1 Fitness, Happiness Expensive | The Billfold

Fitness, Happiness Expensive

Everybody who does SoulCycle loves SoulCycle, reports Alex Morris for New York. It’s exercise for the body … but also for the soul. It changes lives! “I have to say it’s like a meeting for me. I’m getting high on endorphins, not anything else,” says one devotee. “I have a great husband, a good life, but this is my happy place,” says another.

It’s $32 a class.

Math: If you go once a week, that’s $128/mo. Twice a week, $256/mo. Three times a week, $384. And if you’re like this girl—“’I would do anything that I could to afford these rides,’ says 27-year-old Jaime, who often takes thirteen classes a week”—it’s $1,664/mo.

This is not a post about how dumb all those people are, by the way.

I joined my own expensive fitness cult for several months when I was living in Virginia with my folks. The intro CrossFit course was $150. I bought a punchcard that came out to about $9/class and I went between three and five days a week—$150-ish/mo. I paid for the classes with real money—I wasn’t using credit cards at this time, but I wasn’t paying them off beyond the minimums. There were a lot of places that $144 could have/should have gone—Visa, AmEx, a J.Crew card—but I chose not to do that.  And at the time, it was worth it. I set my alarm and got out of bed early to go run in the cold and lift weights and do burpees and get yelled at and I did it happily. I was a better version of myself for those months. I’d found the elusive thing that worked for me, that made me want to hurt my body in a good way. But then I moved to New York and started paying rent, and I wouldn’t have the $200/mo. I’d need take classes here if I cut out everything out of my budget but bills. I no longer get out of bed to exercise.




50 Comments / Post A Comment

“SoulCycle” huh? Sounds a bit like Mercerism, from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Wikipedia describes it thusly: “The main Earth religion is Mercerism, in which Empathy Boxes link simultaneous users into a collective consciousness based on the suffering of Wilbur Mercer, a man who takes an endless walk up a mountain while stones are thrown at him, the pain of which the users share.”

la_di_da (#1,425)

Can we have a general discussion on gym costs here? I was willfully blind until my boyfriend pointed out last week that my gym costs $800 a year–that’s another month’s rent for something I use once a week–twice if I’m lucky. And now I’m in this guilty free fall about my budget. I know I need to do it more often for both health and mental wellness reasons, but are there tricks to make this cheaper? Anyone? I used to get a discount through my insurance but then they stopped that, and I don’t go often enough for my insurance to reimburse the costs (which, okay, I could fix, but what I’m really looking for is a cheaters way out, anyone?).

How much should this cost? For real.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@la_di_da I have been having the same debate. And I have absolutely no answer for you.

KatNotCat (#766)

@la_di_da Do you get any discounts though work? Some gyms have corporate partnerships. Barring that, are the things you do at an expensive gym worth the expense, or could you get the same experience at a cheaper gym? Put aside the perks of things like juice and towel service–do you utilize the classes, trainers or upscale equipment, or do you stick to the basics? A cheaper gym like Planet Fitness is a great option if all you need is access to some basic equipment.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@la_di_da $66/month doesn’t sound like very much to me, and it’s like $17 a shot if you only go once a week. I don’t know if anything is cheaper at that frequency.

lil sebastian (#2,900)

@la_di_da Not sure if you live in an expensive area, but that seems high to me. It depends what amenities matter to you too- I belonged to fancy gym in DC that raised my monthly rate over $60/month and I quit and joined a $24/mo gym. The cheaper gym was bigger (pro) and more crowded (con) but had better classes. Also a factor: signup costs (I signed up during a no-enrollment fee promotion) and hidden annual “upgrades” fees (my gym charged me $50 once a year for new equipment etc).

ThatJenn (#916)

@la_di_da Ooof, gym costs. Until recently I was never able to rationalize a gym membership, ever, because I couldn’t see myself going more than 1-2 times per week, and I couldn’t imagine paying more than $10/visit on average, which is what most of the non-sucky gyms in this area would work out to. Yes, there’s Planet Fitness at $10/month, but everyone hates it. There’s also a local gym everyone loves, but it’s nearly $100/month.

