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Gym Contract: A love hate relationship

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011

It’s almost that time of year where we all set new goals. The most common resolutions that  take the lead are to lose weight, get fit, and, well, lose weight. I don’t dispute this as a worthy goal, but for me right now my goal is to avoid gym contracts.

Over the last however many years I’ve signed contracts with about every sports club in New York. Well, maybe not every one, but most: Crunch, New York Sports Club, the Y, and David Barton. With every contract signed brought with it the comfort in knowing I had a place to work out frustrations, think, sweat, and get fit. For me the gym is a symbol of productivity. Because as my dad always says, “If all you do during the day is go on a run for even 20 minutes you feel productive for the rest of the day.” I truly believe these words.

While for some working out feels more like a check on the to do list, for me it’s something I look forward to. So why all the build up? Well, it seems that anytime I sign a gym contract I get wheeled. I sign thinking I’ll use it for the year and all will be cherries. I rarely think about all the travel I do, and how often that makes a year contract seem somewhat inconsequential, and a waste of money. When this realization comes about, which it does every year, I try to take responsibility and either put the contact on hold while I’m away or cancel. But either direction leads to the same outcome, I get screwed.

Canceling a membership sounds pretty simple, but not when you believe you’ve canceled and then continue to be charged months after the fact. With Crunch, New York Sports Club, and the Y they either lost my cancellation letter, statement, receipt. Somehow with these three gyms it took me months after canceling before the charges stopped rolling in. And the worst part, they wouldn’t refund me any of the money.

The last experience was at David Barton. I joined, putting my membership on hold while I was in Madrid. Then when I got back to New York I moved to Brooklyn. As I said earlier, I rarely have a problem getting myself to the gym, but when it’s not down the street or around the corner, well, I do. Location of a gym is key, because if you have to take a 15 minute subway ride to get there then it’s less likely you’ll actually get there. What David Barton does when you put your membership on hold is add the three month hold on to the end of your contract, so you eventually pay for it anyway. Point is, I moved to Brooklyn and was rarely getting into the city to make the gym worth it for me. Yes, I could’ve faked a doctor’s note, come up with papers claiming that Brooklyn was more than 25 miles away … but karma would have come back and bitten me in the foot. I went in the other day and canceled my membership. Now I have to wait to see if they continue to charge me. What a delight!

When I was in Madrid I signed only one contract, and never had any issues because it was a one time fee. You pay up front for however many months you’d like and the membership is a lot less than in the states. Gyms in Madrid are somewhat of an anomaly. Now they’re growing in numbers, but when I first went in 2001 there was only one. While in Madrid I was hiking every day when writing the hiking book, and after the book was published taking people out on the weekends. It was a lot easier to be fit over there without paying for it.

Where does all this leave me. Well, I’m no longer a member of a gym, and now I need to figure out if I do want to be active where in the world am I going to do that. Do I join another gym in Brooklyn, do I do Pilates in my apartment, do I walk along the promenade, run the streets. My New Years resolution is not to sign a gym contract … Maybe now I’ll start buying yoga or Pilates passes instead. Dilemma.

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