Monday, November 02, 2009

Fitness clubs as a status symbol

Everyone has some awareness about status symbols. We see the douchebag sporting personalized license plates driving a Mercedes Benz fast enough to both get noticed and pulled over. We see someone wearing a $300 t-shirt but only because they casually mention its cost in conversation at a louder-than-normal volume. Then there are less obvious status symbols. Take gyms and fitness centers for example.

In the past five years the Twin Cities area has experienced a huge boom in fitness clubs. The original full-service gym - Northwest Athletic Club - is a piece of history. It's been replaced by the far more prestigious Lifetime Fitness Club. Around these parts Lifetime is sort of the gold standard for full-service gyms. Older stalwarts such as Gold's Gym are trying to make inroads but they are facing the Rainbow Foods situation - it's difficult to change habits of Minnesotans and Gold's Gym has that image of roided up weightlifters thanks to t-shirts from the 1980s - Lifetime Fitness is the status symbol (to me). Any place with monthly dues over $100 for one person is considered as a luxury and a status symbol by your's truly.

Of course there are a ton of other options like Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness. A membership there is $30-$40/mo. It's not lofty but it's still not the cheapest. However, I'm willing to bet that the equipment at these strip mall fitness clubs is at least similar to the equipment found by the status symbol seekers who populate Lifetime Fitness. The cheapest that I've seen in the fitness club game is a strip mall outlet in Excelsior or Shorewood - somewhere along Highway 7 on the south shore - advertising $9/month memberships. That, for me, is the price where it negates having your own elliptical trainer taking up precious space in your basement or home office.

The final piece of the fitness game puzzle is the community aspect. Most cities have a community center or YMCA. The community centers are generally rather cheap for monthly memberships. The thing they lack is exclusivity. The memberships are affordable enough that Joe and Jane Average can afford a family membership. Their 2.5 kids are busy with swimming lessons and they are going to ride home together in their 2002 Dodge Caravan minivan. The only difference is that they live just a block away from Doug Douchebag and his 2009 Mercedes Benz. So who's the one living life with a bunch of status symbols?

I, for one, am happy with the occasional run through town and time training on my Wii Fit and driving one of our two Toyotas.

I'm also happy curating MinnPics. The amount of amazing photography from Minnesotans is shocking and deserving of your attention. Check it out today.


Reuben said...

I think my wife pays $60/month at the Midtown YWCA. Luckily, her insurance & employer pick up $40/month of that... So $20/month is pretty cheap. If we had to pay the full $60 each month, she probably wouldn't have a membership..

Pesky said...

That's interesting, my Wife and I were paying $60/Mo. each at Lifetime in Maple Grove, the same as Reuben's wife at the Midtown YMCA. Blue Cross picked up $20/month for each of us, making the net price $40/month. Apparently Lifetime's cost is not much different from the YMCA.

Emily said...

The "community center" gyms really aren't less expensive. I used to pay $60/mo to go to the Blaisdell YMCA. Snap Fitness is a little over $50 for a joint membership with my boyfriend. After my insurance discount, I pay a little over $5/mo.

Erin said...

Gack. I hate the gym. It smells like rubber and there is no scenery.

My gym is the mountains. My upper body strength is proof. *Straining to hold a dictionary longer than 2 minutes*