I got lucky – my current workplace has a staff gym you can join for what comes out to just over $6 per week, so even if I go once or twice per week it feels really low-cost to me, and even more so because it’s close to where I work (making it easier to go) and gets automatically deducted from my paycheck (making it feel even less like real money). I can barely justify it to myself anyway, some days! But on the other hand, I sure do like having a treadmill to run on and nice weight machines to use when it is gross outside.

Yogi (#2,872)

@la_di_da I live in DC too, and to me $800 a year seems pretty cheap! I currently spend a little more than $1k a year on my unlimited yoga membership, but I go 4-5 times a week.

Where were you able to find a gym in DC for $24/month!?! Is it in the burbs?

chic noir (#713)

@la_di_da planet fitness and 24 hr fitness are inexpensive gyms.

I’ve never done Soul Cycle or Flywheel (and I will say nothing about the cult-like devotion those places inspire), so I don’t know exact prices, but there are monthly memberships or packages, so for the die-hards, it’s not $1600 a month. I have had, however, packages and memberships at places like Physique 57 in New York: the intro month was $200, I think it went up to $375 for unlimited classes after the first month, so I dropped down to buying class cards (5 or 10 at a time). Classes were otherwise $35 a pop. I loved it, and did it, even though frankly, it was a stretch for my budget.

Most boutique-type exercise classes run $32-$37 in New York. Equinox, which has a reputation of being extremely expensive, starts to seem affordable in comparison.

I currently have two unlimited yoga memberships, so I spend $250 on yoga. (One is for hot yoga; the other for not hot). I am a fool. A stretched out, very zen fool, but a fool nonetheless.

Markovaa (#1,509)

@angry little raincloud Not to nitpick but that diehard probably does pay around 1600. 13 classes a week comes to aprox. 52 per month. That means her best option is to buy two of the 30 classes/12 month option at 850. Since she would end up with 8 extra classes to use towards the next month, she probably pays just under 1600 dollars.

I’ve danced my whole life and I’ve found it to be a very expensive hobby to keep up with in New York. Most individual dance classes run from $15-20 and dance cards tend to run $150 for ten classes in a two month period. Obviously these rates vary but I found that even with the flexibility of a punch card that it was difficult to make the classes that I actually wanted to go to with my work schedule.

@Franny Does Soul Cycle not having monthly memberships? I have no interest in indoor cycling, but I would have thought they fall into line with the rest of the swanky NYC fitness scene. As I said, Physique 57– which costs more per class than Soul or Flywheel– has unlimited monthlies for around $350/month. Exhale is around $275 for unlimited Core Fusion. And Flywheel, at least, can be booked via Fitist, which has various packages, although the most expensive one is over $1,000 / month.

But yeah, dance classes (or yoga, or barre, or cycling) adds up quickly in NYC. At least dance classes (at Alvin Ailey, Peridance, or Mark Morris) are somewhat cheaper than the Soul Cycles, Physiques, etc. of the world…

Megoon (#328)

@angry little raincloud Yup, looks like 13 classes a week at Soul would run about $1475 per month, and they don’t have unlimited memberships. There was a Times article a while ago about boutique fitness addicts, that breathlessly reported that these professional ladies spend upwards of $500 a month on exercise. They should have found this girl. Thirteen classes a week is a LOT of spinning.

I really like Physique 57, and it’s kind of sick that part of the reason I’m consistent about going is because it’s so pricey. There’s no way I’m skipping a class that I paid $31 for. My friend goes to Bar Method and we were commiserating about how their unlimited deal ($270/month) is a “budget” option. Oh, New York.

@Megoon Once, I signed up for a Physique class at 6 am. (This was punishment for something.) I do not live anywhere near there, so it required a subway. I remember my alarm going off at some ungodly hour and thinking, “Noooooo,” but then thinking, fuck, I’m not sleeping through $30+.

I haven’t been to Bar Method is ages, but I remember it being a lot easier (note, not easy, just easier) than Physique. Also, their classes times were way more limited. But the showers are nicer at Bar Method.

