Chu’s Your Gym Wisely « Just Me Against The World

Chu’s Your Gym Wisely

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Thinking about working out is already stressful enough if this is a new lifestyle that you want to take on. Then pile on the sales pressure from your gym and it might turn you back to eating chips in the dark corner of your kitchen while nobody is watching (I actually do this). I’ll use this post to list out a few things to keep an eye out for when signing up for a gym membership because you’ll be locked in for a year or longer to get the better rates. These people can be vultures. Worse than the prototypical used car salesman that promises you world and gives you a RAV 4 with a leaking radiator. Sorry. You signed on the line, bro. Nothing we do about it now. You should have read the 90 page contract before you initialed by all 400 disclaimers.

This is all from my experience and what is offered in my area so where you live and who you talk to might vary, but you can use what I’ve gone through as a reference.

First, make sure that there is a cooling off period. Where I live, we can cancel the contract within 72 business hours even if you signed in your own blood. I hate backing out of agreements, but sometimes we have buyer’s remorse or find a better deal elsewhere. Or other times you get home and realize you what you signed is completely different than what you were promised so you have to cancel to protect your money. This happened to me at LA Fitness in Torrance. The “sales manager” talked all big saying he could get me this rate for all the locations and it would be locked in for life. When I tried to check in at LA Fitness in Long Beach, they said it was only for the Torrance location so I couldn’t go in. I called the guy in Torrance and he insisted that the LB location was mistaken. Turned out that he signed me up for Torrance only so I had to cancel and re-sign another contract for a higher monthly rate. Nothing but bad experiences with the LA Fitness staff, which is why I ended up canceling.

Second, always look for the deal. Maybe it’s the Chinese in me, but negotiating and haggling will almost always save you some boba money. They used to sign you up to pre-pay 3 years in advance then your yearly rate after that becomes dirt cheap. It was beneficial to the gyms back then because they could get their money upfront and 3 years down the line, most people give up anyway so the gyms already got their money. I haven’t been able to get anyone to hook me up with that lately. I think because health and fitness has become more important, people are actually sticking to their gym commitments and that ends up costing the gyms money with the pay upfront plans. Usually gyms do promotions around holidays where they give a special monthly rate or waive initiation fees. One thing that they’re all sneaking in now is the yearly “maintenance fee” which is pretty bogus like those dreaded “resort fees”.

Third (and 1/2 most important), check the location. Location is crucial because you lose a lot of motivation if you have to drive 30 minutes to get to the gym. Your pre-workout will wear off and you’ll drive past 15 fast food joints along the way. The 24 Hour Fitness I go to is a 10 minute drive from my house and the one by my office is even closer than that. The Planet Fitness is so close to my place that I can ride my bike there to get warmed up. If you know that you will only go to one gym location then you can negotiate a rate based on that as well.

Fourth (and 2/2 most important), make sure you like the facility. There’s no point signing up for a gym that doesn’t have the equipment you want to use. Like if it’s full of free weights and you’re looking to do cardio or vice versa. If the gym doesn’t have what you want, then you’re basically just going to get out of the house. For me, I barely do any cardio at the gym so free weights and machines are my priority. Having clean and operational equipment is always a plus, too, though not always available. Think about other things you might want to use like a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, pool, basketball court, racquetball court, yoga studio, etc. Sign up for a guest pass if it’s available. You’re going to be forced to sit through a mind-numbing tour of things you don’t care about, but then you can use the gym. Before the fingerprint scanning, I was able to extend one of my guest passes for close to 6 months. Remember, once you sign and pass the cooling off period, you’re stuck with this place so you might as well like it.

Now that I got through the preliminary screenings, if you’re still reading then I’ll break down the different gyms that I’ve visited along with Pros vs Cons.

LA Fitness


Dues: $99 initiation fee and $29.99/month. 5 day guest pass. $20 per guest each time. 5 day guest pass available.

Pros: Facility-wise, they probably have the newest and cleanest equipment. They keep building new gyms so that means new equipment. Tons of free weights, machines, treadmills, and all that good stuff. Almost all of the facilities I’ve visited have the works with pools, saunas, steam rooms, basketball courts, etc.

Cons: The staff I’ve dealt with were super rude. Also, they close at 11pm on weeknights and even earlier on Friday and weekends at 8pm. Sometimes you can’t sleep or just want to get a late night workout in. Not possible at LA Fitness. You might as well find some movies on Netflix. When I used to go, they would have cleaning people wiping down machines and vacuuming around you in the middle of your workout. How annoying and dangerous.

Tips: Push the sales people for a better rate. They’ll be able to waive fees and pull special rates out of nowhere if you seem committed and play hardball.

24 Hour Fitness


Dues: $99.99 initiation fee. $29.99/month for All Club Sport membership or $44.99/month for All Club Super Sport access. $49.99/year maintenance fee. 3 day guest pass available (used to be 24 days). $20 guest pass per visit.

Option (Except Hawaii): Costco All Club Sport $399 for 2 years or $16.66/month. Costco All Club Super Sport $649.99 for 2 years or $27.08/month with no maintenance fee. These used to be much cheaper, but still a great deal. They’re technically only supposed to let you use the Coscto deal for your first sign up, but I was able to do it three times in a row until I figure that I should just go legit and sign up with a normal membership.

