Saying Goodbye to the Gym

In 2004, my roommate at the time convinced me to join Washington Sports Club with her. We worked out every day, and it was great.

Minus me not losing any weight because I didn’t put any resistance on the elliptical and was wondering why she was drenched in sweat and I wasn’t. I told myself that even though I was overweight, I must still just be in good cardiovascular shape from high school sports. HA! (I used to be GREAT at denial.)

2005-2008: I make various attempts at being a gym rat. All fail.

2009: The year I got my shit together. When I moved to NYC, I transferred my WSC membership to New York Sports Club. I lived downtown at the time, so the club I frequented most was Wall Street. Which, as NYSCs go, is really nice. It’s where I met the trainer who helped me finally shed the weight I’d struggled with since college. For the entire year of 2009, it’s safe to say I was a gym rat.

2010: I think I stopped working out with Joel in early 2010, when I met my ultimate goal weight. After being a member of the Town Sports Gyms for so long, I was really bored with all of their classes, since New York and D.C. had very similar classes.


Summer 2010: I downgrade my cable bill to bare-bones and decide to use the extra money to try out that fancy Equinox I’d heard so much about. I got a decent (err, relatively) corporate rate and there was a location in my office building and on my walk home from the subway. I loved their classes, and–I’m not gonna lie–the super-fancy gym. It felt like a spa every time I walked in, with its inviting mood lighting, a nice change from NYSC’s fluorescent lights that felt too much like my office. Its classes were challenging and unique and seemed like those fancy boutique fitness classes I’d read so much about. I used these classes as cross-training as I trained for the Chicago Marathon, and I often hopped on the treadmill at lunch to bang out some miles.

June 2011 – November 2011: I got laid off but was still training for a triathlon. I briefly canceled my membership, but realized it was cheaper than therapy and a good, healthy way to fill my time between interviews, so I re-upped. It wasn’t convenient to my apartment–it had been convenient to my old job–but since I had lots of time, that was just fine. I spent a lot of time there. I also start attending a lot more classes to review or to take with blogger friends.

November 2011 – January 2012: I try to make it work, but since becoming a more devoted runner, I’m basically only interested in classes at the gym, and my new job makes it difficult to get to night classes, and I’m too lazy to make it to morning classes. (Also, I need to go home and walk my dog before work, so morning classes that aren’t really close are a huge pain in the ass.)

March 2012: I move much closer to an Equinox location, and think that will change things. Not a bit. At this point, the weather’s getting nice and I’m happy to run outside or meet up with friends at fun blogger events. I really would have canceled at this point if I could have, but I was locked into a contract, and their contracts are air-freaking-tight.

June 2012: submit my cancelation notice. Even though I know we’re not right for each other right now, I wonder if I’m really making the right decision to leave my lover, Equinox. I’ve wanted for a while to dabble in some of the boutique fitness classes–I like the accountability of the schedulers, the sometimes-better schedules in general and the flexibility of not needing a membership. Even if I take one fancy fitness class per week, it will still be cheaper than Equinox, but will be a far better use of my money. I’ll certainly miss the very lovely Equinox–especially its pool–but unless they unveil some a la carte option or add some earlier or later classes, it’s just not for me right now.

I mostly run as exercise, and I’m training for a marathon right now, so I’m not concerned about not getting exercise in, but it does seem weird–especially as a person who is into fitness–to not have a formal gym membership. I might revisit this after the marathon, and I’m thinking of trying the CrossFit cult then, but for now, it’s me, my sneaks and random classes whenever and wherever I feel like. Including occasionally on my laptop, in my apartment.

What about you? Do you belong to a formal gym? (By formal, I mean gym with classes, and stuff. Not a gym you have to dress up for.) If not, how do you get your exercise in?

65 comments on “Saying Goodbye to the Gym

  1. Kimberly @ Healthy Strides

    Good for you! I haven’t had a gym membership in years, and I managed to lose most of my weight without one. I think gym memberships can be great but I hate the feeling of commitment and letting it down when I don’t get the most out of it. I found that I do better running outside and getting “punch card” type rates for drop-in group exercise. I take Zumba, Piloxing and Spin whenever I can for much cheaper than a membership.

