My First Two Weeks At The Gym

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how I was considering a gym membership.  Well, I decided to take the plunge and have been going for two weeks now.  The first week was on a trial membership, and last week was my first full week on the paid membership that I purchased.

Here are a few things that went into the decision to purchase and how it’s gone so far:

Price

I checked around and after immediately eliminating the high priced options (up to $50 per month, yikes) I was left with two different pricing plans.

  1. Higher monthly cost, no activation fee – The gym I was looking at has a current price of $90 for four months, or $22.50 per month.  There are no setup or activation fees.  After four months, I can sign up again at that price.  Or better.  If the price at that time is better, I can sign up at a better rate.  I can also add on months to my current membership if they decide to offer a better deal at any point in between (and the lady tipped me off that they have some pretty sweet Black Friday deals).
  2. Lower monthly cost, but activation fees – The other gym I looked at can be joined for $15 per month, which seems pretty good, except that you have to pay $79 up front to activate your membership.  If you average this cost out over a year, you end up paying roughly $21.50 per month, which is pretty much the same price.  But, the activation fee is unappealing to me for two reasons.  First, that’s a lot to pay up front.  Second, it just annoys me.  The reason they have activation fees is because if you decide to stop your membership at any point, you’ll be on the hook to pay the activation fee if you ever decide to re-join.  I’m guessing that gyms use this as a way to keep people from quitting.  It just annoys me.

mb-201309treadmillSo, I chose the first option. I think that the $22.50 per month that I’m paying is pretty good and I have a feeling that I can get better pricing down the line.  And, as a follow-up to another post I did where I was hoping to get last month’s price of $75, I asked politely and was politely told that they could not give me that price.  So, for the difference of less than $4 per month, I was not too worried.  It was worth a shot!

Goals

I set some goals as to what I wanted to accomplish:

  1. Reverse some weight gain – Over the course of a couple of years, I made some small changes that led me to lose 18 pounds.  This was awesome, but after hitting that low weight, I started adding a little bit here and there, until I’d cut into my progress by half.  I simply want to reverse the decline and closer to the weight I was at before I added the nine pounds back in.
  2. Improve my cholesterol – Since they started measuring, I’ve always had borderline high cholesterol.  The last time I went my LDL (bad cholesterol) was higher than it should be and my HDL (good cholesterol) was technically acceptable, but at the low end of the acceptable range.  I’d like to improve both of these numbers and exercise is believed to help this.
  3. Spillover into better health – If I’m exercising I tend to make better choices.  If I’m reaching for a snack and it’s on a day that I’ve exercised, I’ll tend to think twice about it, often either deciding against it or at least taking a smaller portion.  So, I figure that even on days when I burn off 300-400 calories, I might avoid 200 or so more just in making better decisions.  This helps with both goals above.
  4. Feel better – I end up feeling better throughout the day, and also I’d like to just feel in better shape.
  5. Rest better – Even though I am getting the same or maybe even slightly less sleep (see the routine section below), I find that I rest much better.  If I wake up, I can normally fall right back asleep, and I just feel more rested, as I’m guessing that my body is doing a better job at resting after being worn out.

Routine

My prior routine had me getting up around 5:40, going downstairs to feed the cat, go back up to shave, shower, and get ready.  I’d generally leave the house around 6:20 and end up at work about 6:30.  Since my normal start time is around 7:00 (I’m not on a fixed schedule), I was actually giving my employer quite a bit of extra time.

So, the new schedule has me getting up earlier, about 5:05 (this is actually closer to the time I was getting up until a couple of months ago when I had to wake up to give the other cat–now deceased–some medicine.  So this wasn’t much of an adjustment).  I shave, go downstairs, feed the cat, stretch, and leave around 5:25.  The gym opens at 5:30 and that’s around when I get there.  I exercise for about 45 minutes, collect my stuff and stretch, and I’m back at home around 6:25.  I shower and get dressed, then hop back to work, and I’m still there no later than 6:50.

So far, it’s worked.

Exercises

Right now, I’m doing three days a week on the treadmill (around 25-30 minutes at 5.0-5.2 MPH with warm up and cool down on either side), and two days a week on a weight circuit, where I do one set on 12 different machines one after another with little rest in between, then go back and do another set, with a few minutes walking on the treadmill before, in between sets, and after.  The idea is basically to keep your body working on a low level for the entire time.

Impact

I’m still working on getting my stretching done right.  Last Friday was the first day that I didn’t feel tightness in my calves after working out, so I think I got the stretching right for that.  I do have to keep tabs on my knees, as I’ve had joint pain in the past when I’ve used the treadmill, plus I have a family history of knee problems.  If that returns and is prohibitive, I might have to switch to the elliptical, but I like the treadmill the best, and I’m hoping to be able to stick with that as my primary cardio machine for now.

