How to save money on exercise as gyms reopen - Martyn James shares his tips for getting fit on a budget
‘Getting healthy is generally a good thing but it’s possible to overspend or get ripped off if you’re jogging down the road of good intentions’
The easing of lockdown restrictions has meant a return to the gym, leisure centre or swimming pool for huge numbers of people.
One gym chain alone reportedly had over a million visits to its venues in just one week.
I hate exercise with every fibre of my being. But even I have had to concede that my lockdown fitness levels have deteriorated and it’s time to get off the sofa.
Getting healthy is generally a good thing but it’s possible to overspend or get ripped off if you’re jogging down the road of good intentions.
So here’s a few tips for anyone planning to get in shape.
Check your membership
If you’re already a member of a gym or sports centre, you may have allowed your regular payments to continue over the last year, either to support the business or because you forgot to cancel the direct debit.
Either way, many sports businesses were offering incentives to keep payments up over lockdown, so contact them and ask if you’re being rewarded for your loyalty. This could involve free exercise classes, an upgrade to a premium membership or even a partial refund.
The Lazy Tax
Gyms make their biggest profits from the people who pay a monthly fee but rarely turn up (most of us, basically). Think of it as a ‘lazy tax’.
Before you sign up to a new contract, have an honest, realistic chat with yourself about your intentions. Going three times a week might seem achievable, but life has a habit of getting in the way. Work on the basis that you’ll go 1-2 times a week and have a think about whether the price is worth it on that basis.
Always check to see what the T&Cs are for getting out of the contract early.
Beware subscription traps
Collagen sachets, detox diets, weight loss pills. The internet, social media and magazines are full of adverts for health and beauty products at a bargain rate.
However, after the trial finishes, you may be suddenly debited hundreds of pounds. This scam is known as a ‘subscription trap’ and it’s so common I get loads of people contacting me personally about it every week.
If it happens to you, tell your bank to cancel the regular debit – they are required to do this straight away. Next, claim the money back through your bank on the grounds you did not authorise it.
You’ll need to sign a waiver for the money to be recalled. If you’ve been sent goods return them by traceable post if you can (though this is often not possible). Try to notify the firm you are terminating the subscription in writing too.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to involve excessive prices.
There are thousands of recipe ideas of the internet if you type in ‘cooking on a budget’.
As recent revelations about supermarket prices have revealed, generic, non-brand goods are often made by the same companies that provide the expensive ones, so aim for the cheaper option.
Eat seasonal food and shop at your local market if it’s open – you’ll get better deals. And frozen veg is a much cheaper and less wasteful alternative if cash is tight.
Home gym it
Not ready to go outside yet? You can save a packet by getting into the habit of doing a few exercise plans at home.
Disappointingly, over lockdown, prices for things like dumbbells quadrupled due to demand – and prices are still far too expensive.
Check the manufacturer’s recommended retail price before buying anything. However you can buy things like skipping ropes, hula hoops, workout videos and more from resale websites or from friends and family for very little.
There are free apps which help you get motivated or give you tips on technique. Don’t sign up to the many paid-for apps out there unless you’re already exercising and are hardcore about it. Free videos on YouTube will get you started.