For most, going to the gym is one of those peculiarities in life which we fear, then endure, and then strangely find we’ve quite enjoyed. The subsequent lie down at home is characterized by a sense of ‘ah, so this is what reasonably healthy feels like’ and yet the next time the gym enters your thoughts, dread returns.
What makes it worse is the cost: signing up to a brand name gym could see sweating out anything from £65 a month, which can be difficult to justify. If you're paying as little as £3 a week, though, that shoulder press suddenly seems a much handsomer proposition.
Is the gym really your thing?
Not to cast doubts on your sincerity but if you’re the type who has an annual interest in fitness but never makes anything of it, it’s probably best to step away from the sign-up desk before you end up writing cheques you regret. Consider investing in some free weights – hey, if you like it (and stick with it) the gym could be the next step.
Gyms tend to hire demon guilt-trippers on the front desk who seduce would-be into longer and longer contracts. Or keep you tied into the one you’re in.
If you’re signing up on a whim, make the use of a free trial. If you enjoy, go forth and exercise. If it’s the week of hell, go back and cuddle up to your sofa.
Free trials can be found at the gyms below. Some are more student friendly than others, so click the links for more information.
(These links will take you through to the deals on our site, some of which we found on MoneySavingExpert.com.)
- Harpers fitness - free 5 day pass.
- La Fitness - free 5 day pass.
- Nuffield Health - free 1 day pass, or 2 day pass for 02 priority customers.
- Fitness first - free 3 day pass (if you buy something from Prezzo).
Only pay for what you'll use
‘Going to the gym’ means different things to different people; for some, it’s 50 lengths of the pool and for others it’s time spent wrestling with the bench press. Then there are the crowds dedicated to spin classes or the Zumba militants...
If you only ever hit one set of facilities, why are you paying for the others? A new breed of bare-basics gym has emerged to cater to those who don’t want any of the extras.
These stripped down facilities come with a stripped down price, typically charging around £10-£15 a month.
While you won’t get aqua-aerobics at these places, they come well-appointed with high-spec equipment and are usually open 24 hours, meaning they’re ideal for an insomnia-fuelled rep set.
If swimming is your thing then consider a pay-as-you-go approach; while theoretically a membership could work out cheaper, there’s every chance you won’t go as faithfully as promised – meaning a high monthly fee waste of cash, especially if you're tied into a contract, which charges even when you’re not even in the right town to use the facilities.
Cast your eye over these gyms and click to find your nearest branch.
From £19.99 a month and a £15 joining fee. High quality facilities, lots of equipment and most classes included. Open 24/7 and no contract.
Pay-as-you-go costs £6 each time.
We like the Gym Group. Simple gyms open 24/7, no contracts and membership from a miniscule £10.99 a month. They offer a variety of classes for a little more cash, including video classes for those who like to work at when the instructors are tucked up in bed. Besides, they're eco friendly, which doesn't hurt.
The £20 joining fee is waived if you have a valid NUS Extra card.
Pay-as-you-go costs £5 a time.
Distinctively kitted out in safety-orange, these gyms follow in the vein of their budget-airline cousin. They also offer a selection of classes, though there are additional charges for these services.
Open 6am -11pm Monday to Saturday and 8am - 8pm on Sundays, easyGym is currently offering 'pre-opening' membership from just £4.99 a month, though this will rise to £15.99. There is no joining fee.
Pay-as-you-go costs £5 a day, or £4 if it's just a class.
Your uni gym and Council gymsBoth your university gym and your local council gym can be overcrowded and the equipment a little shoddy but both often offer decent value for money. Explore, take a trial and hopefully you'll strike gold. Good luck!
There are smaller companies with fewer gyms, but one may be near you. They're cheap and cheerful and well worth exploring. Pop over to the appallingly named Xercise4less (from £9.99 a month), Klick Space (from £12.99 a month), and Fitspace (from £13.99 a month, unless you're in Bournemoth at £12 a month).
Careful with the contract
It may be ‘just £25 a month' but if you’ve bought into a yearlong contract, you’re shelling out £300. If you leave your uni town in the summer and over Christmas, you’re paying for more months (call it £75) than necessary.
If you've a friend who's a member somewhere, ask them if they can refer you, which could see the both of you pick up membership gifts.
Some gyms will let you ‘pause’ your membership, so you can use the months as and when you want to – but why the hassle? You’ll still have to pay the full fare in the end.
Many of the bare bones gyms offer monthly rolling contracts, which is the best option if you’re not a dedicated gym hound.
Whatever you go for, make sure you know exactly how long you’re paying for and how you can cancel. Many gyms require you to give 30 days notice before you can leave, which means they’ll suck you of another month’s money before releasing you back into the wild.
Watch out for sign-up fees too; some gyms have hefty costs for joining which stop a good deal being, well, good.
Don’t succumb to sweet talking as extra costs may be subtly thrown in just as you’re jotting down your account details: ‘So that’ll be only £15 a month…. Oh, of course, there’s the £40 join up fee and we’ll charge you £5 every time you visit…'
In fact, find your hard side and take charge of negotiation. Though rock hard abs and impossibly beefy pecs imply an authority that’s hard to rival with your wobbles and spots, remember you’re the stronger of the two, figuratively speaking.
That's because the model body behind the counter is likely earning a commission for signing up new members, so press home your advantage and haggle hard - they'll want to earn their money. Push for a new member discount or tell them that you won’t be doing XYZ in their gym so why should you pay for it? Some gyms are more flexible than others but the least you can expect is a few freebies – extra towels, no charge for your locker and a cocktail on arrival (one can dream…) This is an especially useful tactic if the gym has just opened, when they are keen to get new members on board.
Change your routine
An easy way to save a little money on your membership is to only pay for the hours you’re in the gym. Take advantage of your flexible timetable and enrol as an ‘offpeak’ member; it’s a little unusual to do your weights during the day, perhaps, but it’s much cheaper.