LOS ANGELES (AP) — The start of a new year inspires many of us to commit to get fit and live healthier.
Such an undertaking requires steeling one's resolve to eat right and exercise. What isn't required is emptying out one's wallet just to break a sweat and shed a few pounds.
It doesn't cost a dime to go for a run in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. Or to do push-ups, abdominal crunches and other exercises that require only your own body weight as resistance. Set your DVR and do a Zumba or yoga routine in the comfort of your own living room.
But if you feel you need to enlist a personal trainer, turn the spare room into a home gym or join a fitness club, you don't have to spend a bundle. Here are eight tips on how to tackle your New Year's fitness resolutions without straining your finances.
1. TEST YOUR COMMITMENT
Are you thinking about joining a gym or buying a pricey treadmill or weightlifting set? A great way to save money on fitness is to not spend it needlessly in the first place. Just ask anyone who pays for a gym membership they rarely, if ever, use. Or someone with a pile of gear gathering dust in the garage or an exercise bike in their bedroom covered in clothes. Before getting locked into a gym contract or buying expensive equipment, spend a few weeks regularly working up a sweat running or doing other exercises that don't require equipment. If you can stick to a regular training schedule for a month or two, it's more likely that you will continue doing so once you join a gym — and your investment won't go to waste.
2. USE FREE TRIALS AND AVOID THE RUSH
At the start of a new year, gyms are eager to sign up legions of new members and will let prospective customers try out their facilities free of charge for a day, sometimes even a week. If you have several gyms in your area, take advantage of their free trial periods before making a year-long commitment. Whether you take this approach or not, try to put off joining a gym until February, after the New Year's sign-up rush is over, says Jeff Kaplan, CEO of coupon website Lozo.com. The fitness club industry is highly competitive, so gyms typically offer deals throughout the year, he says.
"Getting into a deal now is probably not in your best interest, unless you're absolutely sure what you're getting into," Kaplan says. "It's easy to get caught up in the fervor and maybe not necessarily get the best deal."
3. FLEX YOUR NEGOTIATING SKILLS
You've finished your free trials and you've chosen your gym. Now dust off your haggling skills.
"The more gyms in your area, the more power you have," says Kaplan.
Find rival gyms' ads or offer terms and ask the fitness club of your choice to match the deal. Or offer to sign up for a month-to-month contract and upgrade to a longer-term deal, in exchange for a discount.
If you can wait until the weight-loss resolution wave wanes, say in March, you could have more negotiating leverage because gyms aren't getting as many new members.
Even scoring a tiny discount can add up to big savings. Average membership dues for fitness clubs that don't offer racquet sports or pools range from $30 to $60 per month, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. But prices can range from $9.99 a month at some basic gyms to $200 at an upscale club.
4. THINK THROUGH CONTRACT TERMS