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Our younger son has been going to a gym in town with some friends. He gets in using a guest pass from one of the others. We are a little embarrassed that he’s the only one without his own membership, so I looked into the cost of joining… Unbelievable!
Not only is the monthly fee rather high, but just signing up includes paying the first and last month’s fee, a membership initiation fee, and some other random fee. And I looked on Yelp and found a long list of complaints from members who tried to quit and still found unexpected auto deductions from their checking accounts months later.
Needless to say, we didn’t sign our son up. He still goes on his friends’ guest passes once in a while, but he gets most of his exercise from a long list of other opportunities.
Here are seven ways to get exercise without joining the club.
1. Community centers
Some communities have ultra-low cost gyms designed for residents. Our other son lives in Boston, and he joined a gym near his home for $30 per year! I visited the place when he moved there, and it has all the basics – an indoor track, a few weight machines, some basketball courts, and a handful of other amenities.
Nothing fancy, no member’s lounge, no suave trainers, but… At $30 a year, who’s complaining? My son goes several times a week to run on the track and play pick-up basketball, and gets all the exercise he needs.
2. The YMCA
The Y is not exactly cheap, but it’s much less expensive than a snazzy fitness club. The Y near us has a $165 joining fee for a family, and then costs $76 per month. That’s less than half the fee at the gym. And the facilities at the Y are solid.
There is lots of modern exercise and weight training equipment, a good pool, indoor track, two gyms, and a whole bunch of classes. I’m sure the quality of Ys varies across the country, but I’m guessing each offers some solid exercise opportunities.
This probably isn’t a reason to join a church, but I’ve noticed that some churches have rather nice gym facilities. The Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, for example, includes cardio equipment, a weight room, and two gyms. On a more modest scale, several friends of mine play in a church basketball league in town that provides plenty of exercise and competition.
4. Colleges and universities
I grew up near the campus of Penn State University, and there was no end of workout opportunities for community members. I now live near several smaller colleges outside Chicago, and while there seem fewer organized activities than at the big state school, my sons have used the college sports facilities – including the pool and gym – many times over the years.
I’m not sure what the official rules are, but I don’t remember them paying any fees to participate. Naturally, if you live near your alma mater, you probably have the privilege of using those facilities.
5. High schools
On many cold winter evenings I’ve used the gym at our local high school for a run. I’m not sure if this was officially permitted, but no one ever stopped me! And the outdoor track at our high school is always full of community members out for a jog.
6. Park district facilities
Most communities have a park district that offers classes and facilities for the community. Where I live, the park district publishes two large catalogs each year, packed with exercise classes, sports leagues, swimming lessons, camps, and scores of other exercise opportunities.
Most of these opportunities carry a nominal fee but it’s usually far less than commercial alternatives. Our park district also operates two pools, an ice rink, and a half dozen sports fields and fieldhouses. I’m sure I could find a solid exercise opportunity every night of the week if I wanted to.
7. Walking, running, riding your bike
The most convenient and least expensive exercise opportunity is probably right outside your door. Don’t knock it – it’s always available, free, fun, and provides plenty of fresh air!
So, now you can see why I wasn’t too upset when we decided we weren’t going to buy my son a gym membership. With all these opportunities around him, he is never going to be hurting for exercise opportunities.
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