As our lifestyles change, our fitness goals and budgets do too.
I think I’m a bit prone to fitness fads. I love trying new things, and the way the “health and wellness” industry has been rocketing, there’s been no shortage of new classes to spend my hard-earned pounds on.
The fitness industry is expected to reach £22.8billion by 2020 in the UK, according to research. Recent trends have included High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - shorter workouts at, you guessed it, higher intensity; wearable activity trackers and strength training.
The question of which fitness method is going to be the best value for money is going to depend at any given time on what I’m hoping to achieve and how much money I’m prepared to part with to get those results - which aren’t guaranteed (it is a bit like making decisions about investing!).
The experiments - trial classes and pay-as-you-go
Cost: smaller amounts of money without commitment
Risks: embarrassment… but you can’t be good at everything you try and you won’t know if you don’t try!
Back when I was at university in Swansea I gave Capoeira - the Afro-Brazilian martial art combining dance and music - and Jiu Jitsu - the Japanese unarmed combat training - a go. I can’t say I was any good at Capoeira at all (cringe, I’m not a great dancer!), but Jiu Jitsu was good for my confidence in the short time I did it regularly.
After I graduated from university, a friend and I tried Karate in London (who knew kicking could be so tiring?). More recently, I had a go at kayaking - a one-day introduction - with my husband.
I consider all of these exercise “experiments” money well-spent. Good experiences and part of finding out what I really enjoy.
Taking things more seriously - getting fit with a competitive sports club such as football, rowing, rugby or netball
Cost: a monthly, quarterly or annual membership (plus any kit, insurance, competition and social costs, of course)
Risks: juggling your sport club life, family or social life and work life can be a lot… but your commitment could pay off in the form of increased fitness, new experiences and new friends
A couple of years ago I joined a rowing club and raced, including in the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race, the largest women’s rowing race in the world, as part of a novice crew.
Club membership was around £50 a month for coaching and access to the club gym and boats, then there’s the cost of kit, insurance and race fees if you wanted to race.
I reckon if I include the race fees (let’s say £12-15 each race), trailer fees (a few pounds per race), insurance (British Rowing membership is £58 a year for racing adults and includes a monthly magazine) and kit (let’s say £50 for the required “onesie” in club colours, but you might end up buying other stuff like splash jackets to keep dry), the total is… comparable to a gym membership and still less than some central London gym chains.
Let’s say you do four races in a year and only buy the racing “onesie” as you already own some sportswear to train and keep warm in, your total could be under £800 for a year. Learn to row courses, which is how I started, are between £90-£120.
Gym memberships are eye-wateringly expensive. In London, a flexible (monthly rolling) package could be more than £110 a month, and I don’t want to commit to a year. In my experience, I’ve never used a gym enough to make membership worthwhile. The one I joined didn’t even offer a lock, so I had to buy that on top!
If I did keep up going to the gym at £110 a month, for a full year that would be £1,320. Way more than the rowing club.
If you really want to push yourself and can train regularly at fixed times, I couldn’t recommend joining a sports club more.
Joining a rowing club, when I had time to do it, was great fun. Sports clubs are sociable, highly motivating and, in my view, better value than anything else if you can commit the time required.
Worth noting, you might get asked (depending on the sport) to help clean the clubhouse or with other random things now and then, but that’s part of being in a team. It’s a good way to meet people as well as getting fit. There are also sometimes cheaper options, such as uncoached and/or non-racing memberships.
The subscription and streaming services
Cost: Various from around £10 a month up
Risks: Watch out for no-show charges and paying for a service you’re not using
I’ve tried ClassPass - a subscription service that offers monthly credits for classes at participating venues (about £30 for 10-15 classes a month) - in the past, which is good if there are enough classes available in your area.
You do have to watch out for extra charges (£20) if you don’t cancel classes within 24/hours.
Having talked to a friend about this recently, I expect ClassPass could do very well out of people who do not actually use their full credits each month. Personally I would try and use them before they expired, book into classes that realistically I did not have time time to fit into my day and then get charged extra.
I do think it’s a great service if your plans are rigid enough that you can use it in the correct way. Searching and booking classes by location, time and type is very easy. I’ve found local studios I would not have known existed if it wasn’t for ClassPass.
As I like pilates and find it relaxing mentally and physically, I have also used an online site called PilatesAnytime before (£12 per month for thousands of classes) - very good if you are actually going to practice at home.
The personal trainer or one-to-one fitness coach
Cost: Various. Some will give you a discount if you order a batch of sessions
Risk: One-to-one training is going to be more expensive! Make sure your trainer is suitably qualified and understands what you want to get out of each session
Right now I’m keeping it simple. I do regular equipment pilates sessions one-to-one. It adds a fair bit to my outgoings (it is more than £50 a session), but my instructor is very good and I have factored this in to my budget each month.
I could not get that kind of instruction, with use of equipment I wouldn’t know what to do with, corrections and understanding of my goals and body quirks, in a group class or on my own.
I won’t necessarily see benefits immediately. But I can touch my toes for the first time, which is a start.
Taking care of my spine and general posture is an investment I’ve decided I can afford to pay for right now, and which could benefit me in the long-term.
Of course, there’s a risk I won’t stick with it, and then the money I have spent might seem a bit of a waste.
I’m not doing this for social reasons and it’s not increasing my cardiovascular fitness. I’m giving myself tools for the future, learning about how my body moves and how to exercise more efficiently and without injury.
Anything extra (cardio classes, walks, swimming, group pilates classes) I can do on a pay-as-you-go basis to fit with my lifestyle. If I have a bit more time or money one week, I’ll go for it, a bit less, I’ll give myself a break.
With exercise, as with everything, it is good to check in every now and then and ask yourself: Is what I’m doing right now serving it’s intended purpose or is it time to adapt my strategy?
Read more: Investing in you