  2. Lindsay

    Canceling a gym membership is liberating! I did it a few months ago after not using the gym for a full year because I found better workout options, including a 5-day-a-week outdoor morning boot camp, a specialized indoor cycling studio, and a swim team whose membership includes free use of local pools. I hesitated for so long before canceling because I wasn’t sure if I would stick with boot camp, spinning, and swimming, but a year later, I’m still doing boot camp and swimming, and have kept up once a week spinning for about 5 months now. Another thing I’ve been doing as a result of not having the gym membership bill (which, admittedly, was pretty cheap) is getting groupon and living social deals for various local specialized studios in the area that I’ve been wanting to try. I tried CrossFit and the spinning studio (that I’m now addicted to) that way, and have been so, so tempted by the many yoga/pilates offers. You might try some of those out if you feel like there’s a void in your life without the gym, though I doubt you will!

    1. Theodora

      @Lindsay: True! I’ve always had my eye on random fitness Groupons but never pull the trigger because, even if they’re inexpensive, it’s still too expensive to do that + Equinox.

      1. Lindsay

        @Theodora: Seriously! And they’re so frequent that you could probably jump from studio to studio until you find one you really like enough to pay full price for!

  3. Erika

    I belong to Planet Fitness and use it a few times a month. It’s kind of a waste of money but it’s only $20 a month and I have the black membership so I can go to any PF. If I want to get in a treadmill/elliptical workout I have a place to go. It’s also air conditioned which is nice in the summer. I am part of the CrossFit cult and it’s expensive but worth it. However, if money gets tight, CF is going to get dropped. Hopefully that won’t happen! 🙂

  4. Marija

    I actually left my gym for awhile, but recently joined again. I love the classes, I like that it’s a way for me to workout with my non-runner/non-crossfit friends and on a rainy/snowy/cold day, I know I have a place to workout. Living outside of Chicago, I don’t pay the city price that most gyms have, mine is only about $30/month, so even if I only get there a few times a week (especially in the summer when I prefer to workout outside) it’s worth it!

  5. Jenna

    I was a super avid gym goer for years. I loved my gym in my hometown, but when I moved away for grad school, I was less than thrilled. I also realized that my workouts weren’t really amounting to much in terms of results. I switched to beachbody programs and have completed p90x, p90x2 and now insanity. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a formal gym. But, I am waiting to one day live close to a cross fit box.

  6. Patrizia

    I use workout dvd’s…much cheaper and I don’t have to worry about how old my workout clothes are! Especially love ones by Ellen Barrett…pilates/ballet inspired – they make you feel graceful:)

  7. Valerie

    I had the awesome timing of joining a new gym right before I decided to start training for a marathon, which means I rarely go. Right now it’s nice to have a cool place to run when I want it, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep the membership once fall comes. (Thankfully it’s only a 3 month commitment instead of 12.) Their class schedule isn’t super convenient for my work hours, and I don’t if $30/mo (I know, right?) is worth it for just going to a class on Sundays.

  8. Maggie @ FatBottomSlim

    Congrats on pulling the trigger! I finally cancelled my NYSC membership just a few months ago. I kept freezing and un-freezing it over the last year and realized it wasn’t worth it. It just was never a gym that I loved and really wanted to go to… which meant I always was choosing to workout somewhere else. So I cancelled and even though I didn’t like the place, it was still hard to do because I liked having the safety net. So weird that it is so hard to do but it WAS the right choice!

  9. Beckett @ Birchwood Pie

    I agree that the gym isn’t necessary, but it’s convenient for the times when it’s too cold/hot/rainy/late to run outside. But I know lots of people who pay insane membership fees and never go – don’t understand why.

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Beckett @ Birchwood Pie: That’s definitely what I was doing, and unfortunately, what I’ve done in the past. In the past, I kept telling myself that no, I’d really start using it. And this time…it just didn’t fit into my lifestyle any more.

