Friday, May 25, 2012

The Accidental Guide To Enjoying Life While Unemployed – Part 3 – Keeping Fit

Welcome to Part 3 of my accidental guide to enjoying life while unemployed, which looks at low-cost ways to keep fit, or, as I like to think of it, the fitness edition.

If you’ve missed out on Parts 1 and 2 of the guide, shame on you! I won’t take any offence if you make sure to check them out before or after reading through this section.

Part 1 – The Essentials
Part 2 – Eating & Drinking
Part 3 – Keeping Fit
Part 4 – Expand Your Mind

I’m assuming everyone knows about the ultimate in low-cost fitness that is running and walking, so I won’t go into these in more detail. Besides, I’m not a fan of running. I’ll do it if I have to, but it’s not my first choice when it comes to fitness options.

So how on earth do I keep my figure so trim? I thought you’d never ask.

Disclaimer: I don’t benefit from any of the sites I’ve linked to here.

Free trials and special offers

Fitness studios tend to offer free trials and special offers, ranging from a one-day trial to up to two weeks. I’ll just list a few in central London which I know about:

  • Good Vibes, one of the two studios I go to and swear by, offers a ten-day unlimited Glow Yoga or Spincycle pass for newbies the incredible sum of £20. That’s £2/day, or about 1/8th the cost of a drop-in class. They also offer a trial Power Plate class.
  • Blue Cow Yoga, based in Moorgate, offers a similar deal: a two-week unlimited pass for £20. This studio has free wifi in the entrance area, and towels are provided at no charge, so you could even bring your smartphone or tablet along, if you have one, and get some work done while recovering!
  • Yotopia, in Covent Garden, is slightly more expensive with a ten-day unlimited pass for £35. In addition to the usual yoga classes, this studio also offers yogasports and yogaballet classes.
  • Frame, the other studio I frequent, also has special deals every month or so. For the month of May, they’re offering a ten off-peak class pass for £50, which brings the price of each class down to £5 from its usual price of £8 to £12.

If you were to be really sneaky and combined the yoga offers – and wanted a clear break from everything because, trust me, intensive yoga will wear you out – then you could pretty much do a six week all-out yoga for £75, which is much cheaper than what you’d normally have to pay. Pretty good, eh?

If you’re not adverse to working out in public – and I mean, public – free cardio classes are offered every Wednesday during the summer by 37 degrees at The Scoop over at Tower Bridge. The first set of classes, Zumba, runs from May 2nd to June 6th, followed by Boot Camp, which runs from June 13th to July 18th. Classes run for an hour from 7.30 am. Simply turn up 10 minutes prior to the class and register.

Group buying sites

What’s the alternative if these aren’t available to you? Check out group buying sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, kgbdeals and Wowcher which regularly offer reduced prices on yoga, boot camp, dance and gym day passes. Wowcher appears to have the smallest offering compared to the other three, but I’m including it here because of its refund policy, which the other sites don’t have. According to the site, if you change your mind on an unredeemed purchase within 30 days, Wowcher will credit your account. Now, I’ve not used the site and can’t vouch for it, but if you’re on a budget and you’re also hit by the time constraints placed on group buying deals, then that particular policy might give you a bit more peace of mind.

You could also try Tasterlab for a more targeted approach if you’re looking for specific activities. Last I checked, you could get discounts or taster sessions on tango, climbing and tai chi, among others.

Yes, I hear you say, this all works in the short-term, but what about those of us who want a longer-term affordable alternative?

Your local council

I’ve found that the local council tends to offer a lot of support when it comes to health and fitness activities. For instance, the City of London Corporation runs the City of Sport initiative aimed at helping workers across the Square Mile keep active. Classes include Urban Gym, Zumba, Pilates, kickboxing, tennis and cycling, with prices ranging from £3.75 to £8 per class. Venues for these sessions are based in the City, as you might expect.

There’s also the Golden Lane Leisure Centre which offers gym facilities, group exercise classes and a pool, at just a fraction of the price compared to the swankier but more costly high street gym nearby.

Other reasonably priced institutes in the area include Bishopsgate Institute and Idea Stores, which also offer discounts to their already-low rates to ES40 holders. Both organisations offer a range of exercise and performing arts courses.

Give your local leisure centre a go as well. These tend to offer fitness facilities at reasonable prices. If you find that this works for you, consider taking up a membership (Pay-and-Play for the occasional user, or an all-inclusive one for the more regular gym goer). Now, I haven’t been to a leisure centre in years, but, the last time I went to one, it only cost me about £3 a swim. It’s probably more now (it was a long time ago), but, hey, it’s still an affordable way to keep fit, compared to a private gym membership.

Low-cost gyms

And if you’re not a class bunny like I am? Look at cheaper gym options. The following gyms operate on the basis of providing gym equipment only, rather than other amenities such as a pool, sauna and classes:

  • Fit4Less offers no-strings attached, short-term gym memberships for what appears to be a good-sized, well-equipped gym. The one I visited was equipped with Power Plates, although I, personally, don’t like using these without having an instructor keep an eye on my alignment. Good for post-workout massages though! There are three membership plans: £263 upfront for 12 months (£21.92 per month), £21.99 per month (p/m) for 12 months and £29.99 p/m for a monthly membership. An admin fee of £39.99 will be charged for the latter two options.
  • The Gym Group operates on a similar concept to Fit4Less, although it has more gyms throughout London. One key factor which differentiates The Gym Group from other gyms is that it offers 24 hour access, which is good if you like to work out during odd hours. Memberships are offered on a no-contract basis and range from between £16.99 to £19.99 p/m for a single site, to £19.99 for multi-site access. A joining fee of £20 applies.
  • FitSpace also offers cheaper memberships. Plans offered are £19 p/m (flexible, admin fee of £48), £12.42 p/m (12 month term, no admin fee) and £12 p/m (18 month minimum term, admin fee of £41). FitSpace has two branches in London that I know of: Islington and Woolwich.
  • PayAsUGym does what it says. The site enables you to purchase a pass to any participating gym so that you pay as you visit, rather than having to purchase a term membership. It offers passes for up to 90 days. All you have to do is enter your postcode into the search box, tick what you’re looking for and it’ll show you the possibilities within your area. There’re also reviews of the various gyms on offer so that you have a better idea of what’s good and what’s not.

Be sure to take up the gym’s offer of a short-term trial membership before committing as you need to be sure that the gym’s a good fit for your needs.


Last but not least, there’s always the online option. The most popular site, SparkPeople, offers personalised fitness plans, food journals and exercise videos free. It’s entirely supported by advertising, so you will have to put up with a fair number of ads on each page. There’re even two iPhone apps to enable you to get the most out of the site: one for tracking nutrition, weight, etc. and the other for recipes.

Other sites include Yoga Today and Yoga Journal, both of which offer free yoga videos which vary from week to week. If you have an iPhone or iPad, the Nike Training Club app which contains over 85 custom-built workouts could be a useful tool as well.

That’s it for the fitness edition of The Accidental Guide To Enjoying Life While Unemployed. If you haven’t managed to find something which suits you from all of the options I’ve covered, then you must be very fussy indeed! The last and final part of the guide will look at expanding your mind. Keep a look-0ut for it when it’s posted next week!

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please let me know in the comments and share this with your friends! I’d love to hear from you on how you got on, and whether you have any tips that I haven’t covered.

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