A brief history of my gym membership:
2002: For my birthday, my image-obsessed mother buys me a series of personal-training sessions at the New York Health & Racquet Club, which comes with a free membership. The HRC is not New York’s most elegant gym — if it were, that would be quite the feat — but it is a bit of an upscale choice, as its highfalutin name would imply. Today, but not during my time there, its members have free access to a yacht. When I run out of gift sessions, I buy my own. When I can’t afford the sessions anymore, I still continue my membership until I can’t afford that anymore, either. I don’t remember exactly what I was paying, but a monthly membership at the HRC currently runs more than $100.
2004: I move to Forest Hills and join the local branch of the New York Sports Clubs. The NYSC is not nearly so prestigious as the HRC; it’s well-kept, moderately priced, dependable, ubiquitous. It’s hardly glam, but there are lots of spinning classes and towel service. If you ever need to use the bathroom while in the vicinity of one of their 700 or so locations, just flash your card and head right into the locker room. Through a special company plan, I sign a one-year contract with no initiation fee and a monthly payment of just under $75. Melissa and I eventually stop going, as people are wont to do with gyms, and cancel our membership shortly after the contract expires.
2007: At Melissa’s behest — and with her credit card — I sign up with QUEST Fitness, an independently owned gym located in the basement of a physical-rehabilitation clinic three blocks from my apartment. It’s cramped and my long arms threaten to hit the low ceiling while I’m doing military presses. The entryway houses a black leather coin-op chair with a sign advertising a three-minute massage for $1. There is, surprisingly, a pool and a sauna. A one-time charge of $330 for 13 months averages out to a little bit more than $25 per month.
You know the crazy thing about all this? I kind of like QUEST Fitness. I visited just before I signed up with the NYSC more than two years ago, because you can’t beat that location. I was profoundly unimpressed, particularly by the state and sparseness of their equipment. But they’ve remodeled (and raised their rates) since then, and it’s a lot more usable now. It’s actually kind of charming, this rough-and-tumble little gym where doing a leg press means having to make sure you’re not kicking the guy doing lat pull-downs two feet away. I would like the ceilings to be higher, and after one night, I already miss towel service, but there’s rarely a wait for a machine and the place is super, super unpretentious — and oh, that price!
I wish there were a city rec center within walking distance. I’m looking to lower my monthly fitness budget to $5, and rust just makes a workout more of a challenge. I can still shrink farther down while bulking up — I just know it.