times the cardio machines, and has newer weights.  If Rocky didn’t need a new gym, I sure don’t!

The World Is My Gym!

If you are looking to cut your workout costs right to the bone and you don’t have a free gym membership, I recommend purchasing the ultra-cheap home gym.  This is what mine consists of: a skip rope, BOSU ball, sit-up mat, resistance ropes, door frame chin up bar, and a few very cheap dumbbells (that I got at garage sales).  With this budget-friendly equipment, and a little knowledge of bodyweight exercises, a person can get a great workout in without leaving the comfort of their own home.  You should be able to purchase it all for well under $100.  Which will save you money considering that most gym passes go for $50-$60 per month. There are numerous examples of military workouts and the famed P90X series that advocate for this simple style of workout that can be brutally effective if done properly.

Gaaattoooooooooooorade…..H20! – The Waterboy

I love how susceptible we are to a slick marketing campaign.  I mean why do professional athletes sweating coloured liquid make us want to buy a drink?  Are we really that impressionable that we truly think that a few extra electrolytes will turn us into LeBron?  Instead of buying some overpriced sports drink, just eat a balanced diet and drink good ole water.  I have read a ton of different articles on this debate, and it pretty much boils down to the same argument I use with supplements.  I think some of the sports drinks probably make 1-5% of a difference for athletes at a professional or high amateur level.  For those of us just getting our usual 3-5 workouts a week, we will never notice this slight difference.  Four Gatorades a week at two bucks a pop adds up to around $400 a year!  Obviously buying bottled water makes even less sense from a cheapness perspective.  If you need the placebo effect of non-tap water, buy it by the 18L jug (a re-fill costs about the same as a single bottled water).

Does This Make Me Look Like A Professional Athlete?

Finally, I have to admit to being a prima donna when it comes to athletic apparel.  I am one of those guys that likes to wear Under Armour (at least an inner layer) whenever I work out.  I have no rational reason for this, and it is probably the one clothing indulgence that I have.  I am definitely willing to admit that in terms of practicality, an old shirt and $5 sweatpants work just as good.  I do like the inner moisture-wicking layer, and the fact that it prevents chafing, as well as keeping a person cool, but again, people were working out long before moisture-wicking entered an athlete’s vocabulary.  Many people, including myself, spend hundreds of dollars on this stuff during the year, even if I do look for it on sale.

Two Areas That Are Worth Investing In

A couple things I would not recommend skimping on are great running shoes and a balanced diet.  My Yakezie brethren have tons of great posts on how to save money on healthy food, and I don’t profess to be an expert on the topic.  I do know that eating healthy is in general a little more work, and will cost a little more.  It is also worth way more than supplements or Gatorade to an athlete’s body, or anyone’s body for that matter!  When it comes to runners, this is one area I recommend getting professional advice.  There are all kinds of variables that trained people at running stores (not your local Foot Locker) will assess when recommending shoes.  Your bodyweight, how your ankle/foot rolls, what your main workout plans are, etc.  Nothing breaks down your body quicker than trying to work out with your whole body out of alignment and fighting through foot pain.  I’ve seen this kill people’s motivation, and it simply isn’t worth it to save an extra $40 or so.

I’ve definitely been caught up in work out marketing trends in the past.  Anyone else out there have horror stories of feeling like spending money will somehow do the work for them?


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12 years ago

Hey, my favorite post here so far! I agree with pretty much everything you said. The protein shakes are a waste of money and nobody really needs to be that huge. It’s too difficult to maintain and 99.99% of people won’t be able to be buffed out for 30 years. I think it’s much better to be medium size and have a bit of muscle and not all hulked out.
I like your cheap home gym too. I probably won’t buy too many things because we don’t have space.

12 years ago

I generally do not buy into the marketing! I have a home gym and my work out clothes are old tee shirts and shorts. I have weights, (smith) cage,, treadmill, and stationery bike (mag trainer). No iPhone, therefore no apps. I use tap water. Maybe it is my age, I can not be influenced very easily.

Mr. Harvey
12 years ago

Good post. I also can’t understand the obsession with personal trainers. There are a few good ones that really know their stuff, but most of them are just repeating what they read out of the latest Men’s Health Magazine. Some of the things I see them have their trainees doing is just plain dangerous. I came across a great site a couple of years ago that offers some of the best all around fitness advice I have seen. He also advocates a home gym and all you really need is a barbell, a bench, and a squat rack. If anyone… Read more »

I’ve worked out at Gold’s Gym for years. It’s pretty basic. There are gyms with large saunas, steam rooms, and lap pools, but I refuse to pay more for that stuff. I don’t use it! Those amenities help sell memberships but if you’re not going to use them. What difference does it make?

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