Health & Fitness/Work/Life Balance

How I Used My Professional Skills To Get My Pricey Gym Membership For Free

By | Tuesday, April 30, 2019


I go to the most expensive functional fitness gym in my city. The cost for one month of unlimited classes is currently $121.

Can my combined teaching income, tutoring income, and freelance income allow me the monetary space to take care of this expense each month? Certainly. Over the last two years, CrossFit has become an absolute priority in both my money and time expenditure. I put it as a “need” in my budget, right after rent, utilities, and groceries. I’m willing to spend the money I earn on the cost of this gym.

For some people I know, that would be the stopping point. “This is something they need, and its price is at enough of an acceptable level where they’ll simply take that number and pay it.” But with my mother’s voice in the back of my head — where it is always, really, but especially when it comes to money — I know it’s a waste not to at least try to reduce that number as much as possible.

First of all, it’s a little-advertised fact that my gym applies a discount if you pay for multiple months of membership up front. If you pay for six months up front, you receive an automatic 25% off of the monthly cost, bumping it down to $91 per month. Boom. That’s saving me thirty bucks each month, just by spending money up front that I know I’m already committed to spending for that length of time. Does this require more commitment than I currently am willing to apply in my dating life? Yes. Does it require an initial investment in order to take advantage of the savings? Yes. But for me, both of these are possible and worth it.

Next, our kids’ fitness coach began needing to reduce the times per month that she coached the weekly class. Leadership reached out to me, knowing I’m in my fourth year of teaching, and asked if I’d be interested in taking over some of her classes. With extensive experience coaching kids in team sports, multiple summers as a summer camp sports coach, and endless hours spent tutoring young folks over the years, I knew this would be a great fit for me. I am working to earn my certifications to teach CrossFit Kids full time, so taking advantage of this opportunity gives me additional experience in the meantime, which can only better equip me to work with kids in the functional fitness space in the future, no matter what country I’m in. I gladly began to take on classes, which ultimately ended up with me taking over the kids’ class full time. Rather than asking to receive a paycheck for this work, I asked that the income be applied to my membership costs. My request was granted.

Finally, I noticed a seemingly small feature that was missing from our gym, but could easily be remedied: a newsletter. After a few conversations with leadership, I began interviewing for, writing, designing, and producing a monthly newsletter for the gym. Our members have incredible stories — both inside and outside of the gym — and just needed the chance to share them. I make a point to conduct all aspects of the newsletter using technology. If I can maintain a location-independent setup, then I can continue with this work after I leave Jakarta.

One more conversation with leadership led to a solid deal: combining my coaching income with my monthly newsletter efforts led to my final six months of membership in this city being completely free of charge. A free membership to a gym I’m already in love with, in exchange for about eight hours of work each month? I’ll certainly take that deal.

Now, I’m sure some people will read this and say: You know, you could save a lot more money, effort, and time if you didn’t do CrossFit in the first place. Sure, that’s true. There is a $10 gym option here, with a bit of a community and a bit better equipped than most Planet Fitness gyms stateside. It’s more Strongman focused and more than a bit rough around the edges, but could certainly get the job done. But it’s also further away from my work and from my home. It doesn’t offer the high quality of coaching, equipment, programming, class variety, and endless open gym time. Quite simply, I’m also in love with my gym and the people in it, so I made a point of finding the most cost-effective way to keep myself in that place and with those people.

I’m happy to offset the cost of this necessary expense by doing work that I genuinely enjoy, that benefits my gym community at large, and that bolsters my own CV with work that I hope to do more of in the future. To me, that’s more than worth it.

Madison is an educator, writer, athlete, and Slytherin. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, she currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she works as a teacher, tutor, freelancer, and kids fitness coach. She can be found on Instagram @madisontclark or at

Image via Unsplash

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