On Friday, I mentioned an article in the New York Times that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. The article, “Full-Service Gyms Feel a Bit Flabby”, takes a look at the current state of the gym, which (as the argument goes) is losing members faster than it can sign new ones up because it is no longer seen as a place where people gather, socialize, and enjoy a sense of community. People these days are apparently too plugged in to want to interact with others when they stop by the gym for their sweat session, and as a result, gyms are hurting.
At least I think that’s how the argument goes. It’s kind of hard to tell in this article. Here’s what I gleaned: people want to exercise solo, which is bad for gyms; but gyms also don’t want to put the effort into motivating people, so people quit; maybe fancy gyms are having a hard time competing with gyms that charge less per month but don’t offer classes?; except that one thing people are doing much more now is taking pay-as-you-go classes at gyms rather than committing to monthly membership fees; people stop going to the gym and start pursuing other work-out methods because they don’t see the results they want; people need to demand what they want from gyms. Are you confused too?
What really jumps out at me here, though, is the financial aspect of it all. First, it should be noted that the New York Times (and the Style section especially, which is where this article appears) really caters to an upper-middle-class/upper-class reader. In my opinion, this often means that their lifestyle-oriented pieces in particular can be hard to relate to, and sometimes hard to swallow. I’m not trying to knock the NYT, just trying to situate it in the proper context. This kind of makes me wonder if the article is about all gyms, or just high-end gyms (or what the author refers to as “kitchen-sink gyms”). It’s hard to tell. It also kind of explains what seems to me to be the take-away from the article: to see results, you will have to pay money, whether it’s for a personal trainer, classes that keep you from plateauing, or some kind of group training program.
It’s not that I’m surprised by the fact that money is present in some form throughout this article. After all, the fitness industry is just that: an industry. As such, it relies on revenue. But reading this article, one gets the impression that if you don’t have a pretty significant amount of money at your disposal, you’re probably not going to get very far. Especially if you’re just going to the gym and turning on your ipod for an hour every day.
I would love to have a chance to try out some of the classes mentioned in the article, but on my budget I couldn’t dream of making them a regular part of my routine. The primary reason I don’t do yoga at a studio is cost; unless I’ve gotten a deal at a studio through Groupon, I’m sticking to Yoga Download. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the prices of the classes mentioned in the article:
- Core Fusion at Exhale Spa: $35 ($25 for students)
- YogaWorks doesn’t seem to list rates on their website, you have to get in touch with a Yoga Advisor if you’re a new student
- Equinox also directs you to get in touch with a gym rep instead of giving you pricing info right off the bat
- Pace For Success (which looks awesome) offers a variety of classes and pricing options. A single interval training class is $20, the 6-week program is $108. They also have training programs for various distances, with the most expensive being a 14-week marathon training program for $630.00 (this is the rate for two sessions a week)
- OrangeTheory classes range from $14 to $20 per session (as stated in the article)
Like I said, I would relish the chance to add classes like this (or even a gym membership) into my routine, but at those prices it isn’t happening any time soon. Does that mean, though, that I should find a nice plateau somewhere and set up camp? Here’s the thing: I think the fitness industry wants me to believe that yes, that’s the alternative. Spend money on products (in this case classes) in order to get the results you want. If you don’t spend the money, you don’t get results. Of course this all suggests that if you’re not in a position to afford fancy fitness, then you’re out of luck. That, in turn, opens up a whole can of worms about health and wellness in our country and its relationship to income levels and available economic resources, which I’m not going to get in to here. Suffice it to say, though, that I don’t like the idea of there being an economic barrier to health, fitness, and overall wellness.
I don’t believe that you have to spend a ton of money to lose weight, or tone up, or train for a marathon, and I think that that’s a message that should be repeated at every opportunity. I think you can do it (and avoid plateaus) just by being smart about working out: educate yourself about what your body needs, switch things up every few weeks, throw a class in here and there by all means if you want to try something different, and do things that you enjoy so that you’ll stay motivated.
What’s your opinion? Do you belong to a gym, and if so, do you take advantage of all it has to offer, or do you just do your work out and leave? How do you feel about the price of fitness classes where you live? In your experience, has the amount of money you’ve put toward working out or training affected the results you’ve seen?