8 Legit Ways to Use the Gym for Free
You may love running outside, cycling on a greenway or roadway, or practicing yoga on your own, all for free. Still, you might also enjoy and benefit from a workout at a gym, lifting weights or doing resistance exercises using special equipment, taking an indoor cycle class with friends, swimming in a full-length pool, or running on the treadmill when it’s rainy, windy, or freezing outside.
Gym memberships can be expensive and may require year-long commitments. But, in some cases, you can use fitness facilities for free. Some freebies are available to anyone, while others are available to you as part of a package deal minus the long-term obligations. Consider these frugal and respectable ways to get access to a gym. (See also: Fitness for People Who Hate Exercise)
1. Work Out on Free Days
Privately-owned gyms often have free classes or days when all classes are free and open to the general public. In my area, friends have told me about freebies at their gyms: a women’s-only facility hosts a dance-type class on Sundays, and a CrossFit location holds Saturday sessions at no charge.
Such offerings provide a way for owners to give back to the community and, at the same time, attract new members.
2. Sign Up for a Triathlon Training or Running Program
Many personal trainers, triathlon coaches, running coaches, and the like partner with local gyms and Ys to get you ready for specific athletic events. These training programs help prepare you for 5Ks and other road races, challenge events like mud runs, and triathlons.
The program fee may include a short-term membership at a local gym or Y, even if most of the training is done offsite. For example, I completed a 12-week sprint triathlon program that included a 3-month membership to the YMCA. Participants paid for the training program but got to use the gym at no additional charge.
3. Get a Free Pass
The YMCA, YWCA, and private gyms often give free passes for a few visits or unlimited ones for a month or some designated period.
At the local Y, you might be able to snag a pass on your own or get one from a friend who is a member. Privately run and specialty gyms may be more generous with freebies, allowing you to visit several times in a given month as a way of enticing you to join.
4. Participate in Community Programs
Community outreach arms of local organizations occasionally offer free exercise programs or single sessions to area residents as a way of encouraging healthy habits. Sometimes sessions are held at local fitness gyms and studios, giving you the chance to visit the facility, use equipment, and check out specialty classes.
Look for a schedule of programs sponsored by area hospitals, health promotion agencies, parks and recreation departments, and even your own employer. You may need to register for a newsletter or health "club" to hear about the activities but generally these are free health resources.
5. Ask for a Gym Membership as a Gift or Benefit
Someone has to pay for the membership but in this scenario, using the gym is technically free for you. If you are hoping to avoid getting stuff that will clutter your home, then you may ask for an annual gym membership depending on the gift-giver’s budget.
Similarly, consider asking your employer for a free gym membership as an employee benefit.
6. Visit the Hotel’s Gym
When you are staying at a hotel, use the gym for free (ditto for a resort). The size and quality of these facilities vary, but you should be able to find cardio and weight equipment.
If your job requires lots of travel, consider getting free gym workouts when you are on the road and exercising outside when you are home.
7. Enroll in College
The fitness facilities at many colleges and universities are outstanding. As a student, you will likely have access to these gyms for free. They may include studios for group classes, weight training machines, indoor tracks, basketball courts, swimming pools, and climbing walls.
Most schools grant access to full-time students only. But if you are thinking about taking a class, ask about part-time student benefits to see if you are eligible for free fitness services.
8. Get a Part-Time Job at the Gym
Employees at a Y, private gym, studio, or swim club typically enjoy free memberships. You may need to earn a certification and teach classes, or provide administrative or childcare services. This way of using the gym for free isn’t the simplest solution but may be a great way to avoid membership fees while picking up some extra cash. (See part-time jobs that can get you serious discounts.)
Alternatively, you could get a job with a college, university or other organization that allows use of its fitness facilities.
Finally, if you don’t want to get a job just to use the gym for free, consider bartering services for free classes.
Workout for free while you decide your next fitness move. You may discover that the gym becomes an essential part of your regimen. Or, you could find that — while occasional visits to a new facility are invigorating — you would rather exercise outside or in your home gym.
Have you enjoyed the use of a gym for free?