While it may seem as if the new year is only bringing more cold and snow, Jan. 1 is the closest thing to Black Friday the gym industry has. While about 60 percent of gym memberships go unused, according to some estimates, those ready to act on those New Year's fitness resolutions will find deals aplenty.
There's no question: Now is the best time to find a gym deal, says Michele Foley, associate editor at FitSugar.com.
According to Foley, the best gym deals take place in December, when gyms are counting on people to make good on their New Year resolutions.
"Since there is a lot of competition in the market, fitness centers waive all sorts of fees to attract new customers at the end of the year," said Foley.
Foley said most gyms require that new customers enroll no later than Dec. 31, but another ideal time to sign up for a gym membership is June, when the weather improves and health clubs have to compete with sunnier weather and outdoor sports.
Unlike other sectors of the economy, the gym industry is optimistic about its prospects in 2011. Bob Giardina, CEO of New York Sports Clubs, said his clubs have already seen a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in guest volume over past year, and he expects next year to be strong too.
But before you sign on for a gym membership, Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications, Gold's Gym International, has some advice.
Reiseman says to always ask if there is flexibility on the enrollment fee. Almost every gym charges both an enrollment fee and regular monthly dues. Many gyms may be willing to negotiate and give you a significant discount on the enrollment fee.
"While waiving an enrollment fee might not sound like much, for some of the more high-end gyms, this translates into a savings of $500," Foley said.
Also, says Reiseman, try before you buy. All gyms should offer a free trial pass, which allows prospective members to make sure the amenities, classes and atmosphere are as advertised and right for you.
Try to pay for a full year upfront says Reiseman, as most gyms discount your membership if you pay all at once.
And don't forget the role your company can play in keeping you fit at an affordable price, says Reiseman. Ask your human resources representative if your company offers any discounts on gym memberships. If it doesn't, look into setting up a corporate account yourself through HR. Most gyms have corporate wellness programs, which could mean big savings on your enrollment fee and your dues.
Also consider joining with a family member, says Reiseman, as most gyms offer household add-on specials.
Or refer a friend. Most fitness facilities will reward you with free membership time, or even cash, for referrals.
So, keeping Reiseman's advice in mind, here are a few gym deals that just might motivate you to grab your sneakers and make good on those New Year's resolutions to lose weight and get fit.
The Sports Club/LA: Waives the initiation fee for the rest of December, and offers all of January free, throwing in one complimentary private training session. Offer expires Dec. 31. Has 11 locations throughout California, New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Miami and Dallas.
Gold's Gym: Lowers enrollment fee to $1 (it normally ranges between $99 and $199), and holds "Try It Before You Buy It" day Jan. 1, when prospective members can work out, take classes and try any of Gold's Gyms, which are located throughout the country, for free.
Crunch: Offers website deals that expire Dec. 31, 2010. For the month of January, Crunch offers 50 percent off enrollment (typically $84-$99 a month) with no monthly payment for the first month, plus $10 off monthly dues on citywide memberships (which includes all locations in one particular city) through Jan. 10. Crunch has 25 locations in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., Orange County, Calif., and the San Francisco Bay Area.
New York Sports Clubs (also in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.): Sign up for 2011 and get January free.