Don’t pay more: tips for joining a Chicago gym

Get the best deal on joining a gym in Chicago

The first few weeks of January mean big money for most gyms. Which makes sense, as New Year’s resolutioners drop hundreds of dollars on year-long memberships that they’re never going to use. They’ll swear that this year is their year, but loose motivation before loosing any weight. Conveniently, these are the same people that are easily suckered into paying hidden fees, hiring personal trainers, and spending money on an overpriced juice bar. The Chicago gyms will be swamped with them. These gym newbies are walking ATMs for the gym workers, and awkward nuisances for the regulars. Here’s a post for those who went generic with their New Year’s resolutions, joining a gym. And here’s how to go about getting the best deal on joining a gym in Chicago.

First step: check with your employer. Many employers and companies offer discounts for their employees to join a gym. It’s their nice way of saying “we don’t want an office full of fat people.” So I checked into my deal and found that my corporate employer cut a deal with Xsport Fitness and all employees get a discount. I didn’t get any official info, but word was it was only 30-something bucks a month.

I went down to the Xsport Fitness in Chicago with my paystub and talked to them about signing up and cutting the price down via my employer. My discount? No startup fee. I started to loose interest after finding out that the only deal he could get me was a regular-priced membership with no startup fee… which they were actually waiving that week anyway as part of some promotion. Which brings me to my next point-
When you’re signing up: Don’t ever pay any sort of ‘startup fee’ or ‘initiation fee.’ Those fees are there for the newies and the New Year’s resolutioners. They’re pretty much just there to be taken away by special offer ‘sales’ or ‘discounts,’ an incentive and tactic to bag the sale. Also, if you’re on the fence with the salesman signing you up, he can scratch out that $100 fee and make you feel like you just saved a whole buncha money… and if they can actually talk you into paying the fee, well, then that’s a very good day for them.
Spoler alert: most of the workers are on commission. And all the prices and fees are negotiable. Especially for the large chains such as Xsport Fitness. Treat your signup like you’re buying a car. Most people don’t, which is why the most basic sales tactics work on you, and you therefore end up paying ‘startup fees.’
I told him even with the waived startup fee, I thought my employer-sponsored deal was lower than $39 a month and I was not interested in paying that much, especially when the last month’s membership had to be paid up front as well.

Get the deal:
Signing up for a high-profile chain gym like Xsport Fitness can be a pain. It’s an intimidating atmosphere, and you may be stuck with an intimidating salesman. They’re sharks, and they try to put the pressure on you when you’re vulnerable… “You came here to get in shape right? Well, then just sign the paper and hand over that credit card…Oh, that fee? Yea everybody has to pay a $35 card activation fee.”
Remember if you feel uncomfortable, you can just walk out. Which was my plan, but as I was getting my coat on, he said to hold up while he checked with a manager to offer me a membership at only $35 a month. It was a decent deal, but I walked anyway. If he had waived that last ‘card initiation fee’ I might’ve bit the hook. But there’s no way I was going to pay 2 months up front along with a B.S. $35 ‘card activation fee.’
And as it turns out, my employee-discounted membership was supposed to be at $35/mo. See? They’re sharks. Don’t be the chum. Do your homework before signing up.

Ranter’s picks:
Go to a local Chicago gym near you with no contract and no fees. Check out Quads Gym in Lakeview. I went there for a summer, its an easy, no-pressure signup, and they offer student discounts.
Hit up one of The Chicago Park District’s facilities this week. It’s free from Jan. 3-9. And if you choose to signup, its a fraction of the cost of most other gyms.
The internet is a great place for workout tips. Most personal trainers have their own websites with hundreds workouts. Some good Chicago fitness trainer blogs: Fitness Training by Stephanie Turner.


  1. […] don’t go to Xsport or Lifetime Fitness or any other chain for that matter. Those are all scams. Sign up for a real gym, it’ll be cheaper. Try finding a park district facility, YMCA, or your […]

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