Results

So far, I’ve lost 2 pounds from before I started.  I know that weight flucuates, so I’m really going to look at this by month, but I still track it weekly just to get some inputs on progress.  Going the right direction at the beginning is great.

Regrets

My only regret is not starting up sooner when I had initially started kicking the idea around.  Actually what prompted me was a Groupon deal at another gym, and once I started thinking about it, I realized that I really wanted to get back in an exercise routine.

Next Steps

The plan is to post regular updates, with the thought process being that I’ll hold myself accountable.  My biggest risk is falling out of the routine, and I know that can happen after missing even one day, so the challenge will be after I inevitably get sick or something and miss time, to get right back into it.

How is your exercise routine going?

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How Hard Should I Press To Get Last Month’s Discount?

Last month, I wrote about how I am considering a gym membership.  I’m happy to report that I have made progress.

mb-201309treadmillI did some checking around, and pretty much narrowed it down to one gym that I want to attend.  I looked at all the gyms in a five mile radius, and eliminated the super-expensive gyms (Lifetime, LA Fitness), and started with the gym that was closest to my house, as location is a huge thing when it comes to me actually getting my butt out the door and into the gym.

As it turns out, the one that was closest is also the one with the best pricing.   Sort of.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  First, let me touch on some of the other things I’ve found.

Location

The location of the gym could not be better situated.  My plan is to work out in the morning before work.  I had planned on leaving the house, working out, then showering and getting ready at the gym, and going to work.  When I looked at the logistics of the gym I’m considering, it got even better.  I can get up twenty minutes earlier than I used to, drive four minutes to the gym, work out, go back home to get showered and dressed, and leave for work.  I would be getting to work about fifteen minutes than I used to, but I generally get there over 30 minutes earlier than my ‘unofficial’ start time, so I’m still perfectly fine as far as that goes.

No other gym would allow me to pull this off with this level of timing.

The Workout Experience

I’ve been a member of gyms before, so I know what I’m looking for and I know what to expect.  The gym I’m looking at has everything I’m looking for.  All I want are cardio machines and weight machines.  This gym has them and they’re in very good condition.  My general workout routine will likely be cardio on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and some circuit training / light weight lifting on Tuesday and Thursday.  I’m not looking to get ripped, just to get in shape.  This has everything I need.

Staff

So far, the staff has been very friendly.  On a whim, I stopped in one evening (OK, on the way back from getting Dairy Queen, a treat that my wife and I occasionally indulge and is our favorite.  So, yes I stopped at the gym with ice cream in the car.  Don’t judge).  I asked for a look around and they showed me everything and were very friendly.  When I asked if I could come work out once or twice, they did better, and gave me a 10-day trial membership pass.  I started the next morning!

Pricing

OK, so here’s where I am having a bit of an issue.  Actually two.  But I think it might just be me.  And I don’t think it will be a dealbreaker either way.  But here it is.

They don’t really do much advertising.  They’re no frills.  They keep things simple.  The way they advertise their ‘deals’ is with a signboard on the side of the road in front of the shopping center.  Last month, when I drove by, I saw that they were advertising 4 months for $75.  Which was a pretty good deal considering that they don’t do sign-up fees or anything like that.  You pay the price and that’s it.  Which is something I love as I hate ‘gimmick’ pricing.

However, that price apparently ended last month.  Now, the four month deal is $90.  When I mentioned this to the guy that gave me the trial membership pass, he just sort of looked at me and said, “Yep, that was last month’s price.  Now it’s $90.”  He wasn’t rude about it, and I didn’t press it (since I hadn’t yet worked out there) but I’m wondering if I should try to push for last month’s pricing, or just let it go.

So, first question is should I press to get last month’s deal? If so, how hard do I press?

One other thing they mentioned that I’m kind of ‘meh’ about is that the pricing isn’t locked in.  At the end of the four months, I’d have to sign up again.  Now, you can lock in your price if you do the ‘automatic deduction’ plan, but that’s $30 per month.  No thanks.

So, I run the risk of having higher pricing available in four months.  Though, four months would put me in the middle of January, and if I was a betting man, I’d guess that they might have some really good pricing around that time to try to reign in all the ‘New Years Resolutons’ sign-ups that they probably get.  So, maybe this could work out to my advantage?

Question number two, should I even try to ask if my rate can be locked in or is this something I should just let go?

It is worth mentioning that two other gyms I might consider (though they’re both further away…ugh) are $15 and $25 per month.  However, both have $49 ‘activation’ fees so if I were to spread that out over a year (which is fair), the price would really be around $19 or $29 respectively.  Meaning, if I could get the $75 for four months, this would be right at the bottom, but even the $90 plan would average $22.50, which is OK.

I guess I’m just curious if and how I should approach both ‘last months pricing’ and ‘my next signup’ as potential issues.  Should I just ask and accept if they say no, or should I bluff and let them think I might walk?  Is that crossing the line from frugal to cheap?

