Thriftstyle Work Outs: Keeping your wallet and waistline in check

So I mentioned in my first post that my gym membership is paid for (so so fortunately for me) by a partnership the Joffrey has with the Chicago Athletic Clubs. It is an awesome perk and one I hope we continue to have for the rest of the time I work here.


There are ways to workout without having to pay insane membership fees. You don’t need to work out at schmancy-pants places like David Barton. (Why is there a random bed with frilly pillows in the middle of the weight room? No seriously, I want to know why.) You also (in my very, very humble and completely-not-getting-it-no-please-don’t-explain-it-again opinion) don’t have to crossfit. I don’t get it. Its a lot of money for very little, as far as I can see. (Also, why is there a pregnant chick doing it? And why is she doing better than me?) Unless you want to get insanely, almost sickly buff, crossfit seems like a silly choice.

Here are some great options for working out on the cheap:

  • Walk, run, jog, bike, take the stairs: There are awesome parks and trails in Chicago. Great places to workout outside. And I find that doing extra things – like walking instead of taking the bus or train one or two stops, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, walking on your lunch break, etc. – really do make a difference. And these are all free! Although tough to keep up in extreme cold and heat…You can also workout at home by looking up exercise videos online, buying DVDs (I hear P90X is worthwhile) or buying equipment for your home. If you google “Ways to workout for free” you’ll come up with a plethora of options. And you can easily buy workout equipment (weights, machines, etc.) at thrift stores and through Craigslist.
  • XSport Fitness: Before we got our lovely free CAC memberships, I worked out at XSport. Its worth it, if you actually go workout. I had a trainer for a few months (just one session a week) so I could learn the basics of the machines and good moves to do, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone – its pricey for what you can actually get out of it; and you need to make sure your trainer is a good one or else you’re just paying to hear a 22-yr-old idiot talk about all the girls he tried to sleep with that weekend. You can find workouts online. And I mostly just go to classes now anyway. XSports has a lot of locations in the city and all of them have great schedules so you can find classes to fit any lifestyle. The key to getting a cheap membership at XSport is signing up when they have a promotion running (and they usually do) and signing up with a friend. My old roommate and I went and they gave us a “family” rate of $42/month, which isn’t bad compared to a lot of gyms.
  • Chicago Park District Fitness Centers: The CPD offers a lot more than I always think they do. Apparently they have 71 new/improved fitness centers all across the city. Membership rates range from $30-$60 every three months and centers feature state-of-the-art equipment and many parks also offer a variety of classes (including circuit training, conditioning, kickboxing, pilates, yoga and aerobics).
  • YMCA: I have a few friends who belong to the Y and they seem to like it a lot. Plus these exist all over the country so if you’re on vacation your membership applies anywhere. I know they offer “scholarships” for low-income individuals/families and rates based on age.  Plus,  membershisp includes: state-of-the-art equipment and exercise classes, free training and nutrition classes, and discounted babysitting if you need that. Worth looking into at the very least.
  • Groupon/LivingSocial/Whatever the other ones are called: All those group discount sites offer workout packages on the cheap. For instance, the Groupon in Chicago today is for CorePower Yoga – you get one month of unlimited yoga classes for just $59. And since they offer so many deals, you could probably just jump from one deal to the next without ever having a gym membership. You have to take schedule into account though: for me the deals that offer a set number of classes at a set rate, taken whenever they fit into your schedule work out better than “one month of unlimited classes.” I might be too busy in one month to hit as many classes as I can, and then the money I’ve spent is wasted. They also have discounts on dance classes which is a fun way to workout, socialize, and learn something new. Keep a lookout – I’ve definitely bought deals like this and they are awesome.
  • A few places (like Lululemon ) offer free classes. Google it up. Also, if you sign up for FitSugar emails, they sometimes send info on free workout classes in the area, free workout videos online, and much more.
  • Whole Foods in Lincoln Park: This location of the popular “organic” food store just opened a Wellness Club. The membership is only $49/month which isn’t awful compared to some gyms, and offers:
  1. 10% Discount on certain foods available in the store
  2. Discounts on Supper Clubs, Lunch and Learns, hands-on and private cooking classes
  3. Unlimited Access to nutrition, yoga, fitness, cooking and practical techniques classes
  4. Additional benefits provided by the store’s partners in the community
You can try out classes before actually joining, and they offer nutrition and fitness classes to non-members at rates that aren’t horrible. Check out all the information online.
So that’s my advice for working out on the cheap. If you have any other suggestions, let me know! Keep healthy, Thriftstylers!

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