Gym Hopper

How Far Can You Get On Free Gym Passes?

You may remember her "caught double dipping at Equinox" exploits. We were so charmed by her gym-hopping adventures we asked her to be Social Workout's newest contributor. A warm Social Workout welcome to Julia Neyman! ~ the Eds.

The Subject: 24 year old female law student in New York City. Fitness enthusiast. Desperately impoverished, but equally resourceful (we hope).

The Objective: Get through 2010, working out regularly, without ever paying for a gym membership.

The skinny: My school gym stinks and I’m too poor to pay for a gym membership. But I love to work out and try new exercise classes. So what to do?  Well, as it turns out, New York City has got my answer: competition.

This oversaturated island is home to hundreds of gyms, yoga studios, karate dojos, personal trainers and the like. They all want my (nonexistent) money, and they’re willing to lure me with the offer of a free session, an open community class, or sometimes even a free week. They think it’ll be love at first sweat; that I’ll fall swooning from the elliptical, right into their membership office. A hundred a month, and I’m theirs for the keep.

But I’ve got an ace up my sleeve: desperation, and the willingness to travel all over the five boroughs to make sure my workout is gratis.

Now, mind you, this isn’t total opportunism on my part. Once my year of free gym-hopping is up, I fully intend to join the gym I like best. Think of my quest as a year-long shopping trip, and you’re along for the ride.

Thus far: It’s been almost three months, and so far so good. I’ve sampled a plethora of gyms, from high end (think David Barton Gym and Equinox) to the not so posh (Lucille Roberts). I’ve done pole dancing, Afro-Caribbean dancing and ridiculous fitness DVDs. I’ve done some solidly good classes, and a lot of truly ridiculous.  I’ve only encountered one hiccup in my quest: I attempted to sample more than one Equinox location. Note to others, they input your name in the system, so unless you’re using an alias, choose the location you sample wisely.

Interestingly, while the “free” part of my journey has been pretty easy, the “fitness” part has been a different story. Since I started this project, I’ve actually put on weight and felt a decrease in my endurance. I maxed out two weeks ago at 135 lbs, and have been attempting to re-tool my workouts to not only be free, but also effective.

I’ve been documenting my adventures on my blog, which has developed a bit of a following and garnered some media attention. Some people are really offended that I’m taking these gyms for a ride, but I think the majority get the point: this ridiculous quest is unlikely to bankrupt gyms (if anything, it’ll give them free press), and is being carried out largely for my own amusement and for the reading pleasure of those who choose to follow me.

Who knows, maybe you’ll read one of my posts and discover the gym of your dreams? If so, good for you; I’m still on the hunt.

dumbbells (via <a href="">a.drian</a>)


This is unlikely to bankrupt a large chain gym, but don't you think it's a little more dishonest when dealing with smaller studios and places who are struggling to get by just as much as you are? I find this a bit distasteful, but the morals of it are better left to someone like The Ethicist.


erikka's picture

Why do you think you put on weight and lost some fitness?

michlny's picture

I say go for it. I'm assuming you'll also be blogging about the gyms you visit, so it's literally like a guerrilla review with a Robin Hood twist. erikka, this is unlikely to bankrupt any gym, and might in fact draw attention to smaller, excellent ones.


alternatively, there is the new york parks and rec centers for 50 a year. that's pretty sweet.

Mr. Mohawk's picture

*prepare for web tongue lashing*

Just kidding...To quote the movie Friday "Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions!"  Which is why this is slightly an issue for me.  I work in membership for a gym. 

That being said when you are ready to go to Crunch please email me via the site and I will get you in.  This way you are not taking up the up, time and effort of another guy. 

killercadoogan's picture

I think there's nothing dishonest at all about this.  I think of this like dating...trying out new and different places before making a commitment.  Good on ya!  It's not like how I did things last year...when I had to go back to the States for a month.  I signed up with several gyms for their free week trials, never intending to join....  I was returning to Australia eventually.  Oops...yes.  THAT was very dishonest of me.  :(

volcane09's picture

the best things in life are free.

sassletics82's picture

the best things in life are free.

sassletics82's picture

the best things in life are free.

sassletics82's picture

Thank you guys for the comments! To answer a few:

Michny: I actually wrote a Huffington Post article trying to figue out why that happened (why I put on weight and lost fitness). The short answer, I think, is that in my quest to do new, interesting workouts, I've been doing a lot of sub-par classes that don't actually challenge me. But, if you're interested inreading the full article, it's here:

Erikka: It's interesting that I've actually been getting a lot of emails from small studios and gyms, suggesting I come check them out. I think they're hoping that people will read my blog review and check them out. So, hopefully, they are gaining in the end.

And, Killer: Thank you for the offer, that's pretty awesome of you! I've actually already been to the Crunch on 83rd (awesome pole dancing classes, I think it was one of my most read posts...). But, if you work at another location, I'd gladly check it out!

Julia N.'s picture

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