Exercise Your Right to Negotiate at the Gym

One item on your list of New Year’s resolutions remains unchecked: Get in shape.

The excuses for not following through on this vary, depending on where you live; for example, it’s too cold/icy to jog outside, or it’s too expensive to join a club in the city where I live. Then there’s the excuse that knows no geographic boundaries: I’m too lazy.

Soon, though, it will be time to shed the winter clothes, and you’re thinking it’s beyond time to shed a few pounds. Well, things are looking up, because now is also a good time to join a fitness center.

A lot of people make resolutions to lose weight or get in shape, which is why gyms are full the first few months of the year and health clubs have no problem signing up new members. Not everyone sticks with it, however. According to MarketWatch, a lot of health clubs are eager to make up for waning memberships as early as March. This might be an excellent opportunity to negotiate a membership.

What can you ask for when negotiating? It depends on your personal workout habits, your location, and the club. MarketWatch suggests trying to negotiate on the monthly fee, the enrollment fee (see if it can be lowered or eliminated), an extended trial membership (to delay the start of your payments) or free personal training sessions.

If the gym you’re trying to join doesn’t offer a month-to-month membership, ask if they’ll consider giving you one. Don’t cave if the membership director says no to one of your requests; run through the list of options until he or she agrees to at least one.

Even though a lot of fitness centers are chains, their negotiating abilities may vary from one location to another. The national chain Anytime Fitness is a franchised gym. “That means all of the gyms are individually owned and operated; thus, the membership fees, enrollment fees, personal training fees, class fees, and tanning fees vary slightly from club to club,” explains Mark Daly, national media director for Anytime Fitness.

This type of facility will likely be open to negotiating. “If small-group classes are more important or valuable to you than tanning, for instance, simply ask and almost certainly the gym manager will offer an affordable package that meets your specific needs and preferences,” Daly says.

Some fitness centers refuse to budge on membership fees, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a few freebies out of the deal. “We don’t see our brand or company as a discount retailer,” says Amy Henderson, public relations specialist for Life Time Fitness. The facility does offer perks to its members, however.

When you join Life Time or refer a friend, you receive LT Bucks, which can be used like cash for personal training sessions, assessments, and spa treatments. LT Bucks are also given to members for particular membership anniversaries and for certain health goals attained.

Henderson adds that Life Time members receive discounts at local and national businesses, including gas stations, movie theaters, restaurants, and big-box stores like Best Buy. So while you won’t be getting a deal on your gym membership, you’ll be saving money when you shop outside of the gym.

Still looking for more ways to save at a fitness center? Keep your eyes open for promotions.

“Anytime Fitness traditionally offers three nationwide promotional discounts each year, in January, May, and October,” Daly says. “Last January, for instance, participating clubs reduced their enrollment fees to $1 and gave new members free four-week training classes. In May, participating clubs will offer new members discounted membership fees or other special incentives.”

Although Life Time doesn’t negotiate fees, it does offer incentives throughout the year. A recent special included “zero-dollar enrollment fees, a free joiners package valued at $180 and LT Bucks to spend in the club when you signed up for a couple or singles membership,” Henderson says.

Finally, if you have friends who belong to the gym you’d like to join, don’t be afraid to ask them how much they pay per month and if they were charged a membership fee. If the price they quote you sounds better than the one the membership director is writing down, say something. You might be surprised how quickly that deal is matched.

Remember: The heavy lifting you do during the negotiating phase will result in a fatter wallet and a leaner you.