Goodbye, Sticker Shock: The Best Low-Cost Fitness Classes

By Emily Shetler

When I decided to leave New York City after a decade, high on the list of things I was happy to leave behind were the expensive workouts. Don't get me wrong, I love me some SoulCycle. But with prices of many boutique classes reaching and surpassing $35 per class, I was ready to look for a lower-cost alternative. I wanted to increase the number of classes I attend regularly while still, you know, paying rent. At the same time, I was nervous and a little sad to leave what I knew and loved, even if it was killing my bottom line.

Now that it's been almost a month since I moved to Washington, DC, I've found some options for a great workout at a small-city price. Learn from my rookie mistakes and follow these tips for finding new ways to get in shape for less.

Get out of your rut

As soon as I arrived in Washington, I joined a gym (monthly fee with no commitment=less than two typical NYC boutique fitness classes). Excited by the many spin options on the schedule, I figured one would be about the same as what I was used to. I took one class, and was... underwhelmed. It just wasn't the same. No hefty, weighted bikes? No motivating and butt-kicking instructors? No arm weights? No Beyoncé rides?

I knew I needed to find something else to keep me going. I booked a free session with a personal trainer, a convenience most gyms offer new members. We met and talked about my long-term fitness goals, and I told him how I needed a class environment to keep me from cheating on my workouts (once I'm in a class, I'm not walking out until it's done). He recommended TRX classes for strength training, and I took a class the next day.

After my first session, I could barely walk for three days-my glutes were worked out in ways they never have been before. How could I have missed out on this seriously tough workout for so long? I'm thrilled with the new challenge, and I wouldn't have found TRX if I hadn't stopped whining about not being able to do the same thing I used to do. Open your mind to other classes you may not have considered before.

Deals are everywhere

Boutique fitness studios will discount classes if you buy in bulk or go at off-peak times. I'm sure that is a no-brainer for many of you, but when you have big city-blinders on, discounts are non-existent.

I found a boutique spin-only studio in Washington that offers discounted early morning and lunchtime classes for $15. It's not exactly the same as New York-instructors need to work on their playlists!-but Zengo is a viable option when I need a boutique-style spin fix.


When in doubt, look online

Online fitness classes are growing, and are a great low-cost alternative for people on the move. My Yoga offers unlimited yoga, Pilates, dance and meditation classes for $9.95 a month, much less than most gym memberships. Yogaglo is yoga only, and has over 2,000 videos, arranged in an easily-searchable format for $18 a month.

The most inexpensive option: Blogilates fitness and nutrition planning from real-life Pilates instructor Cassey Ho. Her instructional videos are on YouTube, so they are free to you to use. She also came up with a great month-long Pilates for beginner calender, which charts out a plan of classes to get you going.

You should also try Sportskool, the providers of on-demand fitness channels at Time Warner Cable. If you don't have cable, you can also access Sportskool programming through Roku or Amazon Instant Video.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 3.04.54 PM
Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 3.04.54 PM

Running and reconnecting with old friends

My friend Tina is training for a 10-mile race in April. Instead of going out for drinks like I would do in New York, we are doing her long training runs together every Saturday morning. Running remains a cheap great workout, no matter where you are-you can always just put on your shoes and go. And Central Park is not the only place to run in the world, no matter what the New York Road Runners want you to believe.


Photos: Zengo Cycle/Brian Rayford and My Yoga Online

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