That is fucked up that Soul Cycle doesn’t have unlimited classes, considering the devotion of its clients. Also: I feel much better about my $250/month yoga habit (+ add the occasional Physique/Core Fusion or pilates class).

chic noir (#713)

@angry little raincloud oh how I want to try Physique57. Is it a very difficult class for beginners with no ballet training?

@chic noir You totally do NOT need any dance experience at all: despite the barre, there’s very little overlap with ballet. (Of all the barre classes I’ve taken in NYC, I think the barre class at Pilates Pro Works incorporates the most ballet-like moves.) Plies and releves (up on the balls of your feet) are about as close to dance as you get.

I do credit Physique as my gateway drug into working out. I’m terrified of the gym (no idea what I’m doing), and the classes really are very effective. I just felt better after taking the classes.

It’s 2-for-1 for new clients, and then they have intro deals. If you can swing it, I’d really say go for the 1-month unlimited, because then you can try out a bunch of different instructors.

Also, don’t be put off by the very polished, very pretty, very rich looking women (huge engagement rings, fancy bags, Lululemon head-to-toe). There are some Physique slobs like me in Target pants, too!

Is there a private message feature here? Because if you sign up and give them my name, I’d also get a free class!

Also, re the $250 I spend each month on yoga: I’m actually more likely to use it more that way than if I bought individual classes. I am, at heart, kind of a cheapskate, so I basically force myself to go almost everyday because otherwise it is wasted money. I track my visits on my calendar– and I do schedule things around yoga– so that it works out to less than $10/class.

When I didn’t have monthly memberships, I never went.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@angry little raincloud I have this with Pilates – if you cancel less than 12 hours before the class, the class and your money just disappears! Gone forever! So I agonize about ever missing one and feel really terrible when I do, even if it’s because I”m sick as a dog and wouldn’t get any value out of it….arrrgh it’s so infuriating to lose that (27 dollars with the package) class! Whereas, I have a gym in my building and can technically work out any time for “free” (disregarding the annual fee everyone has to pay for it), so it’s so easy to just not go. And I hate working out at the gym and love Pilates… but the cost of Pilates is too high….what to do? I have not found a solution to this other than “go to Pilates and spend too much money on it.”

@WaityKatie This is going to sound wacky, but I LIKE the cancellation fees. (Sort of). It’s the ONLY thing that would get my ass out of bed for an am (or, cough, on the weekends, an early afternoon) class. The thought that hitting the snooze button would cost me $35 motivated me to get up. (Note: neither of my yoga places requires pre-registration, therefore I have never made it to the 11 am Saturday class or 10 am hot yoga.)

I’m not a fan of the 12-hour cancellation policy, though. Some places have either 4- or 6-hour policies which work well: enough to plan the night before or if work gets crazy for pm classes.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@angry little raincloud Yeah, no, I like the fact that the paralyzing regret I feel when missing a class almost always encourages me to follow through and go. But like you said, sometimes stuff comes up at work or I turn out to be sicker than I thought I was, etc., and then losing the class because I had to cancel a few hours before really blows. The solution I suppose would be to not register for a class until I’m 100 percent sure I can go, but then sometimes they fill up! Argh, no solution exists except finding a cheaper means of exercise, blergh.

@WaityKatie I’m going to guess from the price that you’re taking pilates reformer (or other machine) classes, right? I’ve been seeing a lot of very good deals for reformer classes on Lifebooker Loot and Bloomspot recently. If you’re not absolutely beholden to your current place, maybe worth looking around? If I weren’t spending so much damn money on yoga, I’d be trying them, too. I miss reformer classes. (But not that evil Megaformer thing, à la Pilates ProWorks or SLT. I’m a wussy.)

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@angry little raincloud I knoooow, but unfortunately I’m really attached to the teachers I currently go to. When I started doing it I tried a bunch of places thru groupons, but some of them really SUCKED, as well, so I’m kind of beholden to the two studios I currently go to. I’m hoping to get good enough to start taking mat classes instead at some point though, if I can tear myself away or cut back at least. (Pilates, worse than drugs.) Whoa, I’ve never even heard of a Megaformer, that sounds terrifying.

