Good health is a truly priceless thing, but maintaining a decent level of fitness - especially in big cities - can cost a pretty penny. Gym memberships in particular can hit your wallet hard. And personal training sessions? Forget about it: Those can run over $100 an hour, easy, and that's often on top of a gym's monthly membership fee. That's fine, though - because you don't have to pay a dime if you play your cards right.
Image credit: Hazma Butt/Flickr
It's Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we're looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting things done. We like to think we're shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That's up to you.
I've been a member of my gym for just over two years, and in that time, have had several personal training sessions without paying for them. A few of these are easy enough to come by. There's the introductory session (offered up front to everyone), plus occasional "Member Appreciation" periods, or promotional periods when they're trying something new, such as one-on-one boxing lessons. But there's an oft-untapped resource that gym-goers should utilise far more than they do: The hunger of the trainers themselves.
To be honest, this was a thing I initially hated. Every once in a while a trainer would approach me while I was working out and would try to talk to me about my routine, goals, and relationship with the gym. The first time it happened, I was friendly and played along (though Dean seemed irritated that I didn't have goals beyond "just being healthy!") and the second time, I cut Megan off immediately, saying that I simply couldn't afford $125 an hour on top of the monthly $85 monthly membership charge. She walked away cheerfully. (An ongoing question in my mind is this: If someone could afford both the membership fee and regular training sessions, would they be attending this relatively low-budget gym? It's a mystery.) The third time I was approached, however, it clicked. These people need clients, and their livelihood rests in the idea that they can offer you something that other trainers cannot. You should let them try.
At the end of the day, both the gym and the trainers it employs care more about the possibility of hooking you for regular sessions than they do about giving you an hour for free with a trainer who probably would have been at the gym anyway. If you need a lead-in line, tell them you're thinking it might be worth the extra dough, or tell them you saw Jason training someone else and it made you think he'd be a good fit for you, or ask them if they have any trainers who specialise in kickboxing because that always kept you fit and motivated in the past. Tell them whatever you want and they will be accommodating.
Then after you've had the session, simply tell them you're not ready to commit after all, and guess what? They will say most likely "no problem" because they hear that all the time. (And if they continue to push, saying something like, "I looked at my budget again and I just can't afford it," will shut things down in short order.) Meanwhile, you've had a good workout and learned new skills that you can apply to your solo sessions. Plus, the more people you meet and sessions you have, the more you'll learn what works for you.
It should be noted that you can't do this often enough to actually replace the role of a paid personal trainer. Keep it to every couple months or so, or as often as your gym seems to cycle through new hires. You don't want anyone to get wise to your scheme, after all. The time in between is a good chance to reevaluate where you're at with your fitness, and figure out new personal goals and needs, all of which you can take to the next personal trainer who seems up to the challenge of trying to convert you.
The only downside? You're gonna have to say "hi" to Jason whenever you see him - though his watchful eye might actually help you keep that perfect squat form long after you part ways.