That means that tomorrow morning, three billion people are going to resolve to:
Get in shape
Or some other version of this most popular New Year’s Resolution
And soon after making that resolution, they’re going to spend a bunch of money on a gym membership, weight loss program or a new piece of fitness equipment in the hope that this “thing” will help them to finally transform their body into super-sexy celebrity shape.
And they couldn’t be more wrong.
The biggest problem facing everyone who wants to transform their body isn’t lack of resources.
It’s New Year’s Resolutions time, and just like last year, one of this year’s most popular New Year’s Resolutions is that classic – “I am going to join gym, lose weight, get in shape….”
But, before you run out and commit yourself to a 12 month contract with the nearest big box gym, take a look at this How To Not Get Ripped Off While Buying A Gym Membership self-help video from Pat Foran – CTV’s Consumer Alert guru.
Note – If the video doesn’t work, here is Pat’s blog entry on the same story.
And if anyone needs any help brokering a better deal with their gym, shoot me an email.
According to a survey taken for the World Cancer Research Fund, 1/3 of all Brits blame the high cost of gym memberships for their lack of activity.
Scouring through the rest of the survey, we also find that:
18% of them blame the damp British weather (ye olde Milli Vanilli excuse),
36% blame their busy lifestyles and,
a truly sad 33% admit to being just too damn lazy to exercise.
At least that last group was being honest.
And while it’s true that a lot of gym/health club owners are a shady bunch of snake oil salesmen willing to play on their customers’ insecurities in order to extract the largest amount of money from their wallets, there are lots of ways to get fit without spending much money.
Next summer, when your very expensive and very out of shape teenage children shuffle up to you and announce that they’re bored and that they have nothing to do, send them over to the nearest GoodLife Fitness club.
In concert with Teen Fitness Connection, GoodLife Fitness is offering free gym memberships to Canadian kids aged 14-17 during the months of July & August and between the hours of 8am & 4pm.
Here is a list of participating GoodLife Fitness clubs.
You will have to contact the clubs directly for the specific terms and conditions, but after speaking with the Corporate Manager for Teen Fitness International, I have been assured that the only other restrictions would include access to specific fitness classes and/or use of the pool/spa.
Now if only we could convince a few other health clubs in Toronto to offer similar programs, our kids could be the fittest in Canada.
Why is it that over 70% of all new health club members stop coming to the gym within 3 months?
And why is it that most of the remaining 30% don’t look much better than we they first joined?
And why is it that today’s health & fitness industry doesn’t seem to care?
Because the current health & fitness industry is still focused on delivering products and services instead of solutions.
Think about it – most people go to a health club to burn off some fat & to get fit.
How they do it is irrelevant.
Or at least it should be.
The goal is what matters……and the health club (or personal trainer, or iphone app, or online fitness community, or fitness magazine, etc) than can shift their focus toward the goals of their clients and away from the latest fitness trend becomes indispensable to their clients.
And in my opinion, this style of thinking is a big part of the reason why Crossfit has become a major player in the health & fitness industry.
As reported by Reuters, “cost-conscious workouts at home and at the gym topped the list of fitness trends for this year in a survey, followed by shorter, more time-efficient regimens, such as boot camp and circuit training“.
“People are looking for ways to accomplish as much as possible with as little time and money as necessary,” said Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which conducted the online poll of fitness professionals.
“Last year ‘budget-conscious’ was on the list but this year the majority of the respondents put it as one of the top,” he added.
Other money-saving measures, such as the shift from personal training sessions to small group training classes and in-home workouts using smaller, more portable equipment, also made the list.
“Personal trainers are seeing they’ve got to respond to market needs. Working with two to four clients at a time they can charge less but still get their hourly fee,” Bryant said.
Boot-camp workouts and circuit training, both of which burn calories while building strength and endurance, will be among the most popular trends in 2010, as time-constrained consumers seek shorter, more intense regimens.
“We’re living in a time-pressured society where people are working longer because of staff reductions or trying to pick up extra income,” Bryant explained.
But, it’s not just the economy that is driving future fitness trends.
The aging of the baby boomers and the growing obesity problem will also impact the direction of the fitness industry
So, here’s my question…
Considering that personal training has been the biggest money maker for health clubs in the past decade, how are they going to adapt to a lingering recession, high unemployment levels and reduced disposable income?
Can they adapt?
Or maybe, just maybe, something better will emerge out of this economic mess.