  10. Meghan @ Run With Meg

    I’ve been so on the fence about cancelling my gym membership. I do go to two classes a week there but that’s it and it would actually be cheaper to just pay the drop-in fee for those classes. But then there are the times I shower there on the way to work after meeting running buddies which makes me want to keep it. Those are some $$ showers though, I need to make up my mind.

  11. Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life

    I don’t go to a gym and haven’t in a few years. It was expensive and I always seemed bored there. I am an avid runner and have an elliptical and a cable machine. I’m also starting Crossfit next week and I’m SUPER excited. I think you won’t miss it. The possibilities are endless in NYC.

  12. Paige @ Your Trainer Paige

    I totally hear ya on this one, Theodora. I’ve flirted with quitting (and even have…but came crawling back…twice – I’m weak!) I only go to the classes at this gym, and pay way more than I should. I would love it if there were more fitness class boutique type places around here.

  13. Sana

    I was a total gym rat before I got injured. And now I try to limit how much I go so I can make sure I stay injury free. I also work at a gym soooo I live in one!

  14. Cassandra

    Sounds like you made the right decision! I’ve been trying to decide whether I want to cancel my gym membership, too. I joined so I had a place to run in the winter to train for my first 5K, but now that I’ve learned to run outside, I don’t want to run anywhere else! Plus I take classes at a different studio, too.

    …NYC can be so expensive when it comes to fitness.

  15. Kristin

    Good for you! I also just quit my gym (NYHRC). I recently discovered Refine and realized that it was much better suited to my workout needs than a “real” gym membership. I’m also a runner (and training for my 2nd marathon) and I like the intense classes Refine offers. That and I also just realized that everything I use at the gym (ball, kettlebell, dumbells) I have in my apt! One thing I’ll miss is spin class but not until winter after the marathon. But i agree it’s still weird to not have a gym membership.

  16. Courtney

    Sometimes gyms just don’t work for people. I only got a membership to run during the winter, and I still use it mainly for child care… but my main man when it comes to fitness right now is CrossFit. I’m in love. and have become one of “those people” but results speak for themselves. I just blogged about that today! Love the community!

  17. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    I haven’t had a gym membership in over 2 yrs. I don’t miss it at all. I’m training for a marathon so thst’s my main form of exercise right now. I also do boutique classes to fill in the gaps for cross training. Totally agree on the Groupon, living social deals. Much cheaper for me!

  18. Tricia

    I was upset when I broke up with NYSC in may after 10 years I moved and my building has a small gym but functional and im going Physique 3-4x per week. I miss seeing people and people watching but it saves money. After my hip flexor gets better and wedding s over I’m going to try crossfit hells kitchen

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Tricia: I actually used to live really really close to that CrossFit. (I haven’t drank the Kool-Aid yet, I refuse to call it a box yet.) I wanted to try it awhile ago, but alas, was stuck in my gym contract.

  19. Brie

    My gym membership is ALL classes since I do CrossFit. I love it.

    We actually own a treadmill, so I don’t think I’ll ever join a traditional gym again.

  20. Sara

    We do Planet Fitness for $20 a month for both my fiancé and I. We go for the equipment and treadmills as we are training for our first half in February. Working at a large university, we have yoga during the lunch hour that is free as well as 2 free fitness classes that are a semester long. I take classic mat Pilates and will most likely take rock climbing in the spring. All this combined with the hot yoga/Pilates studio helped the baby weight go.
    Havent jumped on the Crossfit train yet although the koolaid looks enticing.

  21. Laura @ sweatingforit

    We have a gym membership at a nearby university. We get a faculty discount because we teach at the middle/high school associated with the university, so it’s a good deal. I wanted to do it this summer so I could swim, but I’m pretty much over swimming at this point. I mostly bike, run, and go to an outdoor boot camp. My husband bikes, does yoga at a nearby studio, and just started running. Even though the gym is convenient to work and inexpensive, we will probably end up cancelling our membership soon.

  22. Monica

    Have you tried a YMCA?

    I recently quit my 20 dollar a month Retro Fitness membership.