Pros: Most of the gyms are open 24 hours a day and they’ve been building more Super Sports or remodeling old gyms into Super Sports. If you used to go to those locations, you are grandfathered in. Staff pretty much leaves you alone. Super Sport locations have new machines and towel service (which most people don’t use). Even the older locations have saunas, steam rooms, pools, etc. Not all of them have basketball courts, though. There are locations all over the country so if you travel a lot like I do, then you can still get to a 24 Hour Fitness rather than settle for the hotel gym.

Cons: A lot of old gyms with missing weights and old equipment. Sometimes the equipment is broken for months and you just figure it will never be fixed. Also, if they build a Super Sport near you then you don’t get access to it unless you upgrade your membership. That yearly “maintenance fee” is a bitch. Random rate increases. Some of the Super Sports are not labeled outside then they make you feel like a criminal when you try to check in.

Tips: With so many gyms popping up, the competition is tough so you can call in and negotiate lower membership dues.

Planet Fitness


Dues: $5 initiation fee (sometimes $1). $10/month Basic single gym access. $19.99/month Black Card multiple gym access including unlimited guest passes. $39/year maintenance fee.

Pros: Very cheap membership. $19.99/month Black Card and you can bring a guest every single time. Also, you have free access to tanning beds, massage chairs/beds, and haircuts (I’ve yet to see this). You get discounts on drinks and gear, too, but I rarely buy anything at the gym. Because it’s a newer gym, all of the equipment is up to date and new. Tons of cardio machines. Generally, it’s pretty empty. Monday and Tuesday nights are busy, but Wednesday through the weekend you can pretty much get on any bench or machine that you want. Great to get in and out quickly. Also, almost everyone wipes down machines, which is amazing since almost nobody does at 24 Hour Fitness. While kind of whatever with information, the staff has been very nice. Oddly enough, they have pizza and bagel nights. Probably not ideal for people who want to lose weight, but I’m not one to look a gift pizza in the mouth. The locations by me have all changed to be open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Cons: Staff is pretty whatever. They don’t know any information that’s part of the membership, like which locations are included in the unlimited access. Because you only get unlimited if the gym is franchised by the same owner. Otherwise it’s 10 visits per month outside of the franchise owner. This information would be helpful. The girl who signed me up told me that the $1 initiation fee and no commitment membership billboards posted up everywhere were false advertising. She couldn’t give us a tour because there was nobody else working so she said just look around from the front desk unless we paid $20. Normally with an attitude like that, I’d peace out right away. They also have a very limited free weight selection. A good amount of dumbbells, but barely any barbells and no bench press stations. Only Smith Press and mobile benches that you can use for various workouts. It’s fairly new so who knows how long they will stay around. Lastly, the machines max out at a pretty low weight. I’m not even that strong and I hit the max on the tricep push-down, curl, and shoulder press machines. For serious lifters, they could probably just pick up the whole machine for a workout. If you grunt or drop weights, there’s a “Lunk Alarm” with a blue light and sirens that blast.

Tips: If you know that you’re going with two people then sign up for the Black Card membership. That way you have access to multiple locations. The only thing is that the second person can only go when the main member is there to check them in and won’t have access to the extra perks, which they wouldn’t be able to with the standard $10 membership anyway. There isn’t much negotiating with these guys because their dues are really cheap as is. If anyone finds a location with a haircut station, let me know.


Crunch Fitness


Dues: $49 initiation fee(down to $0.31). $9.95/month Base Membership single gym access. $19.95/month Peak Membership multiple gym access including unlimited guest passes. $39 – $49/year maintenance fee.

Pros: This place is very similar to Planet Fitness in terms of what they have to offer. Slightly less cardio machines and more weights, which I like. It actually has more of a cross fit presence and whole areas sectioned off for it. If you’re into cross fit, then this is perfect for you. I personally am not, but it’s cool to see it as an option. Their staff is much more knowledgeable about the different plans and giving tours. Base Membership only allows you access to your home gym so if you can spring for the Peak Membership, you can bring a guest then take advantage of the massage chairs and tanning stations then get yourself a t-shirt that you’ll probably never wear.

Cons: Very few cons if you’re just looking to work out and get to your next task. No frills meaning you won’t find a sauna, steam room, or pool. And there definitely aren’t basketball courts or anything like that. But for as low as $10/month what do you expect? Same concern as this is a small gym, how long will it last? This is one of the reasons why I keep my 24 Hour Fitness membership even though I go to Planet Fitness significantly more now. If a once big gym like Bally’s closed down, will these smaller ones stay afloat with their super low monthly dues?

Tips: If you check around the local food places, you can probably find a 30 day guest pass. Not too shabby. Then you can at least try it out before signing up. Ironically, I found my guest passes at Del Taco.

Remember, take this information for what it’s worth and remember that everything is from my perspective at the gyms I have gone to. You might have a completely different experience so make sure to keep an open mind. Only my second blog post and I’m already getting tired. Next one will actually include some workouts that I started off with. Thinking about accompanying them with videos, but that can get tricky.

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