The cost of working out: reality check

The fitness industry constantly pushes you to work out, with the tacit message that it is free and accessible to you to do so. When anyone challenges this, saying something is too expensive, the end-all salesman comeback is "How can you put a price on your health?" But money is a legitimate issue. I respect people who raise this as a concern, despite how callous to it I was trained to be as a salesman - I mean, personal trainer - by the gyms I worked for. I hate to think that this marketing axiom is driving people away from developing that part of themselves to which they are naturally entitled - and by which, biologically required.

I will always defend the cost of investing in good training equipment. No matter what you're doing, you will need certain equipment to do it. I don't mean designer warm-up suits in this season's hottest colors. I mean the tools of the trade. If you're really into something and want to continue it, even make it a lifestyle, it's worth it to invest in the safest, sturdiest, and most effective training gear you can afford. If you're into combat sports, padding is not the place to skimp. If you weight train in a fitness center, go for the gloves that will protect your hands. If you weightlift, cough up the cost of a solid weightlifting shoe.

The cost of a gym membership these days is high - $40 - $60 a month is average - and the industry is hurting, so watch out for desperate salesmen. Fees can easily go up and occasionally go down. Some small independent gyms, the few surviving, will charge about $25 a month if you're lucky. The bigger the chain, the higher the cost, generally speaking. Warning: once you make an investment like that, it can make you feel relegated to working out at the gym, but remember, fitness should be an integral and locale-flexible part of your life, because it depends on your body, not a building. Don't feel you need to join a gym to work out at all. Fitness is an eminently personal issue, and there's no reason people should put their fitness lives into public view by working out in a public gym unless they want to. I myself do part-time gym and part-time home studio, and enjoy both environments on their own merits and complain about both on their drawbacks.

But of course, setting up shop at home isn't free, either. Here's what I've spent and trades I've made. I've gotten good deals on each piece, acquired over several years. It's pretty satisfying knowing my money is going to equipment that I own, and equipping my studio with exactly what I want.

For reviews and purchasing details, see Mighty Fit Review.

Horse stall mats as flooring - 6 @ $56 ea. = 336
Interlocking flooring mats $27 (Craigslist deal)
Weightlifting platform, homemade - $157 in materials
Jerk Tables - Homemade, bought out of a gym - $300
Jerk Blocks - Homemade, bought out of a gym - $150 to cover cost of materials
Extension to platform to house squat cage - $85 in materials (two sheets of plywood, one treated)
Two treated plywood sheets for under jerk tables - $85
Squat cage $200 (Craigslist deal)
Squat rack/bench $200
Safety squat bar $400
Muscle Clamps $35
Replacement Muscle clamps three years later $35
Prolock clamps $45
Dumbbell rack $120
Dumbbells - Average price around 80 cents/pound, average sale 20% off
7' Barbell, preacher curl bar, plates and tree $20, from a guy's garage
(7' bar easily retails for $100, on up through thousands for a professional grade one; preacher curl bar easily $60; tree $200)
Three years later, the bar is trashed: bought new Pendlay bars:
7', 20 KG $300
7', 15 KG $300
4 Bumper plates (10#, 15# pairs) $140
2 more bumper plates (25# pair) $60
- Five years later, replaced these bumpers with a new Kraiburg set on free shipping sale (10, 15, 20, 25 KG), plus Schoolage 2.5 + 5 KG hi-tech bumpers - $814 tl
Bumper plate floor rack $200
Hexagonal Deadlift bar - $60 old, homemade out of a powerlifting bar; bought out of a gym
6 Platemates - swap for editing
1 25# Kettlebell $60 on sale for $45
Cable handle attachments - freelancing freebies
Tire - free from Les Schwab
Bands - gift
Replacement bands years later - $50; monogramming $30 (Got used to it from the original gift)
Chain - $60
More chain - $50
Sandbag, homemade - $24 materials
Another homemade sandbag - Tire traction kit for the bag $12 Goodwill; 25# shot $45; sand
Ultimate Sandbag $130
Alpha Strong sandball (improvement from kettlebell) $110; 25# of lead shot $45; 10# sand
15' Rogue Fitness knotted climbing rope $125
Gold Cup weightlifting shoes $85
Kanama weightlifting shoes $130, two years later
Converse All Star shoes for deadlifting $40
Vibram toe shoes for deadlifting $100
Lifting gloves $30
Different lifting gloves $10
Spare lifting gloves $10
Pull-up tower $60
Doorway pull-up bar $10
Shoulderhorn $60
Boxing stand $40
Everlast Heavybag - $20, garage sale
Another Everlast heavybag - $20 Goodwill
Cardio kickboxing gloves $20
Real boxing bag gloves $45
Glovewraps $20
Title boxing handwraps $10
Redline kneewraps $20
Harbinger kneewraps - freebie for review
Reebok 10# weighted vest $20 Goodwill
Chalk $10 in bulk
Tape $10 in bulk
Chalk bowl $10 - lovely pottery, from Goodwill
Rumble Roller (for myofascia) - $70
Triggerpoint roller - $70
Stability balls - $30
Medicine ball - swap for editing
Baseball & softball for grip device $6
Treadmill - $200
Steps - xmas gift, garage sale
Bun Thigh roller - swap for editing
Yoga mats - $4 each Goodwill
Bras - $50 ea.
iPod $300 (yes, this belongs in the list)
iPod replacement years later $300
iPod armband $30
Yurbuds for iPod $30
Multimedia stereo speaker system $30 Cyberacoustic
Upgraded stereo system with big subwoofer $100