@WaityKatie I understand– I’ve had enough crappy pilates/yoga classes that it’s amazing I kept with it long enough to find someplace I like. I’m not a huge fan of mat classes (at least not as a replacement for the reformer, because for me it seems like the reformer allows for things a mat class doesn’t).

Megaformers are terrifying: all kinds of hopping up and down, doing cardio-type things on the machine, etc. Also, they make you wear socks, so every time I felt like I was going to slip off and crack open my skull. I am not a fan.

There is also some chair-centered place downtown (Chaise 23?). I haven’t tried it, mostly because you have to wear sneakers and I, uh, do not own sneakers. But whenever I have done the chair during a pilates circuit class, it amazes me how hard it is. Piking on the chair is terrifying in its own way.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@angry little raincloud Haha, I am still much too afraid of the chair! That’s another thing to “work up to,” perhaps years from now. I love reformer and the few times I tried mat I hated it, but I always imagine that now that I’m stronger from doing reformer, mat might be less torturous. When one of my teachers goes on maternity leave in a few months, I may take that as my opportunity to try mat again.

sony_b (#225)

@WaityKatie Yep. I pay $79 a month for my basic gym membership, and then $650 for a 10pack of one hour private training sessions on the reformer, so it works out to be about $350 per month. Which is insane.

We are working up to getting me into the regular reformer classes which would cut what I pay in half. I’ve got a couple of major injuries I’m recovering from so I’m treating this more like physical therapy, and hope to be at a place in another year or so where I can join the classes and keep up. Having shelled out that kind of cash for the trainer (who is awesome and worth every penny) makes it much more likely that I’ll go to the gym to lift weights a couple times a week as well. Because of that, I’ve been consistent about exercise for almost two years now – by far the longest stretch of my life.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

I don’t take dance classes or yoga classes right now, because: unemployed! My preferred dance studio (I take tap classes) has time limits on class cards, and I’ve never been able to say that yes I will absolutely go enough times in that time period to use this. One class was $18 for 90 minutes, which wasn’t bad, but more than I can manage right now. My old job had staff yoga once a week; now that I can’t go to that I need to check out Yoga to the People.

Meanwhile, I actually joined a gym when I found out I was being laid off. There’s a Planet Fitness in Harlem that’s about a ten-fifteen minute walk from my apartment, and it’s $10/month. If I go a couple times a week, we’re talking under $1 per visit. Worth it.

la_di_da (#1,425)

@RachelG8489 DUDE! Planet fitness, I didn’t realize they were in New York.

Also, serious question. How awkward is staff yoga? I mean, I like yoga, but I am in no way, shape, or form at all good at it. I often feel like a T-Rex trying to do a cartwheel. At my gym, I’ve the benefit of never seeing these strangers again as I flop around like a beached whale. I feel like anyone I work with would never trust my judgement again if they saw my “warrior pose.”

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@la_di_da There’s two locations like a block from each other in Harlem! I think there are one or two other Manhattan locations, and then it’s all outer boroughs. It’s so cheap, and so no-frills but I don’t like showering at the gym anyway because that means taking too much stuff with me. The only thing I dislike is all the “Biggest Loser” stuff, since they sponsor that terrible terrible show.

Staff yoga at that job didn’t have anyone who did “serious” yoga, we basically all just did it at work once a week and sometimes as a group we would pay our instructor to come in a second time. It was almost all women except for the mailroom guy, and we were all pretty friendly anyway and encouraged each other a lot. The people in that class were the most supportive people when I was laid off, and have been trying to help me out as much as they can with the job hunt. So for me, it was awesome!

Bill Fostex (#573)

That’s why I do the Thug Workout. Free!

