Frugal and fit: Sidestepping the studio

For forty years, I was a fitness class enthusiast, an equal-opportunity exerciser: yoga, Pilates, dance, Super Step, Booty Camp. After retirement, the cost—even for a package—at a top-flight Montréal yoga studio, once my introductory offer expired, was surprisingly high. (Have you noticed how the price of classes has crept up?)

At first I thought, Well, I love it, and it's good for me. Then I calculated that two classes a week would cost at least $950 a year, the equivalent of a plane ticket to Europe or a couple of jaunts within Canada to see friends. Hmmm.

Now, I take the occasional class as a treat, or to give me more options.

Because I have a gym membership, I use the facility for a mashup of yoga, Pilates and things I picked up here and there from outstanding teachers. I could do that at home, but there's always something else to do instead; going to the gym gets it done. I'm not alone; on any day, I see members consulting videos or photos of routines.

I'm not against paying for classes. It depends on who you are, what you need. When Marie-France moved to a new community, she made friends at her Zumba class, but notes that after-class coffee and a muffin the size of a kettleball are proving counterproductive.

Certain forms of movement, such as martial arts and dance, require a facility designed for specialized training and safety. I'm not thinking of those, nor am I referring to exercise that's free or nearly so, such as swimming, running/walking, or cycling. I'm talking about the kind of class that you really could do on your own, if you have prior training and good body awareness, such as yoga and Pilates; stretch and strength; barre-type classes like Lotte Berk Method; T'ai Chi and Qigong.

You might prefer the state of transcendent exhaustion delivered by CrossFit or tough spin classes, so you'd judge my approach insufficiently intense. But I'm a middle of the road exerciser; if I need a challenge, I look for an old Buns of Steel video, slap on a headband, and away we go.

Besides, these retro classes are a Thing; Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Jazzercise.

Like any form of consumption, assess cost vs. benefit. Some women would give up their hair before their trainer. And some are simply not self-directed; they depend on the cheery chivvying  to make a workout fly by. Fair enough, if you value that; I did, for decades. Then one day, after paying most of a double sawbuck for someone to count my Pilates Hundreds, I began to question my dependence.

If you do want to add some DIY, a few tips:
- Start with videos (or an illustrated list) at your current level. Review before exercising; one instructor's "intermediate" may feel advanced to you. You can also flag where you want to make modifications.
- Create a YouTube playlist, to access videos easily. I have playlists labelled "Relax" (restorative yoga, stretching, meditation) and "Strength" (calisthenics, various styles of yoga, barre, weights, etc.)
- Search for videos by running time, such as "30 minute barre workout" or "full-length mat class". Otherwise you pull up a lot of 5-min. promotional snippets.
- Before subscribing to a streaming video site, try some samples or an introductory-offer subscription. The sites offer 3, 000 videos, but do you need them?
- Pick three or four videos or routines and rotate until you're bored. Personal trainers advise consistency over novelty.
- Eaveswatch. I do not park next to a trainer working with his client and copy the routine, but I notice the sequence and the instructions about form, and make notes when at home.

Classes do make exercise more palatable, and if they are the only thing you really like but you find them pricey, look for pay-what-you-can and community-sponsored classes—the time or location may not be ideal, but the savings add up.

(This post is not intended as professional advice. You know, "Consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.") 


Laura J said…
Pilates classes are a must for me and also provide some new acquaintances. No discipline for home exercise except for physio stuff . I laughed because my hair is really long because Pilates before salon!
Madame Là-bas said…
I gave up my trainer on retirement. Travel is my priority. I'm definitely considering a package from the community centre whereI I can set a programme with a trainer and then count my own reps. I'll only pay for what I use.
Jane said…
In addition to the cost of going to a studio there's the commuting time factor. I can jump on my exercise bike in the basement and get it over with. Pretty dreary "studio" though! -Lily
Paula said…
I subscribe to Barre3 online and get much more value than it costs. I also walk a lot, cycle, and lift free weights at home. The nice thing about the Barre3 classes is that I can do them at home or when traveling. Definitely keeps me in good shape.
LauraH said…
Pilates classes work for me, I need the structure. And I've made a new friend so that's a nice bonus.
Duchesse said…
All: Am I the only one who finds $20 yoga classes (the average single class cost, not the package price) expensive? I respect the "worth it" though!

Maybe I should find another great teacher; then, the only time it seems like a lot of money is when I pay a class series!

LauraH said…
Classes are expensive but too important for me not to spend the money. For years I sat at a desk 5 days a week and the results have not been great so I fall into the "worth it" category:-)
Laura J said…
I figure for Pilates it’s worth having a teacher present(I have had several super teachers !) who will correct my moves. I have benefited so much from Pilates and since I no longer ride there’s some cash to move to Pilates.i have to say yoga classes are often not worth the money unless one has an extraordinary teacher
Adele said…
I have found a workable-enough solution by combining the annual gift card discounts at my favorite yoga studio with the 20-class package deals, whereby a class costs about $10.80 - $11.25. Some weeks I make it to 3 classes, some weeks I can only get to the studio once, and add in a walk on other days or go to classes at our local community center (which costs us about $960 per year and includes classes, use of weight room/machines and squash courts for my husband). There are a lot of things I don't spend money on: going out for coffee, going out for lunch (bring my own every day), books (library for physical books as well as e-books), so I don't mind investing in my exercise classes.

And the main advantage: cheaper than therapy :~). I find exercise classes to be a great support group.
Fortunately many local community centres have affordable classes and exercise groups. I've been reading about the benefits of being among trees, even though our parks - even Mont-Royal, aren't the countryside. I haven't been walking up there often enough and must force myself to do it as one feels so calm afterwards. People also do yoga and other exercises - even frisbee games.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Have you noticed how many are tightrope-walking in the parks? Seems to be increasingly popular.
Laura J said…
It’s called slack lining ! Popular here too!
Yes, I have. And there is a wide variety of exercise, sport and other physical activities in the parks, including Mont-Royal. I've seen yoga at Parc Jarry and Parc Lafontaine as well, but the main activities at Jarry are organised sport, especially footie/soccer and cricket played by South Asian people in crisp whites (!!!) and of course people doing laps running or cycling (me) around the park. I've also seen badminton and ping-pong. There are usually people up there by 6 a.m., unless there is heavy rain. And not to forget the teens at the basketball park and the skate park in the hood.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: The use of parks is another topic, but related- sort of. I am looking for alternatives to the cost of studio-led classes, most specifically, yoga and Pilates. There is sometimes free yoga in parks.
Jean Shaw said…
Yes, good yoga classes can be expensive, particularly Iyengar. (But the trade-off is the deep knowledge of anatomy and modifications/adaptations that you get with those who've been trained in that style.)

That said, I'm not going to the Iyengar studio I studied at for many years because of the commuting issue. A 90-minute class has turned into almost a 3-hour schlep. Fortunately, there's a great online resource out of Australia that I would recommend to anyone who's interested.

Good luck with your search!
Duchesse said…
Jean Shaw: I especially like Iyengar and appreciated the quality of instruction. (I am familiar with the rigour of the training and the Iyengar sequence and philosophy.) I often advise persons starting a yoga practice to seek out this form.

I worked for several years at a Toronto studio in exchange for classes, as I had a big habit to pay for!

Jean Shaw said…
I am with you on recommending Iyengar classes to beginners. I'm so spoiled by studying with the PDX teachers. But I can't make the commute work at this time of my life.

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