Why is the Y so expensive?
March 20, 2009 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Why is the Y so expensive? And if you joined anyway, do you find it worth the $ compared to other gyms?

I'm thinking about joining my local Y (Meredith Matthews for folks in Seattle), and it is surprisingly expensive! Like, 100% more expensive than 24 Hour Fitness, for example.

The joining fee is $100, and monthly fee for me would be $55. 24 Hr. has a $50 joining fee and is $27/month. No contract for the Y is surely a bonus, I suppose.

I understand that the facilities at 24 Hr are bigger and they have more machines, too, so I'm a little baffled by this.

Did you find that the benefits of the Y outweighed the cost in general? Is there some amazing hidden thing I don't know about that makes it so expensive?
posted by tristeza to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i think it's that it's a nonprofit (?) and the money goes to help fund other services.

i am a member of my local Y and love it. i found the people and staff to be friendlier than the big gym i had formerly been a member of.

i know that my Y provides a lot of services to help kids, like low cost summer camp and before/after school care to low-income working parents.
posted by sio42 at 10:58 AM on March 20, 2009

oh so....yes, i found the money to be worth it. i feel like i am supporting something besides removing fat from my behind ;-)
posted by sio42 at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2009

The Y is good for me because it is much closer to my home than any other gym... so I'll save on gas and am likely to go more often if I don't dread the drive.

But, I like the Y because of the classes they offer. Yoga, pilates, water aerobics, tai chi.... it's more fun than just hitting the treadmill. Some gyms offer classes, but some are just giant rooms with machines.

Also, the Y has lots of programs for kids.

If you show them 2 paystubs, and you qualify, they will work with you to lower your monthly fee.
posted by roxie5 at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2009

I should have clarified - I would not qualify for a reduced rate (which is totally fine by me, I'm lucky to have a good job!).
posted by tristeza at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2009

Glad to hear it. Still relavent to your question though--- The reduced rate, which any other gym I've heard of would never do, is one of their good qualites. I agree with sio42, their wilingness to do that , community outreach, and the "vibe" of the whole place makes me feel really good about going there.
posted by roxie5 at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2009

The Y is literally the only gym in my neighborhood, so I belong out of necessity. In the summer months here in Phoenix, you have to get up at the breaka breaka dawn to walk more than 10 minutes outside. I don't do mornings.

That said, I love my gym. It's attached to the Y's residential facility and I know my large monthly payment is going for a good cause. They also have excellent, clean and modern facilities with programs designed to help you actually use the gym. (My gym also has a coffee bar and the few times I've made it there before 7 a.m., I get free coffee!!! Woo hoo!)

Finally, I love the fact that they sponsor loads of programs for neighborhood kids to foster fitness as a way of life, and those programs are mostly free or low-cost. So in a word, yes, it's worth it.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2009

See, here's why I love AskMe - within about 3 minutes of posting this, you've completely changed the way I was looking at this and you've completely answered my question to boot.

Why wouldn't I want to pay a little more to support my community? DUH.

Now I feel kind of dumb I wasn't looking at it like this before but I really appreciate the change in perspective. Thanks all.
posted by tristeza at 11:11 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

short answer: yes

longer: I had belonged to a 24 hr fitness, which I eventually left to join the 2x expensive Y. I am so much happier with it!!! it's clean, well-staffed & maintained, very well equipped. classes and other resources plentifully available. plus its like a regular community contribution on my part, to help support a service that provides for children, seniors etc., promotes the health of the community etc.,
posted by supermedusa at 11:21 AM on March 20, 2009

or...what they said :)
posted by supermedusa at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2009

Nthing everyone else who says that it's worth it.

I actually canceled my membership with 24 Hour Fitness to join my local Y (Ketchum Downtown branch, for people in LA). I never liked 24 Hour Fitness--something about the horrible piped-in music, prowling salesmen/trainers, and bizarre color scheme always put me off. So even though I was paying for the membership, I found myself using every excuse in the book to avoid going. Now I spend more to go to the gym, but I actually go.

And, as everyone else said, I get to feel that my money is being used for something other than either a) corporate expansion or b) reducing the size of my butt.
posted by chicainthecity at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2009

Usually the Y has a pool while most gyms don't. If you swim it's pretty reasonable - pools can be expensive.
posted by GuyZero at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2009

Just make sure that you visit the one you'd be joining first to see how crowded it is and how early one must get there to take a class.

