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Cheap Gym Membership Free gym passes & memberships from £10/mth

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Far too many people lock into costly unbreakable contracts and then end up never using the gym. This guide will take you through whether you need to pay at all, and if you do, how to shed the pounds while saving £££s at the same time.

This is a full list of the latest free trials, pay-as-you-go deals and no-frills gyms from £10-ish/month. Plus see what to watch out for with contracts, and what to do when membership goes wrong.

Don't commit unless you'll use it

Come January, many of you pledge to get fit and join a gym. But a few months later, as resolutions fade, half of you disappear from the treadmills. Enthusiasm for the gym wanes like the novelty of a turkey Christmas dinner which is why the pros have coined the phrase 'gym turkey'. They see you down the gym a few times, then you're gone the rest of the year.

Don't be a 'gym turkey'

Gyms aren't cheap. Those surging with good first-time fitness intentions should remember there's a decent chance motivation may dwindle.

If you're locked into a contract, you could be paying £100s a year for nowt.

Never think a gym costs £50/month. If you're considering a year's contract, always multiply it by 12 and think of it as a yearly cost.

Remember, £50/month over 12 months is £600. And don't forget to factor in any administration or joining fees to the monthly charge.

If you're throwing away cash on unused membership each month and are out of contract, cancel, otherwise you're only keeping your wallet trim as these #gym fail tweets show:

"Paid for the gym for 3 years at £69/month - nearly £2,500. Think I went twice for the odd swim in the 3 years." That's £1,250 a workout!

"Paid £270 for a year's membership, went for one swim. Most expensive swim ever."

"I used to pay £102/month for a family gym membership for 1 year, and I only went about five times."

"I bought a year's membership at LA Fitness and NEVER attended. What a waste!"

Top ways to lose pounds, not £££S

Don't get weighed down by the cost of gym membership.
Gym sale staff are pros at getting you to sign on the dotted line but you can get the gym to work hard for you instead.

We've a range of ways to get you on the right track for less such as free passes, short term posh membership and cheap as chips no frills memberships:

You can grab completely free gym passes

Before you join the gym, grab a free trial to test whether the new fitness regime's for you. Here's a quick warm-up with:

Quick question

Can I use a mate's guest pass?

Pay-as-you-go gym passes from £5

Paying as you go can work out more expensive. Yet if you've used up free passes or you're new to gyms, it can be worth paying a little more for a few months until you're sure you'll continue.

Here's our pick of top deals.

Other options

How to slash the cost of gym membership

So, you've decided a gym membership is for you. Here's a comprehensive set of tips to ensure you pay as little as possible.

Consider special short-term memberships

Longer trials are a good halfway house between paying as you go and signing up for a year's contract. They're usually more expensive than annual memberships, but you're free to go elsewhere once the trial's up, or to stop paying if you no longer go.

Most major gyms include shorter or even no-contract options. Here are some of the best special short-term memberships:

No frills gyms from £10/month

If you can do without saunas, jacuzzis and fit gym instructors, there's been an explosion in no-frills gyms, with prices from £10-£20/month. You can usually cancel any time and MoneySavers' feedback is hugely positive.

More are opening every month, so if you can't find one near you, check again later. The other boon is that there's often no minimum contract length, though you may need to bring your own towel, shower gel and padlock for the locker! cheap-as-chips chains:

Cut the cost of year-long contracts

Swanky gyms want you to think contract prices are fixed. They're not. The gym sector is fiercely competitive, so there are tons of ways to slim down the price such as:

Haggle, haggle, haggle

Cut the cost of membership with Tesco Boost

Check if your employer offers cheap corporate membership

Get a mate to refer you

Find special new gym rates

Go off-peak

What to watch out for in contracts

Gym contract fine printIf you're signing up for a year, remember sales staff often work on commission. So if their slick patter says "if you're ill you can freeze membership, or take a holiday", ask to see it in the contract.

If they say, "It's not there, but it's fine", make notes there which have legal weight and, if possible, get them to sign to show the promise.

Here's a list of what to check. For further examples, read this useful publication by the Office of Fair Trading.

  • Be wary of 1yr+ contracts. This is the biggie. Be wary of contracts longer than 12 months. Also check that they don't renew it automatically.
  • Check what notice you need to give. Even when you're out of contract, gyms often require 30 days' notice to cancel. Make sure you understand these conditions.
  • Ask what happens if your circumstances change. Check the policy if you are ill or injured, move house, get pregnant or change jobs. Think about the proof you'll need, such as a doctor's letter. Can you freeze your membership or transfer it to someone else?
  • Ask what happens if your favourite service stops. If you're only joining because the gym offers a creche, Zumba dance classes or certain equipment, check if you're allowed to cancel if this is withdrawn.
  • Note whether the contract automatically renews. Most contracts for gym membership automatically continue once the initial membership period expires. Make a note of the date by which you should inform them if you don't want this to happen.
  • Check others' feedback. If you're taking a free trial, ask folk in the changing room if they're happy with the gym's contract or service (wait till they're decent first!)