    About 2 months prior to my last scheduled day of use on my RF membership I signed up at the YMCA by me. Its actually really nice, for $56 bucks a month (with sign up fee of $112) you get access to two pools, sauna, steam room, towel service, all the classes (except swim lessons) four squash courts, B-ball 2 weight rooms, spin classes and a TON of other stuff. The only problem is I am still to poor to afford it. So I applied for a financial aid application. Well, I have heard nothing back so far and its been over 2 months. So I am currently gym-less. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t trying to train for my first triathlon with limited pool access.

    Well the Tri is on Saturday, I hope I do ok and I really hope I hear back from the YMCA soon.

  23. Laura

    Way to go! I keep considering getting rid of my gym membership. After such a mild winter with more outdoor running and yoga classes at a studio,, I know I’m wasting some money. I hope to try Crossfit soon but a month there is triple my current monthly membership fee at the gym! So I can’t swing that yet.

  24. Erin @ erinberries

    I’ve been thinking about canceling my membership to my gym. I bike for exercise and haven’t needed to go to the gym. But since I’m on my weight loss journey, I’m going to keep it a bit longer. Might put it on hold until I decide to go.

  25. Cathryn @ myheartscontent

    I’ve toyed with gyms…I loved mine for a while and then got so very sick of it, even though the gym was very nice. I haven’t had gym membership for two years now and don’t miss it. I DO miss the availability of classes…I’d love to do pilates or yoga or zumba and the only places to do the first two at least seem to be in gyms, or in ridiculously expensive posh places. So I get tempted…but living in California I can run all year round so can’t really justify the expense.

    Don’t worry too much that as someone into fitness/fitness blogger you should have a gym membership. Be your own girl!

  26. MegG

    Well, you know I’m crazy about CF, but I won’t pressure you into looking into it more than you already have. During marathon training I only went a couple times a week and decided to reduce my membership at that time (my work box was being amazing and letting me kind of call my own price during that time). While strength training helped keep me sane during marathon training I think you can definitely be totally fine with some classes here and there. I also think that the Nike Training app is pretty killer and agree with Lindsay about the groupons.

  27. Kristy Doyle

    I’m lucky, because my gym is the YMCA. It’s cheap (only $40/month with my corporate discount) and really close to my house (1.5 blocks). Sometimes I think about cancelling, but I figure if I take one class a week and get in one bad-weather treadmill run, it’s worth it.

  28. Cindy

    I think if it weren’t for the Glasgow weather I would be happy without a gym membership. The rain here doesn’t make running/walking outside very conducive. I joined the university gym here for a flat fee and only went a handful of times. It’s always crowded, the machines are old, and they don’t have classes I like except for yoga and pilates but you have to pay extra for them. My flatmate and I recently joined a new 24/7 gym which has everything I need in classes and equipment. It isn’t as great as the gym I belonged to back home, but for now it’s in my budget and is good enough.

  29. Dana

    I recently quit my gym membership as well. After several years with WSC and then a year with NYSC I was done with that type of gym. My new apartment building has a nice gym and I am starting CrossFit next week so for now I am ok with my decision. Though I do miss the classes sometimes!

  30. Jodi @ Jodi, Fat or Not

    My membership to Retro Fitness is up in about a month and I’m debating what to do. I also lost most of my weight without a gym…just walking…but it’s getting harder and harder and I find that strength workouts matter more now than cardio. It’s going to be a tough decision…

  31. Sandy

    I don’t belong to a gym because I would hate to work out inside all of the time. I do take jazzercise and yoga at local studios 3-4 times a week during the fall, winter and spring. I am taking the summer off for the second year and I love my summer routine without the pressure to get to class.

  32. Ali

    You quit the gym! Yay! I’ve definitely been having the same thoughts about ditching the gym in favor of either a yoga membership or the occasional boutiquey (it’s a word) class. I worry I’ll miss my favorite spin class, even though I haven’t actually been to it in, um, a month. But yeah, why go to a gym indoors when I can be running outside? The people watching is so much better in Central Park…most of the time. You quit the gym! Woo!

  33. Jenny

    I was going to a gym faithfully but as I got more and more interested in lifting, my visits got more and more annoying. The weight rooms were always packed with a bunch of dudes staring at themselves and bogarting all of the heavier weights, so I ended up squeezed in a corner trying to get a workout with a pair of 10 lb dumbbells.

