Dear PoPville – Affordable Gyms?

Photo by PoPville flickr user number7cloud

“Dear PoPville,

I’m writing in hopes of starting a conversation about gyms and workout spaces in the District. Class-oriented studios, such as Elevate, or CrossFit locations, are cropping up everywhere! And they’re very, very expensive. I’m wondering if there are others like me out there who are hoping to locate a no-frills, *relatively* low-cost gym. (Dream on?)

The shady practices of Washington Sports Clubs/WSC are also worth mentioning. I once held a membership there, and it was an enormous hassle to cancel. They charged my credit card later on for “6 months of back dues” – and it took a great deal of time attempting to prove I had cancelled and didn’t owe them this money. They never ended up refunding the money they debited my account, and I had to file a claim through Bank of America to get it settled. So, WSC is pretty much off the table. Also, because of those cheesy One-Day-Sales, every day…

The only other options I can think of are the Anthony Bowen YMCA (which starts at $80/month!), or some of the Results/Gold’s Gyms downtown. I’m wondering if anyone is aware of any neighborhood secrets, or low-cost, limited amenities-type of gyms around DC? Particularly in the U St/Shaw/CoHi/Petworth area?”

75 Comment

  • Many of the local neighborhood community rec centers have modest gyms available for DC residents to use for low fees. If you are a DC resident, you might want to check into whether there’s a neighborhood rec center in your area that has exercise facilities that would meet your needs.

    • You need to scope out the Rec Centers, cause most of them have old or broken equipment. If there’s a good one in your area, you’ll be lucky. However, for the money, it’s probably the best option out there. Don’t be afraid to haggle prices at any gym, especially if you think it’s unaffordable. Gold’s probably has the best up front rate for a full on gym in DC.

    • Thanks! I never thought to look into that. It looks like Raymond might be a good option for Petworth folks.

      • The one at Raymond has the right kind of equipment, but is sized almost the same as a nice in-home gym. It’s pretty tiny. Turkey Thicket has a pretty decent one.

  • p.s. I’d sure love to have Planet Fitness open a location or two in DC.

    • +1 I live in DC, but work in Alexandria sometimes. I go to the Planet Fitness out there. It’s perfect. All I need is the equipment and I don’t want classes, and it is so cheap (I pay $10 a month). It would be great to have a location close to my house in Petworth. Really, Petworth needs some sort of gym.

      • Not true that the rec centers are all old or have broken equipment.

        The Raymond Rec center right off the Petworth metro is basically brand new and they are still finishing up parts of it. It’s a great spot and it’s really inexpensive. Folks are super friendly, and there are showers and lockers.

    • I think I saw signage for a PF opening in NE off of NY Ave close to “LOVE”

    • +1. I’d sign up for Planet Fitness immediately. Esp if it opened in my neighborhood. Downtown doesn’t have enough space/is already saturated with options. Hoping to see a Petworth option soon..

    • I believe they are opening a Planet Fitness in the old Hecht’s building on New York Ave at some point this year!!

  • Only the upper-middle class get elliptical machines in Boom Town!

  • I’ve got nothing to add but another bad experience with WSC, so looking forward to seeing what comes up here. Thanks for starting the conversation!

  • I had similar experiences with WSC – who knew you could negotiate membership rates?!?

    If you work at a large organization you should check with HR for discounts; I’ve heard of employers discounting gym memberships up to 75% and a lot of gyms offer federal employee or student discounts.

    • In addition to HR/corportate/employee discounts, some health insurance carriers offer health club discounts. I’m on Aetna and they offer a discount program usable at the major gyms around town.

  • I believe BodySmith is reasonably priced ( and have heard good things about Balance Gym on Thomas Circle.

    I was a member of Bally’s a few years ago, but the downtown location is pretty depressing (in a basement with no windows and low ceilings), but you can’t beat the price. It was also really easy to cancel when I stopped going.

    I’m a member of Anthony Bowen YMCA now and am really happy with it (except for the weight room situation, but that’s another story). And, there aren’t any contracts at the Y so you can cancel anytime.