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

Chapel Hill-Durham, North Carolina Gym Costs:

I belong to a small franchise gym that is fairly no-frills in terms of locker rooms and facilities but I love it because it has more than enough cardio machines for me, a sizable weight area, and a really great class schedule with a good mix of cardio and yoga and weight classes. A lot of the classes of Les Mills based and they also have a ton of spinning. I pay $40 a month, plus an annual renewal fee of whatever of $50, so $530 total. No pool and, again, no fancy locker rooms, but these things do not matter to me. It is five minutes from my house, I go 5-6 times a week for about an hour each time, I take a lot of the classes, and it is totally worth it. I kept this membership during an 8-month period of funemployment and while the money probably could have gone elsewhere it basically saved my sanity, as going to the gym kept me in a routine.

Last fall I did an eight week, three sessions a week Crossfit boot camp at Crossfit Durham. Normal price is $259 a month but I’d won this session at a charity silent auction for $70 so, go me. I LOVED it and would love to keep doing it but it is WAY expensive. Another boot camp session would be $259, and if I want to do regular Crossfit (which would rock I think) I am required to take a 6-session foundation course for $299 (at least this includes your first month of membership). Membership after that is $160 a month. I might save up for another boot camp session (or maybe cross my fingers that someone gifts it to me) but for now I’ll keep going to my $40 a month gym because it is working for me.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

My gym membership costs me $30 a month, which is ridiculously cheap compared to most gym memberships, but which still causes me angst. But I think that my angst actually makes me more likely to go to the gym. My body says “nooooooo, I don’t wanna get out of bed,” but then my brain kicks in and says “goddamn it, I’m paying money for that gym membership,” and so I get out of bed and go, even though I don’t want to.

$1664 a month for exercise classes seems totally insane, but then if you’re taking 13 exercise classes a week, I think you might have some other, non-financially-related issues!

RocketSurgeon (#747)

This is relevant to my interests. Last year, I canceled my New York Sports Club membership because I wanted to incorporate swimming into my routine and their only pool in NYC is in midtown and gross. I went with the Manhattan JCC, four blocks from my apartment, which has a lovely pool, clean locker rooms (with big, fluffy towels), a full gym and a spin studio. It’s been great. It was $1400 upfront for the year (or $125 per month, plus an autodebit fee at the time). I paid the year up front, and have enjoyed working out there ~3x per week in the pool, gym and spin class.

I need to decide by Jan. 31 whether to renew my membership upfront at $1500 or switch to paying $133 monthly (no autodebit fee). Or go find somewhere else. I’d renew, but have several big expenses coming up and it’s a very inconvenient time. What to do, what to do…

Blondsak (#2,299)

I live in a tiny studio in a terribly inconvenient section of my city, but I will say that it has been a huge advantage to have a gym in the building’s basement available 24/7, and a pool in the summer. Otherwise, I would simply never exercise.

knittinginheels (#2,950)

Denver Parks and Rec have a great gym system- we pay about $32/month for two of us, unlimited access to our “level”, or we can go a level up for $2/visit. They have a great boxing gym and classes, I always just do my own thing though, and I love it. There isn’t 24-hour access and it’s closed on Sundays, but it’s kind of nice to know that Sunday will be my day off so I better go the rest of the week damnit.

honey cowl (#1,510)

I pay ~$22/mo for my gym ($45 for me & my boyfriend), but I am also a marathoner, so I run outside at least 4x/week (which in a perverse way means I use the gym a lot less than I would were I not a runner). Seattle is no NYC, but it’s expensive too, and that’s the cheapest gym we could find — it’s not the closest, but the drive is worth it to us.

$32/class is not something I could possibly find room for in my budget, but I understand these people. The $$$ we sweat-addicted folks will pay to keep ourselves happy is often scoffed at by the non-exercisers. My roommate thinks I’m totally crazy.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Lauren Everyone has something they’re willing to spend way more money on than a lot of the people around them are. I am an occasional social drinker, but usually just at home/house parties, and I am always FLOORED by how much people say they spend on drinks at bars, especially on here where most people live in big cities where drinks are literally twice as expensive as they are where I live. It is fun to them and thus worth the money! However, it sounds horrendously expensive to the point of ruining my evening to me. Others might scoff at how much I spend on my annual park pass and the gas I spend getting to all the state parks in my area, in turn.

