Losing 45 pounds in six months is tough. Planning to drop another 20 in 2016 is downright commendable.
“I have a bit more weight to lose, but I’m really excited about what the new year brings,” says Filomena DiPierdomenico, who works out at Reebok Crossfit Liberty Village.
The 42-year-old human resources consultant started her fitness journey last summer; many more Canadians hope to follow in her footsteps in 2016, with “exercising more” being the top goal for the new year according to the Star’s Forum poll. Eighteen per cent of us cite getting in shape as our biggest target.
“I was much more active when I was younger. However, as I got older and focused on my career, I didn’t make fitness a priority. I joined one of the larger gyms and have been a member for years — paying my dues but rarely going,” says DiPierdomenico.
“I didn’t have the commitment, nor did I find the mainstream gyms exciting. I would go for a while but get bored. Nothing really captured my attention,” she says.
After several takeovers in recent years, GoodLife is the biggest chain of fitness clubs in Canada, with rates at about $60 a month. The fitness giant has also jumped on the discount-gym trend with offshoot Fit4Less, where memberships go for as low as $8.99 a month for a one-year commitment, or $18.99 a month (with a $35 joining fee).
Planet Fitness is another discount entrant; there, memberships are offered for as low as $10 a month (including pizza). LA Fitness, which costs $30 to $35 a month to join, is another lower-cost option that is growing across Canada.
While the lower end of the fitness spectrum is booming, choices are also spreading at the high end, with offerings like Life Time and the 35,000-square-foot luxury gym Equinox on Bay St., where perks like organic juices, spas and salons fetch up to $200 a month. Madonna-backed Hard Candy Fitness is a 42,000-square-foot club that boasts the largest cycling studio in Toronto, a rooftop terrace, and oodles of classes including one that offers “vogueing” for $99 a month.
And there are plenty of non-chain options to consider in an industry that has become diverse, particularly over the last two years. “There’s a huge trend in ‘boutique’ fitness in Toronto,” says Stephen Longwell, general manager of Mill Pond Publishing, which publishes Fitness Business Canada magazine.
“They’re usually smaller studios with one or two owners — usually a fitness person — who went from running it out of their basement as a personal trainer to opening up their own location,” he says.
DiPierdomenico says after she did lots of research on various places across the city, she opted to try Reebok Crossfit, where the approach is geared toward high-intensity cardio, gymnastics and weightlifting.
At 5,000 square feet, the Liberty Village gym falls offers more of a specialized program, with two hands-on fitness experts at the helm.
The average membership is about $175 a month, but co-owner and trainer Jordan Symonds says they usually break it down to $10 to $15 per class because the monthly rate can throw off people who are used to mid-range prices like those offered by GoodLife “and forget that we are a classes-based gym with professional coaching.”
DiPierdomenico said she was won over by the personal attention to detail of trainers, and the results speak for themselves. Her fitness activities prior to last summer were pretty much non-existent except for walking. “It’s changed my life. We’re in the process of setting goals for next year,” she says, including 5- and 10-k runs and dragon boat racing.
• Do your research. Shop around and read reviews to compare prices and services.
• Ask for a trial pass. Sit in on classes you would be interested in taking and ask club members what their experience has been.
• Ask for credentials and recommendations. Make sure the instructors and personal trainers are qualified.
• Take a thorough tour and ask questions. Dirty facilities may be an early sign that the gym is in financial trouble. If a lot of equipment is out of order, ask how long they have been out of service. If it’s been more than months, consider going to another gym.
• The law allows for a 10-day cooling-off period when signing up, so use it. Try out the gym during that time. If you are interested in a fitness test, book it well before the period ends.
• Don’t feel pressured into signing on the spot when you visit. Be wary of pressure tactics that try to convince you that you absolutely need a personal trainer.
• Read the fine print in the contract to make sure it meets your consumer rights. For example, the total amount for initiation fees cannot be more than twice the total annual membership fee. Also, the club must give you the option of paying your membership and any initiation fees in monthly installments.