Readers, what do you think?

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The Afterburn Effect Applied To Personal Finance

One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld involves a plot where George puts in a furious workout which leaves him still sweating after he gets back to the office.  This leads to him being accused of stealing from his employer, as they figured he was sweating from being nervous.

In reality, this type of sweating is actually a good thing when it comes after working out.  It’s known as the afterburn effect, and basically says that after a rigorous workout, your body will still burn extra calories for several hours following a workout in addition to the calories expended during the workout itself.

I’ve actually applied this to my workouts, trying to work out harder for a slightly shorter amount of time versus a moderate workout.  After the moderate workout, your body basically wraps up, whereas after the rigorous workout, additional calories will continue to be burned.  So, even though the calorie meter might read the same, the net calories could be wildly different based on the type of workout you do.

Did you know that the afterburn effect can apply to personal finances?

I think that it can!

Let’s look at an extra mortgage payment.  If you take part of your tax return and make a 13th payment on your mortgage, you’ll see an immediate decrease in your balance, which is the equivalent of the calories burned during a workout, but the afterburn kicks in when you look at the interest payments moving forward.

Let’s look at a hypothetical mortgage for six months.

Without an extra payment, the portion applied to interest might look like:

Month 1 – $500
Month 2 – $498
Month 3 – $496
Month 4 – $494
Month 5 – $492
Month 6 – $490

This would total $2,970 in interest over the six months following the extra payment.

With an extra payment, it would probably look something like this:

Month 1 – $497
Month 2 – $495
Month 3 – $493
Month 4 – $491
Month 5 – $489
Month 6 – $487

This brings your total to $2,952 over the next six months.

That’s an $18 ‘savings’ over the six months.  That isn’t money in your pocket, because your payments will stay the same, but it will grow your principle balance (and thus your net worth) by that amount.

Now, you can say, “But, Money Beagle, what’s the difference? It’s only $18”

This is true, but I have two things in reply to that:

  1. The net effect is greater than $18.  I only showed the first six months, but in reality, an extra payment will affect every mortgage payment for the rest of the length of the loan.  This could really work out to an extra couple hundred bucks.
  2. On top of that, the effect adds up quickly.  What if you made a second extra payment split up through the year?  Suddenly you’re looking at $36 over the next few months and probably could be $1,000 savings over the life of the loan.

Bottom line, pennies can add up to dollars which can add up to lots of dollars.

It’s not just debt.  Add an extra 1% to your retirement 401(k) contribution.  $20 per paycheck might not seem like a lot, but that’s $500 a year which can be worth $10-20k in a few years, and could add a couple of hundred thousand dollars or more to your retirement balance when you finally decide to call it quits.

Plus, it ties back to the workout analogy.  You’re not going to lose 10 pounds with one intense workout, but if you put in an intense workout three days a week for a few months, you’ll see those ten pounds work out.  Same goes with extra payments, the effects seem minimal with each individual ‘financial workout’ but the effects can and will add up if you apply this principle regularly.

And, I believe this can tie back to the afterburn effect?

Do you or have you exercised to the point where the afterburn effect was noticeable?  What other applications in the personal finance world can you apply this principle to?

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Should I Ride My Bike To Work?

I’m fortunate enough to live about two and a half miles from work.  This is great in that my gas costs are significantly lower than they would be if I had a longer commute.  I once had a job that was sixty five miles each way.  Needless to say, the gas costs were through the roof, and gas was less than three bucks a gallon.

Still, I’ve often considered the idea of riding my bike to work once the spring time weather hits in a few weeks.

Since we moved in, riding my bike hasn’t been an option I’ve been comfortable with for the simple fact of the freeway that lies between my house and where I work.  There is an overpass to the freeway that I would have to cross, and the problem was that there was no bike lane or barrier from the road.  While many brave people on bikes did go over the road, I had no such will to ever do such a thing.

Last year, though, they completely re-built the overpass as part of a road widening project.  In doing so, they added a dedicated bike lane that’s separated by a fence and concrete barrier from the traffic lanes.

This means that I could now potentially ride my bike to work.

I would definitely consider it, but I’m curious if anybody else out there has ever undertaken a bike ride to work.

I would probably only do so on days when there was a 0% chance of rain and also when it wouldn’t be overly hot or cold.  Any days where we had something to do would be out of the question.  Still, this could further reduce my costs of gas and wear and tear on the car, as well as give me some needed exercise.  Since there are bike paths and sidewalks the entire path to and from work, there would be a safe path the entire way.

Would it be best to wear appropriate riding clothes to and from work, changing into my dress pants and polo or button-down shirt when I get there?  In that case, what’s the best way to transport those items without having them wrinkled and such?  I already have a backpack type carrying case for my laptop, so that would be pretty easy to manage.

What other things would I have to think of before considering this idea?

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