Well Being

Gym Classy Lady: How I Keep Workouts Cost-Effective (Even In NYC)

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woman saving money by working out on her floorI moved to New York when I was 23 and have spent the eight years since marveling at the offensive cost of nearly everything here. Sometimes I’ll go for days not noticing it—the $50 tiny bag of groceries, the rent check that is more than I used to make in a few months—but then I’ll spend a weekend hemorrhaging money in every direction or accidentally look at apartment prices and it hits me all over again. That’s your cue, depression.

The greatest sticker shock I’ve found during my time in New York has easily been gym-related. First, it was the Equinox membership at $130/month (that price is now much higher). Then, it was the $35 per-class fee for designer spin classes. And I’ll never forget the conversation with a few friends about how they don’t actually work out in their lululemon yoga pants because they’re far too nice for that! Needless to say, going from spending $0 on workouts (ahh, college) to thousands a year is a tough transition.

So what’s a girl to do? If you think the choice is going into the red for Soul Cycle or the slug life forever (which really doesn’t sound all bad, hmmm), fear not! I have answers. Or at least ideas to get you started.

First, clothes. Because a good foundation builds a better workout. Or I’m vain and always want to look cute. Though I worship at the altar of lulu and Lucy, I also have a thrifty side and she is just as vain. Having bent over in many pairs of yoga pants to check see-thru-ness and tested the effects of many a sports bra in my day, I can happily recommend more budget-friendly workout gear from Target (the C9 by Champion line especially), Old Navy (their tops in particular are quite cute on), and Gap (their Gap Fit line is cute outside the gym as well). In addition, friends have recommended Nordstrom’s Zella line (they also carry in plus sizes, which I’ve found is sadly rare), but I haven’t tried it since they aren’t in the city (AHEM). And another friend of mine raves about Forever 21’s activewear, which proves cute, durable, and very affordable.

But what if you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go? Well, the answer is always found by pounding the pavement. Yes, running. The old fashioned way; just you and the streets! No, I would never do that to you, dear internet. If you’re feeling so inclined, running is a fabulous, cost-effective cardio, but there are certainly other ways to exercise on a budget. You don’t have to do the unthinkable.

A advocated before, I highly recommend signing up for sample sale sites with a focus on your city. I’ve purchased several deals to try new classes and get discounted rates on classes I love. Completely un-scientific study time: right now on Gilt Gity, there are six work-out deals in New York, ranging from 30-76% off. And Living Social and Groupon have even more. Just pick something in your neighborhood and sign up right away so you’ll actually be inclined to go. Forgetting about Groupons is just one of my hobbies.

Also, a friend recently turned me on to Classitivity, a website with a $49 passport to try 10 different classes. They’re in eight cities now and have classes all over New York; often classes you wouldn’t find on your own because they’re in smaller studios with less of a search presence. (How did anyone find anything before Google?) If you’re bored with your workout routine and want to shake it up, $49 is a small price to pay to try 10 new classes in 30 days. It’s like a mini boot camp… without the drill sergeant.

If you really want to try something new, but don’t have the funds, there’s always the strategy of shopping in your own closet. Why not look at the gym for which you’re already paying hundreds of dollars each month? I know it is completely obvious and makes it seem like I’m really phoning this column in, but you’d be surprised how many people pay for a gym and have never set foot in a class. Or haven’t tried the free training session that comes with joining. Yes, trainers are kind of intimidating and it really bothers me how they make you work out but they just stand there telling you what to do and not suffering alongside you at all, but is that really the worst thing ever? (Ok, yes it is.)

And if you’re really resistant to publicly making an ass of yourself, something I’ve never understood but respect nonetheless, there’s even something for you! Now more than ever, it’s even easier to get your sweat on in the privacy of your own home. There are always workout DVDs (Amazon has a huge selection), workouts On Demand through your cable provider, podcasts through iTunes (I know Yoga To The People has free classes for download), and even YouTube has a wide selection of workouts from the popular and well-known to the, uh, homemade. Living in an apartment makes it tricky for me to do much at home working out, but what about you? Any great youtube workouts to share? (Yes, I’m asking for youtube link comments, oh jeez.) Or just tips for a cost-effective workout?