Perhaps, instead of driving to the gym and paying someone to tell us how to exercise, we can adopt a DIY attitude towards our health & fitness.
Perhaps we can pool our knowledge (see internet, social media, facebook, twitter…)
Perhaps we can support each other (see not paying $80 per hour for support)
Perhaps we can exercise outside of a socially approved health club facility (see outdoors, rec room, garage)
So, what do you think?
Is the recession going to kill the corporate health club?
If you’re anything like me (and 96.4% of all men), you have left your Christmas shopping to the last minute.
And the stores are all sold out of Red Ryder BB guns.
So, whatcha gonna do?
I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do.
You’re gonna give your friends and family the gifts of health, fitness and smaller love handles.
And I am here to help with my Health Habits Approved™ Last Minute Christmas Shopping Guide.
Category 1: Health Club Memberships
Don’t do it.
The latest research shows that overweight gym-goers feel more embarrassment and intimidation about exercising, exercising around young people, exercising around fit people, and about health club salespeople than individuals of normal weight.
And most health clubs do nothing to address these feelings of embarrassment and intimidation.
As a result, the people who need that gym membership the most are the same people who are most likely to quit.
So, unless you enjoy throwing your money away, don’t buy them a gym membership. Just don’t do it.
Category 2: Personal Training
Once again, don’t do it.
Starting in the new year, I will be starting a Health Habits Fit Club for anyone interested.
If you’re still confused which books to buy, shoot me an email and I can help you narrow down your selection.
Note – you don’t have to buy the books through my little Amazon store…even though I would appreciate the 4% kickback I get from them.
Category 4: Cardio Equipment
It’s a FACT* – 68% of all cardio equipment purchases are used primarily as over-priced clothes racks.
And 90% of those people who employ their cardio machines as luxury clothes racks feel intense remorse and shame every time they recall what lies underneath that pile o’ clothes.
So, if you’re going to buy your loved one a piece of cardio equipment (bike, elliptical, treadmill) ask yourself these questions:
Are they going to use it?
Is this the type of equipment they enjoy using?
Bike people don’t use treadmills and vice versa
Is the equipment going to last?
If you can afford it, avoid the “home grade” equipment and move up to the “light commercial” or even the “commercial grade” equipment. The “home grade” has lower quality bearings, motors, etc. The end result is that they break down sooner. And breakdowns = service calls = $$$
What does the warranty cover? – see #3
Bells & Whistles?
To me, this is the least important stuff. Unfortunately, it is also the stuff that salespeople use to get you all excited in order to sell you an inferior piece of equipment.
Remember, the primary use of cardio equipment is to improve your cardio. And, you don’t need all sorts of on-board computers and video monitors and internet connections, etc to improve the function of your heart & lungs. All of this flashy stuff should go in the “want” category, not the “need” category.
However, if money is no object, go nuts on the bells & whistles.
* actually I have no idea what percentage of cardio equipment ends up as expensive clothes racks. 68% just seemed like a good number.
Category 5: Non-Cardio Fitness Equipment
Once again, I need to warn you that when it comes to fitness equipment, there is a lot of junk out there.
Avoid the shopping channels
Avoid anything that promises chiseled abs in 6 weeks
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Take a look at some of the items I have collected here.
For much less than the price of a 12 month gym membership, you can build a compact home gym that will meet all of your needs.
It’s cushier than a yoga mat, but not as cushy as a gymnastics style mat. As Goldilocks would say, it’s cushiness is just right.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a visual reminder to stretch more often.
Resistance / Strength training
Forget about buying one of those “home gym” multi station gizmos.
Seriously, just forget about it.
For about $200, you can have a strength training center that is next to invisible, won’t break down and gives you a significantly better workout.
What you need to do is:
Buy a set of Jump Stretch or Iron Woody resistance bands. These bands never break and will give you more workout than you can handle.
Buy a 4 ft long safety grab bar and install it (vertically) where ever you want your new home gym. Alternately, you can go with a painted or stained wooden handrail for a more rustic look. Be sure to install it well. We don’t want thos screws coming loose.
Here is an article I wrote than might give you a better idea.
Note – I am currently working on setting up a sales arrangement with either Jump Stretch or Iron Woody to get you guys a better price.
As an option, I would also recommend a chin-up bar. It’s not vital, but there is such a high payback from chin-ups, you really should consider it.