More investments, harder to figure
Gym dues
Personal Training/coaching
Personal Training certification course, Continuing Education Credits courses
Weightlifting certification course, continuing recertification

This doesn't count all the stuff I've had through the years, just what my current set-up is. My first bench (sigh, nostalgia) was on clearance at GNC for $120. This doesn't include the massive trickling cash flow I put into the supplement industry, or general clothing purchases and gym bags, or toiletries.

These purchases bode well for my motivation; since I begrudge every expense, if I buy something, I'm damn well going to use it. I started by running. Purchasing my first pair of running shoes was a turning point in my life; I knew that if I was going to spend that kind of money, I was committed to the discipline.

So this isn't free. It isn't even cheap. No matter what you get into in fitness, it's a hobby that costs money - an upfront investment, plus upgrade and maintenance charges.

I'm posting this to generate some respect for the issue most people have today of fitting fitness into their budgets, and to give some idea of what my investment has been as an example.

It's free to sweat. Ideally, people pay you to work. So this is an exception to the natural structure of life. Don't let anyone bully you into thinking otherwise, or that this is money you must spend. Don't watch people who have achieved some degree of glamor in your eyes in their fitness lives and feel that you should be doing what they're doing, because the activity may not be available to you. That realization gives you freedom, freedom from guilt, failure, and freedom to control the direction of your fitness life. You can stumble into your fitness pursuit, as most people do, arrive at your niche organically and then cater to it economically, or, if you're at a decision-making juncture, you can lay out the costs of various pursuits and assess their availability to you. Whether you're a realist, cynic or dreamer, your personality will drive you to a path from there.

1 comment:

&ru said...

Climbing expenses over a 5 year period:

Boreal Diablos, $60
Boreal Zen, $90
La Sportiva Focus, $145
Five Ten Anasazi, $110
Five Ten Ascents, $120
Five Ten Zlippers, $50
La Sportiva Testerosa, $105
MadRock Flash (2 pairs), $65 per
MadRock Hookers (2 pairs), $65 per
MadRock Mugen, $80
Montrail Cruisers, $80

2 Harnesses, $50
2 Ropes, $220
Belay devices, $60
Chalk, $120 (estimate)
2 Crashpads, $280
12 quick draws, $110
3 Chalk bag, $15

Hangboard, $200 (including mounting)

Gym membership, ~$325 per year