How to keep slim now the wallet's not so fat
Apart from South African holiday homes, pre-Christmas shopping trips to New York, brand new Mercs and Johnny Ronan there are few things that scream “Celtic Tiger excess” more loudly than gym membership.
During what we imagined were the good times, fitness centres with all manner of high-end aerobic equipment and moodily lit swimming pools with gold-leaf tiling and flatscreen televisions proliferated as the cubs sought to tone up. Fees were high – sometimes in excess of €1,000 for an adult – and the terms and conditions ridiculous and printed in a font so tiny you’d need a magnifying glass to read the various ways the clubs could screw you if they so chose. But still thousands of people paid gym fees without complaining. Some even went to their s regularly.
The riches we thought we had may be gone but the gyms are still here – almost 600 of them – and they have rarely been as popular as in recent weeks as thousands of people have filed through their doors seeking to work off Christmas pounds.
But joining a gym in January or February is never a good idea. The drop-out rate of those who seek professional help getting fit in the early part of any year is about 60 per cent. What is worse is many of those who sign up this month and next won’t read that tiny print and will, as a result, be locked into expensive contracts for at least a year. According to one survey, about 350,000 Irish adults are gym members but less than half return to the treadmill once the initial flush of enthusiasm wanes.
January resolutions aside, are Irish gyms still being used or have sensible folk turned their back on such high-cost luxury spending in favour of a brisk walk of an evening? And do gyms ever represent value for money?
Paying to belong
Pricewatch asked people on Twitter last week if they could still afford gym membership in Austerity Ireland. We fully expected a chorus of nos but within an hour we had quite the opposite response from scores of readers, with most insisting their gyms represented great value for money.
“I only go sporadically but go to Ben Dunne’s Jervis gym, which is only €200 a year so I still think it’s worthwhile and pretty good value,” says Tara Walsh.
Joyce Minogue, another Dunne fan, pays €235 a year, goes twice a week and describes it as “fantastic value”.
Ciara Carroll agreed and said that while a gym “seems expensive” it is “excellent value” if you are “serious about health. Stay in one night a month to fund it.”
Maria Daly insisted the key was interaction with instructors. “If you use the gym smartly they become personal trainers. Take classes as well for value,” was her take.
“Have joined gyms in the past,” said Andy McGeady. “Hardly went. Find pay-as-you-go options like the Markievicz [on Dublin’s Townsend Street] much better value.Another reader, Peter, disagreed. “I do pay-as-you-go, and I added it up at the year-end. Crazy money. I should have joined.”
There were some who had surrendered their membership. Niamh O’Shaughnessy dropped hers “to go for walks on a nearby beach instead. Much more enjoyable and refreshing, and it’s free.” Julie Farrell said she would “definitely choose a boot camp over a gym. Better results.”
While you can get as fit for free by running or walking, a gym has its merits. It is a handy one-stop shop – everything you want is in one place, cardio machines, resistance training and classes – and it is nicer to train in a gym in poor weather.