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By Stephanie Mansour

If you're considering joining a gym to tackle those fitness goals, it may be a smart move: Research shows that a gym membership was associated with 14 times higher odds of meeting weekly physical activity guidelines. Plus, these days, gym memberships offer more than just a workout; it's a lifestyle. Whether your gym offers social gatherings, spa treatments, a smoothie bar or the receptionist who knows you by name, gyms not only enhance your physical health, but your mental health as well. In fact, research shows that for many gym members, exercise is more than just physical training — it’s a means to create better versions of themselves.

And this month proves to be the most popular for recruiting new members. January contributes the highest percentage of gym sign-ups, taking in more than 12 percent of annual memberships compared to 8 percent in other months.

But what if your budget is the one thing stopping you from joining a gym? If you’re looking for ways to get a reduced rate on a gym membership, you’ve come to the right place. We tapped a few gyms across the country for some insider suggestions on shaving costs off your monthly bill. Here are some gym membership hacks that will help you shrink your waistline and your bottom line this year.

Join with a Friend or Family Member

Power in numbers can work in your favor when negotiating a cheaper gym membership. Many salespeople have a quota to reach. If you bring them a second membership, it may be more enticing for the salesperson to cut you (and your friend) a deal if you sign up together. For example, select Club Pilates locations in South Florida offer 15 percent off memberships when family members sign up together.

Request a Trial Membership

Before diving in to a full-blown membership, ask for a few day passes or a week-long trial membership so you can test out the gym. You could even try out a few gyms and have free gym access for a month depending on how long each gym’s trial membership is. BRICK Fitness (a boutique chain of fitness studios) offers new members a free introductory session. And in January, Crunch Fitness is offering a 5-day free trial. Another great option is to scour deal sites like Groupon, Living Social and Gilt City, which consistently feature deals for reduced monthly memberships or packs of classes at gyms and boutique fitness studios for a discounted rate for new members.

Join at the End of the Month

Like most businesses, there’s an end of the month quota for salespeople to hit. Inquire about joining on the second to last day or the last day of the month for the best deal. But don't wait until next month to look into pricing. Gyms like to capitalize on the annual surge in motivation and offer enticing deals to lure in new members in January. For example, Purlife Fitness Center in South Florida offers a $99 monthly membership (normally $139) plus a $1 enrollment fee (normally $199) in January. Purlife’s Director of Group Exercise, Bill Dorton, explains that this membership includes unlimited classes and a month-to-month membership. Crunch Fitness offers 30 percent off dues when you sign up for membership in January, plus only $30 to join (regularly $300). Ask the gyms in your area of they offer similar discounts or incentives.

Ask for a Work Discount

Many companies are registered with large chain gyms to offer a reduced rate for their employees (and they aren't always broadcasted as widely as you would think). Check your employee portal or ask your human resources contact for any exclusive health and wellness offers. You can also ask them if your insurance provider offers any reimbursement or discounts for fitness facilities (or call your provider directly and ask). Are you a freelancer? Ask about the different companies or outlets that you work for — you don’t necessarily have to be a full-time employee to reap these benefits!

Spy on Personal Training Sessions

Is one of the reasons why you’re joining a new gym to also purchase personal training sessions? Instead of paying for sessions right up front, spy on other members’ personal training sessions. You can often steal some tips (like proper form or exercises for a specific muscle group) and can even learn how to put together a full workout for yourself just by standing near a session with your headphones in (and no music on!) so you can hear what the trainer is saying. You may also want to ask about small-group training classes, where a personal trainer leads a smaller group of individuals — you will still get some one-on-one attention but since the session isn't completely personal, the cost is lower.

Offer to Pay a Few Months Upfront

While fitness chains tend to have more rules in place around membership fees, there may be some wiggle room with smaller, newer or privately-owned gyms where the owner may be interested in immediate revenue, or in increasing membership. It never hurts to ask if they can give you any type of discount for pre-paying a few months in advance. Some gyms may consider cutting costs (like waiving an initiation fee) if you offer to pay the annual cost up front, versus breaking it into monthly payments. So if you have the money now, it may save you in the long run to pay off your entire 2019 membership.

Ask for a Military, Teacher or Senior Citizen Discount

If you fall into one of these categories, it’s always beneficial to ask for a discount. Jarett Perelmutter, owner of BRICK Fitness, offers 10-15 percent off for teachers, military personal and first responders. He explains, “We want these people to be able to comfortably afford a healthy lifestyle and be part of our great communities.” Similarly, Purlife Fitness offers 15 percent off per month to military (current and active), teachers, police and firemen.

Ask for a Student Discount

The norm is usually 10-15 percent off for students.

Consider a Part-Time Membership or a Membership Freeze

As a personal trainer, I’ve never seen a gym advertise part-time memberships. However, I’ve asked for this at multiple smaller gyms for my clients and have had success. The part-time membership may include everything but workout classes, or might limit you to a certain number of visits per month. Larger gyms, like Equinox, may offer a membership freeze, which is a nice option that can save you money on paying full monthly fees if you travel often, have a long vacation planned or are unexpectedly sick or injured. Once you’re a member for 12 months, Equinox offers a one to three month freeze (along with a fee) to keep your membership on hold but not utilize it; they also offer a medical freeze for 6 to 9 months with a doctor’s letter.

More tips for a better workout in 2019

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