Are they worth it?
I generally prefer to be in the great outdoors in northern CA and don’t like working out in gyms. However, I found myself trying out gyms in NYC because I visit often for work. I wanted to keep up my training in the dark winter months and rehab from an injury, with good, qualified trainers at the gym. I also wanted work on upper body and core strength training, to balance out my running and hiking, and join group fitness classes.
Many said gym membership is expensive, but I found myself spending more on a la carte group fitness classes (like yoga) per month vs monthly gym membership (unlimited classes + facilities). Plus, at the time of my sign up there was a special, offering to refund initiation fee. The key is to ask the club for any sign up specials, and your company/professional organization if they offer any gym discounts.
Here are the top three I tried that were close to where I stayed/my activities:
Equinox, NYHRC, The Clay
I did end up joining EQ (single club membership at PH) due to my personal preferences for: a good range of HQ fitness classes, nice design (warm lighting, very clean, spacious, low key but energetic music, low key members, plants, quiet yoga space during shavasana, etc.), well-maintained facilities, professional staff , trainers and class instructors, no wait time for machines, eucalyptus steam room to clear my breathing passages, discount offer, and proximity to Hudson River park greenway, where I run-walk, etc. If you are on a budget and plan to use only one club, single club (vs all-access) membership is the way to go.
Less expensive options
If I didn’t need the facilities and equipment and only wanted to sign up for group fitness classes with a great number of choices, good for any of my US and worldwide travels (incl. Canada, Australia, etc), I would have signed up with Classpass. (Again email them inquiring about special offers before signing up at full price — they offered me a special right away just for inquiring.) If I just wanted no-frills gym equipment and no group fitness classes, I would sign up with Blink.
This is not advertised, but check with the membership advisor of the gym if this is possible. Sometimes, especially if one is nice and professional about it, the staff will work with you on this. In my case, I visit NYC regularly for work and explained this to them. Due to my special case, I will be able to cancel my year “single club” membership contract without penalty, due to “relocation.” Of course, I will have to show proof of relocation and fulfill all the requirements to do so. Before signing any contract, be absolutely clear about the terms and conditions, especially cancellation and hold policies and fees. Ask questions, if you are unclear. (Had I signed up with the Clay or NYHRC, the respective staff at these clubs were willing to offer me the same cancellation process.)
To try any Equinox in the US, click on this referral link to get an invitation (free pass).
For questions on Equinox NYC, click on the referral link above or contact a membership advisor at (212) 243-7600, to try the gyms for free and sign up for membership. (Please tell the staff that RC Brillantes referred you. Disclosure: I do not work for the club, but I would receive a new member reward for a referral.) Advisors based at the Printing House location can help you sign up for any location. The Highline location is described on the website as “green location designed by esteemed architecture firm Clodagh references the nearby art galleries and Meatpacking District. Environmentally sound details like power-saving lights, recycled glass and weathered steel breathe life into this historic corner of NYC.” Photos
I like that the philosophy is not only to train to be healthy, but also have a healthy environment to work out. It makes perfect sense as a regular feature of every gym. For me, if I don’t feel great working out in my gym, what’s the point?
For NYHRC (NY only), contact super nice, fellow runner-advisor Lenora at lhendley [at] nyhrc.com, visit website or call 212-220-0640 to get a free pass and sign up. NYHRC has great saltwater pools (the only ones I found accessible in NYC) and recently remodeled most of their facilities. Recommended for swimmers.
In my experience, trying out four major chains in NYC, you get what you pay for. I did a fair amount of research in the past month (on the gym websites, Time Out, gym costs comparison, asking friends about personal experiences, etc.) because I do workout 4-6x/week, a significant time investment. I also take my health seriously, enjoy-train for amateur trail races in my free time, am recovering from injury, and thus want to work with qualified trainers who can guide me on safely on: building strength, flexibility, endurance, and injury prevention.