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November 13, 2017

7 Ways to Find Free Workouts Near Me: A Guide to Get Active for Cheap

Workout girl stretching

If you’re a regular runner or stream workout videos on YouTube, you already know that you can get a good workout in without paying a dime. But sometimes it’s cold or rainy or you just need a coach’s motivating words to get yourself in gear.

Finding the balance between affordable and effective workouts is surprisingly easy. Even if you don’t have the time or funds to commit to a full-time gym membership, you can still get your sweat on. There are a plethora of ways to get into gyms and studios for free (or close to free) without signing your paycheck away.

Short-term trials

Look for 3- and 7-day offers from places like Blink, Crunch, Life Time and 24 Hour Fitness, which have locations across the country. These gyms offer a variety of cardio machines, weight rooms and classes that may be included in the trial: definitely ask if you should sign up for classes in advance.

You’ll likely need to call ahead to reserve your guest pass and be prepared that your experience will probably also come with a sales pitch from a membership representative to talk you into a commitment. It’s worth it to sit through for the free workout. Stay open-minded (especially if you are in the market for a new gym), but also stand your ground if you’re really just looking for some temporary (cheap) workout time.

Some gyms will also allow you to purchase a day pass for a nominal fee if you’re a repeat (short-term) visitor.

Similarly, many class-based studios offering spinning, kickboxing or yoga will permit you to try out a class or two with no charge. Saying you’re brand new to the area or to the sport can help.

YMCA Guest Pass

YMCA is everywhere. Most will offer a short-term trial or a temporary guest pass, especially if you can prove you live in the area. The Y offers everything you need to get a good sweat, from classes to drop-in basketball to lap swims to cardio machines, although amenities are not consistent in every facility. If you are ready to commit to a membership, prices vary location to location: you may luck out and find a free trial, or your pass could cost anywhere from $5 to $30 for a one-day to one-month period. Call ahead or sign up on the nearest location’s website to secure a spot and confirm the cost.

Run Clubs

Many gyms offer weekly run clubs for their members which convene on-site and take off as a group for a jog around town. Even if you’re not a member, you may be eligible to participate, especially if you pitch your registration as “getting a feel for the community.” Call ahead to book your spot and show up ready to run.

If gyms in your area don’t offer this, many local running clubs do. These provide the benefit of coaching, pacing and the motivation of keeping up with a group, although most clubs will offer pace options for most skill levels. A quick internet search of groups – including on MeetUp.com - will turn up free community events, often departing from a sporting goods store.

Check out Lululemon and Athleta

If you’re in a major city, these stores, with locations across the country, often host free workouts before and after business hours. While some are outfitted with studios, others just move the merchandise to the perimeter to create open space – perfect for yoga, HIIT and Pilates. Check your local store’s website for their class calendar.

Outdoor Bootcamps

There are tons of ways to get your sweat on for free if you’re willing to a) be outside, b) maybe get a bit dirty and c) possibly get up at the crack of dawn to get moving.

The November Project, a running and strength-training group founded in Boston and now active in dozens of cities all over the world, is a free program for athletes of all abilities. They convene their tribes first thing in the morning, rain or shine, to workout. Expect to work and expect your endurance capacity to shoot way up if you attend consistently.

Individual trainers and even local municipal government programs also offer outdoor morning or post-work bootcamps, mainly using body weight and what is available in the immediate environs: think stair climbs, jungle gyms and hill runs. Search for events hosted by trainers in your area or look at your city’s events website: you may be surprised by how many free workouts are happening tomorrow morning in a park near you.

Groupon and Living Social

Don’t underestimate the power of the coupon: while these are rarely free, many online offers will include a BOGO deal, 5- or 10-pack classes at a steep discount or a trial month for just a few dollars. (We recently found an unlimited month at a fully-equipped YMCA for $29. Pretty worth it, especially if you’re going a few times a week.)

Some of these will also let you split class packages with a family member, driving that cost down even more per person.

Pop-up Fitness

Explore special events happening at gyms and studios near you for the chance to work out for free. If they’re celebrating a big anniversary or a new renovation, they’ll be looking to get people in the door. Some gyms also host one-time classes with celebrity trainers or pop-up PR events that can be cheap or free (and often come with swag). Look out for open houses, membership promotion days and bring-a-friend offers. Tag along with a friend who already has a membership to get yourself in the door.

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