The Cost of Fitness: When to Splurge and Save on Your Fitness Routine
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The Cost of Fitness: When to Splurge and Save on Your Fitness Routine

Some women spend big bucks for a hot bod or a cool workout. Others swing it on the cheap. FITNESS investigates who's splurging, who's scrimping, and how you can trim the price of keeping trim.

The Class Act

Meghan Springmeyer, 28
Advertising sales executive
New York City

Monthly Fitness Bill
CrossFit membership: $220
Classes: $500–$600
Race fees: $50–$100
Apparel/gear: $200
TOTAL: $970–$1,120

Go-to routine: Group classes Springmeyer pays up to $40 a pop at fitness boutiques such as SoulCycle (indoor cycling), SLT (a Pilates-and-cardio hybrid), Physique 57 (barre), and Exhale Mind Body Spa (Core Fusion sculpting). "It's expensive, but because the studios are intimate, it's almost as if you're getting a personal-training session," she says.

Money-saving move: Sweat working Instead of taking clients out to eat, Springmeyer often brings them to her favorite exercise classes. "It has helped me create some great professional relationships," she says, "without the guilt of big dinners and drinking."

The real payoff: Stress relief Springmeyer says treating herself to new workout clothes and shelling out another $200 or so a month on juice cleanses, energy bars, and the like is money well spent. "When you work in a fast-paced city like New York, having that healthy outlet is priceless."

The Trainee

Melissa Rabinowitz, 37
Television coexecutive producer
Los Angeles

Monthly Fitness Bill
Pilates classes: $40–$60
Personal trainer: $500–$600
Apparel/gear: $60
TOTAL: $600–$720

Go-to routine: Pilates "I take a class called SPX, which is like Pilates on steroids," Rabinowitz says. "It mixes traditional Pilates exercises with calisthenics on tricked-out reformers, made with extra springs, handles, and straps. The pace is quick, so you get some cardio in at the same time."

Money-saving move: Selective splurging "I will work two jobs so I can still exercise with the top people and at places that have fun, challenging classes," says Rabinowitz, who hits gyms all over town and works out with different trainers.

The real payoff: Major shape-up motivation "I'm fortunate enough to live in a city where there are so many amazing places to work out," Rabinowitz says. "It can get a little expensive, but at the end of the day, it's well worth it."

The Cyclist

Karen Dolphin Harman, 47
Software engineer
Portland, Oregon

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $88
Bike maintenance: $20–$30
Apparel/gear: $70
TOTAL: $178–$188

Go-to routine: Cycling "I bike to work and feel so much more alert and ready to start the day afterward," Harman says. She also hits the gym or runs on nearby trails.

Money-saving move: Investing in excuse-proofing gear "The weather in Portland can be discouraging, but instead of letting it stop me from riding to work, I spent $250 on a cycling rain jacket," Harman says. "Years later I still use it and meanwhile save on gas and maintenance by not driving my car."

The real payoff: Keeping the doctor away "We're a family of three, so our fitness costs rank very high. I can easily justify them though, because I see them as part of staying fit and healthy," Harman says.

The Team Player

Jessica Milcetich, 27
Social media strategist
Washington, D.C.

Monthly Fitness Bill
CrossFit membership: $100
Cycling class: $20
Recreational sports dues: $15–$25
Race fees: $25–$100
Swimming: $50
Apparel/gear: $50
TOTAL: $260–$345

Go-to routine: Running "It's so simple -- you just throw on shoes and go. Plus it's the best way to start your day or to clear your head after work," says Milcetich, who also plays softball, flag football, and volleyball on local teams.

Money-saving move: Joining rec leagues "It's a supercheap way to be social and active at the same time," Milcetich says. The bargain allows her to afford cute gear, like a $70 running jacket.

The real payoff: Beating the clock "Being active is a huge part of my life, and I'd rather pay money now to do the things I love that also keep me fit than worry about high health care bills later," Milcetich says.

The DVD-iva

Holly Hengstebeck, 38
Senior financial analyst
Northville, Michigan

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $0
Classes: $20
TOTAL: $20

Go-to routine: Elliptical machine "I use it at the gym at work," says Hengstebeck, who has a free employee membership there. "There are so many challenging programming options on it that I never feel as if I'm just phoning in my workout."

Money-saving move: Freebie home workouts "I sneak in exercise when I can," says Hengstebeck, a mother of two. "Some mornings before my kids get up, I'll do videos, like Jillian Michaels's 30 Day Shred, or even use my kids' Hula-Hoop or jump rope."

