Make Nice With Your Wallet: Group Fitness on a Budget

By Candace Nelson June 3, 2015

It’s a good time to be a woman who loves a challenging, fun workout. The options seem endless. The bank account situation, not so much.

Monday you could be doing flips in a hammock at an aerial yoga class.
Tuesday you could run intervals and strength train with a coach.
Wednesday could be Channel-Your-Inner-Ballerina Day at a barre class.
Your thighs might need Thursday to recover, so maybe a restorative yoga practice is in order before going all out with an invigorating spin sweat session to kick off the weekend!

In addition to the social aspect of working out with others, the group experience provides motivation to show up and try your hardest.

“Groups are great because they knock down one of the walls: excuses,” personal trainer Stacy Yust of Seattle said.

Anyone who hits up boutique fitness classes on the regular, however, knows they don’t come cheap. In New York City, popular classes like SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp are upwards of $30. In less pricey cities, boutique classes are closer to the $20 range.

Luckily, there are plenty of group workout options for the fitness girl on a budget.

Studio passes
Check out ClassPass and Fitmob. Both offer unlimited classes at participating studios – but only three classes per studio per month. ClassPass is $79-$99 per month (depending on city). Fitmob is $99 per month. Both offer reduced-price trial months, so you can try before making a commitment. The websites also list participating studios in the area, so you can make sure your favorites are on the list. This option is more expensive than most gym memberships, but a steal compared to a month’s worth of full-price classes at hot boutique studios.

D-I-Y group fitness
Create your own group fitness class, or find one to join. Robin Gibson of Seattle created a group bootcamp as part of a women’s fitness group. She was working out in the early morning hours at a local park, so she invited members of a Meetup group to join her for safety. She said she quickly realized the group keeps her accountable.

“You’re not going to flake out on someone else as much as you do yourself,” Gibson said.

Yust joined Gibson’s group and uses her certification to challenge the group even more. She brings inexpensive, but effective, equipment, including resistance bands and TRX-style suspension training equipment she made for about $15 with instructions she found online.

Store events
Fitness apparel stores often invite instructors from boutique studios in to offer a free class. Be sure to check those out for a free workout, plus the instructors often offer a discounted trial at the studio. Additionally, the stores often give a discount on merchandise purchased after the in-store class. That’s a lot of discounts for the taking! Check out shops like Lucy, Lorna Jane, Athleta, REI, Lululemon and your local running or cycling shops. Follow the closest location on Facebook or Twitter or sign up for the email list to see the in-store schedule.

Free trials
Many fitness studios and gyms offer a free first class or discounted first week, so you can get a feel for the studio. Take advantage of these offers. There’s nothing worse when you’re on a budget than buying a 10-class pass for barre classes, then realizing you hate barre and would rather be at spin. It’s OK to start small.

Yust stresses the importance of taking advantage of the trial period to make sure the group fits your style and goals.

“You have to feel safe and trust the group to be supportive of your journey and development,” Gibson added. “It’s OK to (modify the workout and) do something else or nothing at all.”

Hit the gym
Don’t dismiss the gym for group classes. Sure, the classes don’t have the same feel as a boutique studio, but if you choose your gym carefully, you get a variety at an affordable price. Often, great studio teachers also teach at local gyms, so it’s worth asking your favorite yoga teacher where else she teaches. During your trial period, be sure to take as many classes as you can. Scrutinize the schedule to be sure the classes you like fit in with your routine.

Virtual groups
Yust and Gibson use to connect with, support and be accountable to fitness-minded friends. They post fitness-related updates, both good and bad and get tons of support back. Find similar communities with Fitbit, Beach Body and Under Armour Record. Gibson and Yust add that some sites even offer rewards for getting active.

While there are many advantages to group fitness, Yust warns against ignoring your body’s needs and falling into the pack mentality.

“The downside of the group is following the group mindlessly,” she said.

She stresses considering your own goals and your body’s limits. Don’t be afraid to skip the pushups at class, if your arms are still sore from weight training yesterday, for example. If you’re not sure what your body needs, consider a few sessions with a personal trainer who will assess your lifestyle and help you make a plan.


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