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The ultimate guide to gym memberships and personal training

Spring is in the air, finally. It’s time to come out of hibernation and peel off the extra layers of clothing. If, like me, you’re now lamenting those extra serves of sticky date pudding, then your mind is searching for ways to reverse the months spent under a blanket rather than outdoors being active. Walk through any major shopping strip and you’ll be met with fit and charming sales staff trying to lure you into signing up to the local gym and personal training sessions. And the offers will be tempting… more than 4.6 million Australians are members of a gym. A staggering $1.4 billion will be spent on fitness this year. What starts with the good intention of getting back into shape, sometimes results in heavy sales pressure and lock-in contracts. The final blow – you might be stuck paying for an expensive membership that doesn’t get used.

Can you really afford a gym membership?

It’s important to realise that gyms come with a significant financial commitment, particularly when you sign up to a fixed term contract, meaning you can’t cancel at any time. In Australian, a membership costs $76 per month, or $912 per year. Almost 1 million people spend more than $100 per month on gym membership fees. During a recent survey, one in five people said it’s the costs of membership that prevents them from joining a gym.

Lack of time may ruin your best intentions

Training at a gym requires additional travel time and extra preparation. You’ll need to pack training clothes, remember your gym shoes and maybe pre-prepare breakfast or lunch depending on when you plan to train. Around half of the people surveyed about gym memberships gave lack of free time as the reason they didn’t sign up.

Per day cost

According to Fitness For Weightloss, on average, people only train at a gym twice per week. When you’re considering committing to a gym membership, break it down to a per visit cost and be realistic about the number of sessions you’re likely to do per week. On the flip side, there are plenty of reasons to sign up for a gym membership.

Huge range of equipment

Gyms have a whole lot of equipment - from cardio machines, weight machines, free weights, and some with a pool. Typically access to all the equipment is included in the membership cost. You can mix up your training routine and get to every muscle in your body.

Making time for yourself

Escaping to the gym gives you the chance for some all-important me-time. You just need to ensure you can set a regular time to visit the gym.

Mingle with like-minded people

With a regular training routine, you’re likely to run into the same people. Saying ‘hi’ as you’re setting up for a class might make you a few new friends.

Meet your next love interest

A study of 2,000 people conducted by Nuffield Health found that 10 per cent of their members actually lived with someone they met at the gym. While we’re talking romance, Australian men are more likely than women to join a gym or sporting club. So ladies, the numbers are in your favour.

When deciding on a gym membership, here’s what you need to know.

  1. Cancelling a gym contract is not easy so research before you buy. Consider gyms, sporting clubs and community associations when researching. Look at their costs and financial commitment. Also factor in termination fees, direct debit costs, membership suspension charges.
  2. The more expensive the membership and ancillary costs, the more you should negotiate on these costs. Another option is to ask for extras such as personal training or fitness assessments to be added free-of-charge.
  3. Make the commitment to exercise first. While you’re researching, spend 2 weeks actually exercising. This way you know when you’re most likely to fit it in.
  4. Search online for second hand gym memberships being sold at a reduced price.
  5. Visit at least two different gyms so you can compare their facilities and number of members.
  6. Don’t get caught out with the hard sell. Take contracts, brochures and give yourself 24 hours to digest the information
  7. Read the fine print. If you don’t understand anything, ask for an explanation. Be sure to write down the staff members name.
  8. Ask for a trial period or cooling off period with no termination fees.
  9. Ensure the auto-renew option isn’t selected on your membership. You definitely don’t want the gym to keep your membership going after the initial contract without contacting you first.
  10. Confirm the process and notice period to cancel a membership. Ask these key questions about cancelling your membership - What happens if I move house, get sick, lose my job or simply decide to give up?
  11. If you have cancelled a membership within your rights, and the club continues to take payment, contact your bank for assistance.

Average cost of a personal trainers

A recent survey by Suncorp revealed that women are more likely then men to enlist a personal trainer. Many gyms offer personal training at an additional cost .The typical cost of a personal trainer is $40-$80 per hour so it can be an expensive way to get fit.

How to get the best trainer at a good price for optimal results

  1. Personal trainer can be found through your local gym, a friend or online. Ask around to see if you can team up with a few other to share the cost of a personal trainer, preferably a trainer someone in the group has used previously.
  2. Ask plenty of questions about how training sessions will run. Talk about your need for specific and measurable goals to ensure you get results. Ask how frequently workout plans will be varied to keep you motivated and challenged.
  3. Compare different packages to reduce costs. Typically the more sessions you buy reduces the per session cost. Also ask whether full payment is expected up front, per session or if instalments are possible. Get confirmation on the expiry or refund policy for unused sessions.
  4. The usual cancellation policy is 24 – 48 hours notice for you to cancel a session without having to pay for it.
  5. Watch out for personal trainers selling supplements of any kind. It can make for a uncomfortable situation if you fee under pressure to by additional products.
And finally, getting a gym membership for some is less getting fit and more about the images it creates. 13 per cent of people surveyed in a UK study commissioned by Kettler said they tell people they’re going to gym when instead they go somewhere else. What are your experiences with gym memberships and personal trainers? Share you tips and tales in the comments below.

Image - flickr/Sascha Wenninger