Why gym memberships can be a smart investment

Photo illustration of a woman using a gym membership

I’ve just come from the gym. My arms are so spent I can barely type. My glutes are killing me as I sit on my wooden chair. I am guzzling ice water and still sweating a little. An hour of concentrated exercise with a trainer — part of my gym memberships — has left me feeling both exhausted and accomplished. I love my gym.

My gym membership costs us $158.46 per month. I can hear the gasps of horror from the frugal corner: that’s 1,901.52 a year! Over the next 10 years, that’s almost $20K I could be putting into my Roth IRA. That’s $5,704.56 we could be putting into the 529 college account for our second child (you remember him, the one we call Hope He Gets A Soccer Scholarship)! I could use that to open a stock investment account and invest in electronic-traded funds. I could purchase corporate bonds!

I could. But I’m not going to. I’m going to continue to use that money to “invest” in myself, and here’s why: Because nine months after joining this gym, I have lost nearly 4 pounds of body fat, 12 pounds on the scale, am back to wearing clothes I haven’t worn in more than two years, I feel better than I have in a long time (mentally and physically), and I have made new friends! To me, that’s a great investment.

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My family actually has two gym memberships. We also belong to the local YMCA, at a cost of $936 a year. The Husband swims at the Y three to five days a week, and our two children use the gym equipment there to supplement their training for their team sports. My son also goes and plays pickup basketball in the winter with his friends. Yes, I could use the Y, but I don’t. When I tried using the Y on a regular basis I was sporadic at best in my work outs. I hated the locker room (a little dirty and a lot shabby), the class schedules didn’t really match my schedule, and I didn’t like using the equipment (again, a little dirty and a lot shabby).

A little background: I have been a consistent exerciser for probably 25 years – primarily walking and running, but it kept me shape and got me outside every day for a period of time. Having a dog is a great incentive to get outside and take a long walk every day – and running was a good way for me to do some thinking and have some quiet time.

And then … I turned 50. I got laid off. Menopause started. My 90-year-old father fell and broke his hip. I had to invent a new career. My 91-year-old father died. My daughter had to get ready to go to college.

I was a wreck. Emotionally and physically. Menopause is Latin for “one day you will wake up and weigh 10 pounds more and you won’t even know how it happened and oh by the way you will want to cry all the time and sweat buckets at a moment’s notice.” My career uncertainty, the illness and death of my dad, my daughter’s looming nest-leaving all coalesced into a nice big meltdown and I pretty much gave up on myself and was just trying to get through each day without sobbing in front of strangers.

Enter my wonderful doctor, who sent me to a wonderful therapist, who helped me see that it is helpful to control the things I can control in order to feel better about life and its associated chaos. So when a local gym offered a 21-day fitness challenge special that included personal training, group hugs and a diet plan designed to burn fat, I joined. It was $97. That was back in January.

At the end of the 21 days I had lost 3 pounds of body fat, 10 pounds on the scale, made some great new friends and developed a real support network. I. Felt. Better. About everything. Control.

Of course the genius of an offer like a 21-day challenge (for a low, low price) is that then they suck you into joining. There were lots of price levels, and I knew I couldn’t afford to join at the level of training that the challenge had offered (which included personal sessions as well as group classes), but The Husband and I sat down and talked about it.

“It’s a lot of money,” I said.

“You feel better,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Will you stick with it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Ok,” he said. “Do it.”

So I joined for a year, the level in which I can take unlimited group classes and use all the equipment at will. Included in that is a customized exercise plan that they will update for you every 6 weeks. The price with tax came to $158.46/month. I go 5 days a week without fail (I put it on my calendar), which breaks it down to $7.92 a day. Sometimes I go 6 times a week, which is $6.60 a session. Add to that that I have started running 3 times a week again (I’m going to value that at $20 a pop), and somebody owes me money!

In all seriousness, though, the mental and emotional stability that I have gained in the last 9 months is due in large part to the sense of control I have gained through my gym. It’s worth every penny to me (and The Husband). What about you? How much do you pay for exercise? Are you getting your money’s worth? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.

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