I joined the Y and could never get a treadmill (and when I did, they had a 30 min limit) and couldn't get into a class unless I got there an hour before the class started. Parking is a nightmare due to the crowds and the pool wasn't worth it to me. I joined Peak Fitness instead, which allows unlimited time on the treadmill and is not too crowded.

For me, that particular Y wasn't worth it, but YMMV. Check it out first, and talk to other patrons.
posted by Punctual at 11:51 AM on March 20, 2009

I used to belong to the Y when I lived in Seattle. I had a cut rate membership but I also wanted access to a pool and yoga classes. When I liked about the yoga classes wre two things.

1. the classes were free with membership, not like a reduced price or anything if you were a member, just free
2. the crowd was a community crowd, not a gym crowd. I'm sort of medium in terms of fitness, or was, and I felt that I was a super rockstar in a crowd of normal average people which is who goes to the Y. There was no competition or other "who is doing more" gym antics and I felt like we could concentrate on doing good yoga.

Also they had a wet *and* dry sauna as well as a whirlpool bath which was super incredible and better than any gym I've been to since. So, for anyone who helped to fund my cut rate Y membership when I was a struggling library school student, thank you!
posted by jessamyn at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

2. the crowd was a community crowd, not a gym crowd.

This was the big one for me. I used to be a member of Goodlife Fitness through work, which was about half the price as well, and it just felt like such a gym. My local Y has a residence, pool, daycare, etc. It feels more like a community centre than anything.

Plus the free classes that are included (and not just step aerobics, but pilates, yoga, martial arts, so many others), the pool and the contribution to the community.

I feel so much more comfortable there.
posted by aclevername at 12:50 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nth the "worth it".

Everyone is very friendly and welcoming, says hi (when you're not in mid-concentration). It's very clean. Kids are having supervised instruction and having fun. It's just a happy-type place and it improves my mood, separately from the physical exercise. My Y has drop-in group classes, a nutrition expert who periodically has a cooking demo, has PE classes for home-school kids...

Commercial gyms I've been to are not that way. I get a "this sucks" vibe. Maybe some people don't like to be bothered, they just want to work out and be left alone, but I find that makes for a very hostile, unfriendly place.

The gym I want isn't just a bunch of machines. On the other hand, my Y isn't 24-hour, and it's more expensive. So it depends on what you like in a gym, I guess.

At my Y you can get a 3-visit free trial. Try both.
posted by ctmf at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2009

Beware the Y - something I found out recently is that some are privately owned, and are not necessarily non-profit stalwarts of the community; they're out to make a buck just like the rest of us. Don't know if it's some kind of franchise or brand license, but this comes from a Y facility manager, so take it for what it's worth.
posted by DandyRandy at 1:41 PM on March 20, 2009

If you want to contribute to local charities, you can do so without joining the Y. Then you could actually choose where your money is going, rather than have some religious organization do the choosing for you.

Commercial gyms vary. The 24-Hour Fitness I go to (one of the four within a twenty-minute drive from my home) has free classes, is quite clean, and has a friendly staff. Some people socialize there, but I'm one of the gym-goers who the previous commenters seem to hate and I'm just there to lift some weight. The other three 24 Hour Fitness locations around me, though, have small free weight sections, no pools, and are usually packed.

In short, your best bet is to actually try out the different gyms. I think every gym I've ever been to would let you work out there for free to try it out (though you might have to listen to a ten minute hard sell first). If the Y is worth 2x as much, you'll know. Regarding price, it's hard to beat 24 Hour. After my three-year contract is up, my membership will renew at $25 per year. Some of my friends' parents who joined many years ago are paying $5 per year. They count on people joining and then giving up on working out. Statistics show this is a safe bet, and they capitalize on it.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:36 PM on March 20, 2009

Don't know if this is important to you, but some Y's around the country discriminate against same-sex families, refusing to offer family memberships to them or revoking memberships when they find out couples with kids are lesbian or gay. Other Y's around the country do not discriminate like that, and some only stop after feeling pressure from large organizations in the local community. You might want to ask around and see what the policy is at your local Y, and make a decision to support that Y with that in mind. If that's important to you.
posted by mediareport at 3:39 PM on March 20, 2009

That is important to me, mediareport, thanks, I'll definitely look into it.
posted by tristeza at 4:05 PM on March 20, 2009

My old Y was great and didn't have any of the problems folks warn about (Dupont Cir, DC). Also, it was worth it for me because it was one of the only indoor pools available.
posted by Pax at 4:32 PM on March 20, 2009

