Even with discounts and membership pricing, boutique fitness studios broke my budget...until I found a way to get free, unlimited classes.
Even with the bargain that is ClassPass and the occasional Groupon promos to your favorite boutique studio, fitness classes can easily set you back a couple Benjamins every month.
SoulCycle, for instance, charges a single drop-in rate of $34, plus $3 shoe rental and $2 bottled water (prices vary depending on location) coming out to just shy of $40 for one hour of pedaling. And Orangetheory Fitness will cost you $25 per class (not including heart-rate monitor). Meaning if you go twice a week for a month, you'll burn through more than $200.
I've always been a die-hard drop-in babe, preferring to pick my training type (HIIT, yoga, spin, Pilates, MMA, etc.) based on how I feel after work. But the harsh reality is that this little-bit-of-everything fitness habit will break the bank. (Related: Why this writer refuses to commit to one workout program.) This is why boutique studios make it financially beneficial to purchase a membership or class pack. Orangetheory's memberships range from $59 to $159 a month, while SoulCycle's class packs run from $75 for three classes to $320 for 10.
In the pursuit to cut back on my fitness expenditure, I took the plunge and made it #exclusive with one studio. I thought the unlimited classes would feel worth the dough. But even with a membership/class pack, boutique classes remained too expensive for a 25-year-old's budget. (Just think of all the organic groceries I could be buying!)
One night, looking at the $159 taken from my bank account and counting only three total classes attended that month (not to mention the bill for Sunday brunch, vacation flights, and HBO), I felt forced to forgo my boutique fitness needs. I could do the same workout alone in my living room, right?
The next morning I went to my studio to cancel my membership. While signing the paperwork, I saw a girl jump out of class just before the session ended. She ran behind the desk, drenched in sweat and smiling like it was Taco Tuesday, took a seat at the computer and started working.
Hold. The. Phone. "Do you get free classes for working here?" I asked. I still canceled my membership, but not before filling out an application, too.
I work a full-time job (Monday through Friday) but I had weekends off. I ended up getting hired part-time to work the front desk on Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. (And yep, it was a national boutique studio franchise.) As part of the job, I got a complimentary box of branded clothing from the studio (swag!) and a free, unlimited membership—not to mention extra cash in my pocket and a reason to forgo overindulging on Friday night.
Initially, I was concerned the studio might look down on my sneaky plan, but it turns out nearly every boutique studio knows about this hack...and many actively promote it. Studios such as SoulCycle, Pure Barre, Barry's Bootcamp, and UFC Gym openly publicize the employee benefit of free classes, because, hey, it's a major perk of the job. These studios are happy to hire you to man the front desk if you have a passion for the unique training modality and can work weekends (the hours dreaded by their FT employees).
This free-membership strategy also works for your favorite gym, whether its Gold's, Chuze, Crunch, or even Equinox. (See also: How to Save Money On Your Gym Membership)
If you're digging this idea of paying nothing for your exercise classes but aren't willing to sacrifice your weekends, studios like Revolve Fitness NYC, and 305 Fitness offer another option for you to get some free workouts. It's called a "work for trade" program. These studios will exchange a membership or class if you volunteer a couple hours of your time at the location.
For example, bartering at Revolve Fitness means you could spend a couple hours cleaning, greeting guests, or adjusting bikes in exchange for free sessions...think of it as a double workout.
I tested this fitness barter system not only in national and regional chains but also local studios in my neighborhood. Nearly every studio owner was willing to trade volunteer hours for classes. In fact, many were flattered I would give up my time just to train with them. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the expenses of living a healthy life, consider asking your favorite studio if they're hiring.