I have had a Crossfit living social deal since like, May, that I haven’t used yet because I’m just too scared of a) generally going and b) going and loving it and being heartbroken that I can’t afford it. I’m already heartbroken that I moved half an hour away from the best (and I mean, THE best) local Masters swim club, I can’t have my workout heart broken twice in one year.

Free gym at my work!

Also, I should point out that for the cost of like 10 of these classes, you can buy a very nice bicycle with which you can cycle to actual places that you need to go.

Alternatively, you can walk to said places on your feet, which come standard with most human bodies. If you walk faster you will get more exercise! That fitness tip is free, from me.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@stuffisthings I think the walking tip only works for guys though (if we’re talking weight loss) because I walk all over creation all the time and I’m still “too big to date” in NYC…

@WaityKatie I’m a guy who walks everywhere and I can’t say I’ve lost much weight, either, but if I am having problems with my soul at least there are plenty of bars along the route home.

j-i-a (#746)

FITNESS MONEY it is the most expensive and most non-negotiable but it also makes up for money you would spend on (1) impulse buys to cheer yourself up (2) beauty products to make you feel like you look good (3) clothes to make yourself feel like you look better (4) smoothies juice etc.

@j-i-a There was this brief moment when I justified paying for expensive classes by thinking I was saving money on alcohol. I felt so healthy (and smug! let’s not forget smug!) that I didn’t want to go to a bar. So instead of spending $30 on cocktails, I spent $30 on core fusion.

And then I realized: booze is AWESOME after a tough workout. Or hot yoga. Or work. That plan blown. Sigh.

Why the hell have I commented so much on a thread about working out / lush forever

ThatJenn (#916)

@j-i-a I use this exact logic, especially #1. I also compare to the cost of antidepressants or self-medication.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Was debating joining a gym mainly I can do weight training during lunch instead of just sitting around. But SO EXPENSIVE and would take away from funds that would otherwise be part of the emergency fund/loan payoff.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@CubeRootOfPi My current rationalization is that the obscene amount I spend on exercise classes makes me feel better about everything, including my loan debt, so I don’t really need to pay that off right away.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@WaityKatie I.e., actually doing the exercise makes me feel better, not spending the money!

lemons! (#384)

I had to look up what a Burpee is because I was pretty sure it wasn’t the seed catalog sitting in my bathroom right now. Wikipedia said it’s “identical to what is in US English termed a ‘squat thrust’” just in case anybody else was wondering.

kate@twitter (#2,935)

I pay $65/month for 24 Hour Fitness in Manhattan, which I think is really worth it. It’s close to my office so it’s easy to go 4-6 times a week, plus I also have a NYC rec center membership for swimming and weightlifting (club in Queens, $50/year). Occasionally I go to a yoga class in Queens ($5 at Yoga Agora) or Yoga to the People in Manhattan, although my gym does have a few yoga classes.

The cheapest gym I ever went to in NYC was the Astoria Sports Complex which is $99/year, but it was so gross I hardly ever went and gained 20 pounds. You get what you pay for, in most cases.

ImASadGiraffe (#982)

I used to do CrossFit – I was a part-time coach there but the regular monthly membership was $200/month for unlimited classes. Stopped coaching and couldn’t afford the cost. Right now I’m doing barre classes and those are $99/month for unlimited classes. I’m in Chicago, so slight premium there, but worth it, I think.

It’s hard getting motivated to exercise, sometimes it helps to do the more expensive option (if you can afford it).

I swim 3-4 times a week at the YWCA near my work. It’s about $60/month with a corporate deal. I could swim at the public pool near my house for less, about $40/mo, but I like the Y better (it’s larger, it’s cleaner, and it’s not as busy at the times I’m there) so that extra money I pay a month is worth it to me. If I’d gotten a monthly pass at the public pool, I’d be spending less per month but it’d just be thrown away because I know I wouldn’t go no matter how good my intentions are to exercise.

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