    Finally I just bought my own set of weights and a medicine ball and now I workout in the comfort of my own home. The living room is now my gym and the internet is my trainer. I’m loving it!

  34. Nicole

    I do have a gym membership but mostly use for the pool and Spin classes. And the rare treadmill run when it’s oh, 100 degrees outside.
    Workout DVDs/at-home workouts are under-rated. You can totally get a great workout in on your own time.

  35. Heather (Where's the Beach)

    I belonged to a gym for about 8 or 9 years until it shut its doors last month. I was furious, a bit devastated, even sad. It was my familiar territory for weight lifting, spin classes, cross-training and lots of elliptical time when I was injured and couldn’t run. However, I do have a wide-arrange of workout DVDs and weights at home. So, for now, I’m running outside and then doing boxing/kickboxing and weights in my house – very convenient of course. But, no spin classes, no seeing other people and visiting, and no access to elliptical or treadmill when the weather gets bad.

  36. Meghan

    When I started consulting from home, I quit my downtown gym and bought a spinning bike on Overstock. The cost of the bike was 2 months of the gym membership, and I use it waaay more. I also run and have free weights, attend the occasional yoga class or let Dave Farmar kill me via podcast. 🙂

  37. Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run

    I am a gym slut. I have been to 4 gyms this yr. I am broke and a commitment phobe. I use 3 month groupons for all the local gyms. This way I am not locked into anything I can’t afford and I never get bored of the gym. (Although I still kinda do get bored of the gym. I guess it’s a hazard of being a runner.)

  38. Jen

    I cancelled Equinox a month ago and it really was liberating (except for the part where they kept charging my credit card monthly and I had to throw a fit and start a dispute with the credit card company). I’ve been trying Bikram Yoga groupons and Soulcycle, and I’ll probably tone that down as marathon training becomes more intense. Pay-by-class is way more worth it.

  39. Elizabeth

    They gym I go to is extremely formal. Like, black tie. I wear a ball gown when I hit the heavy weights. For serious, I just canceled my boxing gym membership so that I can afford to add a few more days at CrossFit. I love the freedom of not being locked into a long term contract (we pay month to month) and feel like I’ve finally found somewhere I want to workout, with very few obstacles (time, distance) or excuses standing in the way. PS Miss your face. See you in a month. Prepare to be bear hugged.

  40. Shay

    I love to workout at the gym! I joined California fitness in Singapore. Normally I workout before work. I stay quite far from my workplace but there is 1 outlet which is near. So I go there abt 3 or 4 workdays a week. One day on the weekend I will go to other outlets.

    I mainly go to classes as my work travel schedule doesn’t allow me to have a fixed time with the trainer. I do bodycombat, body balance, spinning and recently body pump. I love classes to keep myself

  41. Eleonora

    I didn’t have a gym membership for about a year and spent my time running and going to very expensive boutique classes- this would get frustrating as all boutique classes have 6-12 hour cancellation policies which can be problematic with hectic work schedules. I missed the freedom of just being able to go to a class or run a treadmill whenever I wanted. I joined Equinox and have been so happy with the decision. They have some of the best teachers in NYC, classes are fantastic, a monthly membership is equivalent to 5-6 boutique classes and you never have to worry about class cancellation fees! Totally worth it! Plus the steam room and chilled eucalyptus towels are AMAZING!

  42. misszippy

    Good topic! I’m mostly a runner, but do some triathlons too. For access to a pool, I keep my gym membership. I never lift there (do all my strength training at home) and never take classes, so it’s solely for that pool membership. Otherwise I’d be done. I think that as a runner, you can easily forego it–there are so many ways to get in the strength training we need outside of a gym.

  43. Kimra

    Hehe, formal gym. Dahhhhhling, you need your elbow-length gloves to use these free weights.

    I’ve had a 24-Hour Fitness membership since I moved to California 8 years ago, and I don’t think I’ll ever cancel it unless I move to a state where there are literally no 24-Hour Fitnesses, because I have such a good rate locked in. At this point I use it mostly to a) swim once a week at most or b) store my stuff in a locker (and later shower) while I run outside.