Work out without a gym

You don't need to join a gym to get buff. If you're on a budget, read these quick tips on working out without a gym:

Free Sweaty Betty classes

Women's fitness shop Sweaty Betty offers free pilates, ballet and other fitness classes (for men and women) at over 30 branches across the country. You need to sign up for its free membership card, then call or pop into your nearest store to book a session.

Buy some runnning shoes and run yourself

Rather than paying for the privilege of being sandwiched between two sweaty blokes while listening to dodgy house music, run in the park for free. You could join Martin's new Run Challenge: How far can you go in 2014? All you need is a pair of trainers. Or, for free weekly 5k timed runs, check out Parkrun.

Do a work-out outside the gym

Examine your fitness requirements. You can run, cycle, do light weights (with those bottles of pop), yoga and a lot more without gym membership. Why not do workout DVDs with friends or see if there is an Outdoor Gym near you?

Buy your own weights or equipment using special discounts

Amazon often offers 75%+ reductions, yet it directs people to other areas, sending them to products with higher profit margins instead.

There's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's web links to display all heavily-reduced bargains. All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses (URLs) to bring up lists of knockdown prices, eg, running gear 75%+ off*, fitness equipment 55%+ off* & Sportswear 75%+ off*. See the Amazon Discount Finder guide for full details.

Though if you're looking to start free weight lifting, it's probably not for amateurs, so seek medical/professional help before you do yourself any injury!

Join the Debt-Free Wannabe Running Club

Join the Debt-Free Wannabe Running Club, where MoneySavers support and help each other reach their goals.

Tennis for free

Children, young people and families can get free tennis coaching sessions and free use of thousands of tennis courts across the UK with Tennis For Free. Free coaching sessions run at weekends and are suitable for all ages, with equipment also provided for free.

Your gym cancellation rights

Your right to cancel gym membership was a hot issue with the regulator - the Office of Fair Trading - during 2013. It's moved along at a fair pace and a major shake-up of gym contracts means you may be able to freeze or cancel membership if you experience a major change in your personal circumstances. If you're a member of these gyms, read on.

  • fitness-first-logo

In March 2013, the OFT forcefully persuaded Fitness First, David Lloyds and Bannatynes to clean up their act, by allowing some members to cancel early, or in some cases freeze their contracts.

Under the new rights, if there's a change in your circumstances (eg, a serious injury or job loss) which makes gym attendance difficult or unaffordable, you may be able to cancel mid-contract, with more flexibility than before.

As well as this, the three clubs, with almost a million members between them, have agreed to:

  • Not say it's a fixed contract length if it isn't. If membership automatically continues on a rolling basis after the initial period expires, the gym should be clear about this.
  • Be more transparent about key membership features - such as cancellation rights, and for these to be provided upfront as part of the sales process.

Later in Sep 2013 following another OFT investigation into gym memberships, LA Fitness, Dave Whelan Sports Ltd and Harlands Group Ltd agreed to undertake similar changes to their contracts.

LA Fitness and Dave Whelan, which have nearly half a million members, agreed to cancellation rights for gym goers who moved house or re-located from their place of work by more than 10 miles (15 miles for Harlands Group members). What's more, LA Fitness also pledged to stop offering 24-month contracts.

We asked you to let us know if you managed to cancel your gym membership and these are some of the success stories:

"My gym cancelled my membership during the 12 month contract period. I just went in and asked if they could because I was having to move away, and they did it straight away no problem.

"I've been a member at Virgin Active for years and now I've a new job, it's difficult to get out during the day, the classes I love have changed time so I'm hardly going these days. I decided to cancel and I was ready to argue. But I got an email to say all sorted and my membership will cease. Easy peasy!

"A friend was four months into a twelve month contract & wasn't using it much. I advised him to write a letter asking if they would allow him out of the contract as he wasn't getting full use of his membership. A week later, he thanked me & said the gym had been brilliant & allowed him to terminate with no penalties.

If your gym ISN'T one of the those above, and your circumstances change, try challenging your gym to see if you can cancel. Mention that you're aware other gyms are now allowing some members to cancel early, and see what it can do.

These changes are aimed at people who genuinely can't go to the gym any more, not just if you get bored with it, so still be careful before signing a contract.

Member of ANY other gyms - they still must act fairly

If the above doesn't apply to you, one of the OFTs guidelines on unfair terms may. Check through the list below to see if you have grounds to get your contract cancelled:

You're on a contract that's OVER 12 months

The club makes big changes to services

The gym hikes prices

The gym automatically renews your membership

Unclear wording on membership terms

Been unfairly treated? How to complain

If your gym's breaching the contract or it contains unfair terms, you've every right to fight back. If you manage to cancel by following the steps below, please tell us what happened.

Step 1: Complain in person

Step 2: Complain in writing

Step 3: Complain to UKactive

Step 4: If all else fails: take 'em to court

Did this system work for you? If you managed to cancel your contract, please tell us about it in the Gym Cancelling discussion.

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