I LOVE my Y.
- Yes, it's Christian of some sort. The way I look at it, they actually proclaim their values on the wall. They happen to be: Healthy Communities. Help Each Other. Look Within To See Beauty. Your heart needs love and care. Those are literally written on the walls with paint. Lots of gyms have values that may or may not be written anywhere, and I've found those to be: Strut around looking important, be thin and tan, love yourself at all costs.
- They back it up with action: they sponsor tons of kids/youth outreach programs, working women program (giving them incentives to come work out at lunch or after work), help with the elderly who would like to come but need rides, etc.
- As Jessamyn says, it's a community crowd, not a gym crowd. They're the people I see riding my bus, at my farmer's market, at the public library, working behind the bar, the secretary at the court house, random (very poor) kids down the street, etc. It's more of a community center environment than a pump-up-the-jam dance club with all the buffos that entails. I see grannies on the treadmill wearing huge sweats, old guys doing little arm band stretches, really fit guys pumping, women running, teens doing the machines. Nobody hits on you while stretching. The guys talk to you while you're doing arm lifts and wipe off the chairs to give you room. It's all very civil and fun and interactive, not sketchy at all.
- these make me LOVE actually GOING to the gym, which is the whole point -- it reflects my values and my community and my body, which makes me like going, which makes me fitter and saner in my everyday life
- all classes are free. This has allowed me to really get into some kinds of fitness that I wouldn't pony up extra cash for. Also the teachers themselves seem to be of the same community/health mindset as me and not interested in pump-it-UP nonesense that wouldn't be a dealbreaker for me taking a class. This is as true in yoga, tai chi, kickboxing, spin, cardio pump, boot camp, rumba, and ball class. And yes, I've taken all of those, with great teachers, at convenient times, at a Y! None of which are offered at any local gym.
- pool is nice and especially as a once-a-week or even while injured alternative
- the same-sex thing is incredibly, personally, hugely annoying to me. Some queer friends and I have started working within the board and membership to try and change our Y rules to reflect the city AND its own membership numbers to reflect what the right decision already is. Meaning it is hard to argue what it ought to do based on moral/ethical reasoning but showing them the numbers of our community (and its current membership) and it does listen. Our branch has never revoked or refused entry to same-sex folks but we don't get the family benefits. It's totally ridiculous and sometimes makes me mad. But it seems to be really vaguely bureaucratic and not at the level of our branch (which isn't to say they're not complicit). I have found it worthwhile to write even one or two letters a year in support of changing this policy and they take those seriously FROM MEMBERS (not from outside pressure points). So there is some truth to folks on the inside voicing displeasure and support of a new policy. Maybe I'm just letting myself believe that - no easy answers.
- I'm a poor grad student but I've paid for my next-door neighbour kids to attend their summer programs and it's cool to see them there -- it has honestly changed the gym experience for me!
posted by barnone at 8:07 PM on March 20, 2009

I (re)learned to swim as an adult at Meredith Matthews YMCA a few years ago. The staff were terrific across the board, and the pool is definitely a bonus compared to other gyms.

We didn't join because there were other fitness-related things going on in our lives, but as a parent of little kids, the childcare service is an incredibly attractive feature.

As far as other local options....There's a Curves a few blocks away on Madison--no idea about what the franchise has to offer but I'm sure there's no pool. The municipal Medgar Evers pool is a half-mile south of Meredith Matthews and it's probably a better pool, certainly bigger. Medgar Evers has a weight set but it's surely not as nice as the Y and it's sort of out in the open in a weird way.
posted by Sublimity at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2009

My experience was much like Punctual's -- the classes were so crowded that I couldn't get into them unless I wanted to hang around the gym for an extra 45 minutes a day.

And while I somewhat appreciated that they were full of regular people, it was very hard to get any kind of workout in my aquafit class because the regular (read: old) people were standing in the pool chit-chatting instead of moving.

I eventually gave up on the Y because the experience just wasn't worth it, but when I started, it had been much better, so I suspect it's dependent on your Y.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:14 PM on March 20, 2009

and they take those seriously FROM MEMBERS (not from outside pressure points)

I only know what I've seen work locally, which was a change in policy soon after the local newspapers, city council, Duke University and other loud outside groups started raising questions about the discrimination. If you've been waiting years for a change, you might want to rethink strategy.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 AM on March 21, 2009

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