    I also belong to a climbing gym and really need to go 4x/monthly to justify my membership, but lately it’s been more like once a month. I’m hesitant to cancel, though, because I don’t want to repay initiation when I start going more regularly.

  44. dorry

    I haven’t belonged to a gym in years – didn’t need to when I worked for lulu since we could go anywhere for free, but even now I just run outside strength train at home, and go to a class now and then like Soul Cycle. I agree it’s a better deal to check out single classes that commit to one gym if you aren’t even using it! Integrative Nutrition offers staff yoga so I go to that once a week…

  45. Ali

    I’ve tried many (many,many,many) gyms and have had on and off memberships. What finally clicked for me is when I signed up for the gym next to my new apartment, and they offer a boot camp class, which is essentially a small class with a personal trainer. I love it because I can do this for my off day workouts, and my trainer pushes me to do exercises I normally wouldn’t have done.

  46. Alicia at Poise in Parma

    Funny, I was a gym rat in 2009 as well.
    I still have my gym membership – have since January 2006. My gym is less than two minutes from my house and has another location less than five minutes from one of my clients. Even though I’ve been spending FAR more time at the yoga studio in the past nine months, I can’t let the gym go. It’s nice to know an elliptical isn’t that far away.

  47. Sarah

    I went to the NY Sports Club when I lived in NYC but I switched to the Sports Club/LA when I moved to Boston, which is similar to Equinox and I loved it. I could barely afford it (it was double the cost of NYSC) but I went all the time and it was worth it. Now I live in Maryland and my gym is ok but I don’t love it. I’ve been thinking about cancelling for a long time now but I like the classes (some of the time) and the convenience of a treadmill/spin bike/weights room when I’m not running or injured from running.

    Good for you for making the break!

  48. sue jean

    I’ve also been toying with the idea of finally cancelling my gym membership. I only go a few times a month to spin classes- and I get really irrirated when the teacher’s not good. Instead, I’ve been running outside and going to Refine and Flywheel classes once a week.

  49. Taylor @ Lifting Revolution

    I have a gym membership for lots of reasons, my job (trainer) I film lots of videos on the gym for youtube videos and such, I love lifting weights, my husband would kill me if we didn’t and I have learned that I am terrible at working out a home. For some reason when I walk through the door the last thing I want to do is exercise in my home so if I didn’t have the gym I would never get my strength training in.

    But I understand why some people don’t need them!

  50. Coco

    I have never belonged to a gym. I started working out at home with exercise tapes, built up a home gym with free weights, fitballs, step benches, etc., then added an elliptical, treadmill and Bowlfex over the years. Probably not an option for someone like you living in NYC, but I love the convenience of just walking downstairs for my workout.

  51. Kristin

    I went through a similar break-up with Equinox and it didn’t even last a year. I’m a long-distance triathlete and was barely using the gym except for swimming so I joined a cheap local Y for the pool and gave up my membership. But I was miserable and ultimately ended up racing back to Equinox. I can’t help myself. I’m finally strength training so it feels worthwhile and if it’s scorching hot, pouring rain or too late/early to run outside I use the treadmills. I try to justify the cost in any way I can 🙂

  52. Shay @ Whine Less, Breathe More

    I have a family membership to our local Y. It works for us because they offer a lot of classes I enjoy. My older daughter occasionally takes a yoga or Pilates class with me. My younger daughter LOVES the salt water pool and swims whenever I’m in a class. Plus, I get a discount on her weekly gymnastics class and older daughter’s winter volleyball season. And it’s the nicest Y I have ever been to.

  53. Matt

    A fantastic post. I too am not a fan of gyms, but I’ve managed to lose a lot of weight at home. The program I’ve used is “The Truth About Six Pack Abs,” an extraordinarily helpful system that you can actually do at home. My review of the program is at my website.

  54. Cindy @ The Flipping Couple

    I’m one of those Crossfit freaks, so yeah, I belong to a gym. I know everybody’s main point is that Crossfit is expensive, but I’m there 4-5 days a week every single freaking week, so it’s definitely what works for me. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it if you decide to give it a shot!


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