The real payoff: Staying fit for pennies "I'm lucky that I have a free gym I can use at work, but I don't believe in spending a lot on memberships anyway, because you can get a great workout anywhere."

The a la Carte Exerciser

Kim Turner, 45
Stylist and fashion blogger

Monthly Fitness Bill Gym membership: $13 Cycling classes: $50 Personal trainer: $180 TOTAL: $243

Go-to routine: Mix and match classes "I don't really have one favorite workout," Turner says. "I'll travel 20 miles just to take a cardio kickboxing class with this one instructor; it helps me work out frustration when someone has pissed me off. And I love indoor-cycling classes, especially at my Flywheel studio."

Money-saving move: Group personal training "I split the cost of a training session with four or five people once a week at the gym, which slashed my costs by about 75 percent," Turner says.

The real payoff: Skinny jeans, big recharge "I have only one body, and staying fit is critical for me. Not only does working out help me look great in my clothes, but it also gives me the energy to really enjoy my life."

The Outdoor Lover

Cara Mia Familet, 46
Client relations
Aspen, Colorado

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $140
Barre classes: $100
Tennis: $12
Apparel/gear: $75
TOTAL: $327

Go-to routine: Hiking and skiing "I learned how to ski just last season, so I plan to focus on it in the winter, especially because I get a free ski pass through my job," Familet says. "But when the weather is nice, I love kayaking or to go hiking on one of the many gorgeous trails around here."

Money-saving move: Secondhand gear "At the end of the season, lots of people dump their barely used equipment at the Aspen Ski Swap," Familet says. "I got awesome skis and boots there for $215. I also picked up a great bike at an auction for $65."

The real payoff: A new definition of healthy "My whole attitude about fitness has changed since going from only doing gym classes to doing outdoor sports," Familet says. "I have a greater appreciation of what my body can do and the incredible physical and mental benefits that come with being active."

The G.I. Jane

Barbara Rappaport, 38
Music booking agent and producer
Austin, Texas

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $35
Personal trainer and nutritionist: $200
Apparel/gear: $50
TOTAL: $285

Go-to routine: CrossFit "After doing CrossFit classes for a couple of years, I've got the basics down so that I now create my own Workout of the Day at the gym," says Rappaport, who also sees a trainer two times a week. "I also go to to get the WOD. I love it because the routines are never the same; they constantly challenge me."

Money-saving move: Freebie fitness offers "Practically every weekend you can find some facility around here offering a free intro or community class," Rappaport says.

The real payoff: Mental perks "Fitness is therapy for me. It boosts me when I'm down and calms my soul. I feel I'm worth the investment."

The Endurance Athlete

Kate Coward, 33
Business finance manager

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $90
CrossFit membership: $140
Bikram yoga classes: $60
Masters swim classes: $35
Apparel/gear: $105
TOTAL: $430

Go-to routine: Group runs "My running group is a mix of ages, genders, and situations, but we are a tight family," says Coward, who has completed 20 marathons in 11 states and on every continent (she even placed second in the Antarctica Marathon).

Money-saving move: Buying in bulk "I'm training for an Ironman triathlon right now, so I'm spending more than I'm used to on things like energy bars and supplements," Coward says. As a result, she makes bulk purchases to keep the cost of her coconut water, electrolyte-replacement drinks, energy gels, and similar products to $85 a month.

The real payoff: Endorphins "Working out helps me feel good about the way I look," she says. "And then, of course, there's the pure exercise high I get."

The Racer

Aimee Shuey, 42
Office manager
New Orleans

Monthly Fitness Bill
Gym membership: $75
Swim coach: $50
Race fees: $75–$400
Apparel/gear: $50–$100
TOTAL: $250–$625

Go-to routine: Swimming "I didn't learn to swim until I was 28," says Shuey, who now regularly tackles long-distance open-water swims, like a 5K in Florida's Pensacola Bay. "The pool is where I go to clear my head, and I have an amazing swim coach who pushes me." She also runs in road races, often in costume "or at least in a tutu," she says.

Money-saving move: Biking to work "I bike everywhere, including the nine miles to my office each morning, so I save money on gas while getting in a workout."

The real payoff: Fit body, fat wallet "Instead of eating out at night, I'm usually in bed resting for my early-morning workout," Shuey says. "Plus I don't have to spend money buying bigger clothes!"

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2013.