Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Quit the Gym

The One with the Ballroom Dancing

Examining my monthly spending to see how my income can better suit our family’s needs. . . was how I originally began this post.  Truthfully, I don’t think about money all that much.  Well, that’s not accurate either.  I think about money indirectly all the time, as in I’d love to go out / visit your aunt in California / see an opthamologist / update my wardrobe, but after rent and groceries there’s not much left.  I didn’t “examine” anything, though.  There were no pie charts or graphs involved, I just got rid of things I didn’t need.  This fiscal spring cleaning led me to cancel my membership to Bally Total Fitness.
My relationship with Bally goes back to 1996, when I saw pictures of myself on Virginia Beach and realized over-eating every meal wasn’t the giggle it used to be when I was seventeen.  I joined Bally when I got back to Syracuse, and it only cost me $50 down and $35 a month.  
I stayed long enough to lose the jelly roll and stop feeling like my limbs were filled with lemon juice instead of blood after every weightlifting session.  Three months at Bally cost me $120.
Then I moved to Miami and saw pictures of myself papering cars for Starbucks short-lived Tiazzi frozen tea beverage.  True, the big green apron wasn’t doing me any favors, but I’d skipped Billy and Stephen and gone right to Daniel Baldwinsville.  I spent $250 on a Premier Membership, with access to a trainer, a supply of some kind of legal speed pep pill, and the promise that my monthly membership fee would only be $15.  
Bally had gotten smarter.  They locked me into a one-year contract, so I paid them $430 for my second go around.
On the plus side, you’d be amazed what those pep pills will do for your motivation.  I dropped back into the 190lb area in no time.  Unfortunately, the motivation only lasted as long as the free pep pills.  I didn’t want to spend money to buy more legal speed, so I stopped going regularly after two months, and completely after three.  Through the magic of automated debit, my payments continued.  When this contract expired in 1999, I’d paid Bally’s a total of $550.
1999 was also the year I got digital cable.  Apparently, sitting around watching TV and eating potato chips doesn’t burn calories like you’d hope; it was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.  
This time I wanted to do it right.  I was tired of putting down huge sums every time I got fat.  I wanted a low monthly payment I could live with the rest of my life, so if I ever caught the workout bug again, the cure would be as close as the nearest Ballys.  I became a Premier Fitness Plus Member because the monthly payment dropped to a mere $5 after a year of $15 payments.  It also came with a trainer for six weeks, plus free training consultation whenever I wanted it, for as long as my membership lasted.  It also came with a humiliating body measurement session, eight weeks of legal speed, protein supplements, and the promise that I could go anywhere in the world and always have a Ballys nearby to keep me in shape.  
The big pimpin' package cost me $499, bringing my total Bally payments (as of August 2000) to $1,229 dollars.  
I’ve been a Premier Fitness Plus Member since 1999.  Unlike some of the horror stories I’ve heard, my monthly payment did indeed drop to $5 after a year.  This lasted until 2004, when it went up to $8.  Since 2006, my monthly payment has fluctuated from $11.41 to $10.15, every other month.  I’ve no idea why.  
After the millennium, I read Critser's Fat Land and Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.  I eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from my diet, and ate every couple of hours.  I started doing yoga.  Gradually, over the course of a few years, I became comfortable with my eating habits and my weight.  Before the car accident I was very into yoga.  Post-accident, as soon as I was able, I was back in the gym at my apartment complex, and biking to and from work.  
What I did not do was set foot inside any Bally Total Fitness, anywhere.  
But I kept paying that $10.15 to $11.41 every month.  If I ever decided to blast my body into shape again, I didn’t want to lose a huge down payment.  Trouble was, that didn’t work for me.  I need exercise that fits with my schedule, and biking to and from work and is it.  Finding time to travel to a gym is not.  
I’ve paid Ballys $2,178.44 for very little of my time.  I could have travelled.  I could have bought clothes.  I could have bought a used car.
Anything but exercise.  


  1. Man, how I wish sitting around watching cable and eating potato chips burned calories. I'd be so thin!

  2. I know the feeling...I've gone through the same process only to come to the same realization. It's funny, even though it's your experience, I feel frustrated just the same. So are you going to start Ballroom Dancing lessons next?

  3. I'd be in danger of actually using Ballroom Dance lessons. How about I pay for a course in Biology in case I ever want to finish my degree, then stop going right after the deadline for a refund?

  4. Been there, done that. Not as thrilling as it sounds.