The Australian consumer rights organization CHOICE recently conducted an undercover investigation of the gym/fitness center/health club industry.
And they weren’t impressed.
CHOICE sent two secret shoppers into 9 different gyms in and around downtown Sydney posing as potential new members.
And here’s some of what they found:
Fitness First, consumers last
Of the two Fitness First gyms visited by our shadow shoppers, one in particular stood out for the salesperson’s intensity. “He couldn’t believe I didn’t want to sign,” reported one of our shoppers. “When I said I needed to speak with my husband, he said, ‘I thought you said he was supportive of you being here’. He said it was only $35 today and if I go it may not be available when I call back.”
Our second shadow shopper said: “He just kept asking me what the problem was.” At two of the four visits to Fitness First outlets, our shadow shoppers reported difficulty in ending the consultation – something they did not experience at any of the other gyms.
What Should You Do?
I have been in this business for years and I have worked with some pretty shady salespeople…scumbags really. They are a big part of the reason why I started my own personal training business and why I recommend people stay far away from any health club chains.
But, if you are determined to work out at a major health club, here’s what I would do:
Put together a list of potential health clubs – do a little research into each – check out their profile on the BBB website or complaints.com, etc…
Go gym shopping at the end of the month – all salespeople have quotas to fill.
Decide what kind of membership you want – do you need daycare, personal training, massage, etc..Be Prepared like a Boy Scout
Take control of the sales meeting – Once they get talking, you are more likely to get hypnotized by their sweet words.
Try this approach…. After you have had the grand tour and have been ushered back into the salesperson’s office…tell them that you ARE going to buy a gym membership in the next couple of days. Not maybe. Definite sale. You just need to decide which gym is best for you. This way, you avoid the speech about how important it is to exercise, yadda yadda. Then tell them that what you need is their absolute best price. They will try and get you to stay seated and listen to some more B.S., but you won’t. Tell them that you have an appointment in 20 min with one of their competitors. Request their “best price” again. If they hesitate, stand up and head for the door. Don’t worry, they won’t let you walk out that door. Take their “best price” and head to the next health club on your list.
Always be prepared to walk out that door.
Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. They’re salespeople, they don’t have any feelings. Don’t believe me? See Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.
One thing most of the gyms had in common was a creative approach to pricing. Some had printed prices, others handwritten only, but ultimately all seemed to have flexibility in the discounts and incentives they offered. Costs such as joining and administration fees were magically waived or halved as an incentive for our shadow shoppers to sign up.
One Curves consultant and one at each Fitness First outlet even asked leading questions to ascertain how much our shadow shoppers could afford to pay. In the case of one Curves outlet, one shopper was told she couldn’t take the handwritten prices away with her, as a matter of “company policy”.
Fitness First National Operations Manager, Michele Harding, concedes the pricing structure varies from club to club, depending on customer demographics and location. Fernwood Sales Manager, Jo Stagg, says prices across the Fernwood network also differ depending on location, as franchise owners set their own prices.
Our shadow shop revealed that while both Curves and Contours had consistent pricing across their outlets, there were variations in what was waived or charged in terms of joining and administration fees. One Curves outlet quoted a joining fee of $30, while at another it was $199 but a $99 discount was offered.
At a Contours gym, one of our shadow shoppers was quoted a “set-up” fee of $195 for a 12-month contract which was reduced to $95, then an “admin fee” further reduced to $45 during the consultation. At the same gym, our other shopper was told this joining fee would be waived totally if she joined before a certain date. At the second Contours gym, a set-up or administration fee was not mentioned to either shopper and they were both told that the “joining fee” would be waived if they signed a 12-month contract.
What Should You Do?
Take your own notes.
Add up all of the different charges to determine what the total cost of a 12 month membership actually is. They will try and trick you by dividing the total cost up into a bunch of different smaller charges.
Be prepared to walk out the door.
We have all heard the horror stories of people trying to cancel their gym memberships.
Debit/Credit cards being charged for months after membership cancellation
Threats of legal action for breach of contract.
What Should You Do?
Read your contract before you sign
Know the contract cooling off period in your area
Know the laws regarding cancellation due to relocation (if you move)
Consider paying a little more for a month to month membership
If you need to cancel your membership, do it in writing, in person, at the gym, with the club manager.
Be prepared to pay. They will screw up your credit rating
Don’t assume that just because they agreed to cancel your membership, that they won’t continue to draw money from your bank account or credit card. Check your statements
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