    • Good to know the Y doesn’t require a contract. Also, my impression of BodySmith is swanky, 14th St new/urban, so I hadn’t considered it yet. I’ll look into it.

    • I’m just getting back into weight training and agree with you on the tiny weight room at the AB Y. Also the concept of “working” seems to be an alien concept there.

  • what is ‘affordable’ in your opinion? and what specifics are you looking for in a gym?

    • TBH I’m not looking for much. I want free weights, bench machines, squat machines, and mat space. Simple things that unfortunately just won’t fit into my apartment. I don’t need classes – can’t commit to the schedule anyways. So, ideally, something under $50/no feels reasonable. But of course, my expectations need to be adjusted..

      • Fitness Factory on Georgia Ave. Like $40 a month across from Walmart. Just what you described you wanted.

  • the LA fitness downtown that used to be a results is only 45 a month if you put 100 up front. It’s ok but nothing special. The locker room and shower areas are clean. I was a member of the WSC up the street and, again, the gym part was ok but the locker rooms / showers were disgusting and the towels they provide for showering are the size of dish towels.

  • I live around the corner from Hard, a tiny gym that popped up on Kalorama Rd. NW between 17th and Ontario about 5-6 years ago. It’s VERY no-frills, but if you are looking for the basics, it just may suit you. I’ve noticed they also offer boot camps and other classes via trainers who use the gym as their “home base”. I believe their standard fees are as follows:

    Standard Memberships
    Yearly- $49(monthly) no initiation fee
    Month to Month- $60(monthly) with a $60 initiation fee

    Hard Training Club
    1726 Kalorama Road NW
    Washington, DC 20009

  • I like Golds, they have a bunch of locations and they are pretty cheap. I pay $35/mo, and they have all the weights and cardio equipment I need. It can get crowded at peak times, but it’s never been more than a few minutes wait for me. They do play the 60 day cancellation game if you want to quit, but as long as you know that going in I don’t think it’s a big deal when weighed against the low monthly price.

  • Crunch Fitness at Metro Center is on the cheaper side…and has great classes with decent hours

  • For the basics, I’ve been pretty happy with the DC rec centers. When I had to do rehab for an injury, I used Turkey Thicket and there was rarely anyone in there. Also check and see if your insurance does a deal with any fitness centers. Mine does and I pay $25 for a nice gym. Another option is the Trinity Center at Trinity University. The fees are on a quarter basis and vary depending on if you live in the neighborhood or not.

    • I’m jealous of anyone whose insurance gets them a good discount (or better yet has a fitness subsidy program). My crappy Aetna insurance has all kinds of deals, but they’re only for suburban gyms like Curves.

  • the balance gym at thomas circle is $69/month which isn’t cheap but at least below the YMCA you mentioned. you should see if any gyms around your home or workplace offer discounts for your buildings, i know that balance does for a few office buildings around thomas circle!

  • The Y offers discounts depending on where you work and what insurance you have. I think they also have a sliding scale based on income.

  • I made the mistake of reading a discussion thread on My Fitness Pal about how much people pay for their gym memberships. I had no idea the rest of the country was only paying $10 or $20 a month for sometihng that costs us more like $80 if we’re lucky.
    Does anyone have advice on negotiating a membership price with a gym? I’m thinking about joining the new Vida when it opens up, and I have an absolute maximum in my mind that I’m willing to spend, so I’m wondeirng if I can talk them down to it if I stand my ground.

    • Tell me about it – I am at Results Cap Hill and the regular monthly price is now $108

      • That’s insane, and they’re going to suffer when the Vida opens up. I’m pretty sure you can get a membership there for less, and it’s going to be much nicer. I’m holding out for that.

  • Fit 360 in Mount Pleasant is $60…..better than $80

  • Isn’t $80 pretty much the floor on gym pricing, or close to it?

    • well, seems like many pay far less. There are plenty of examples above of 35, 45, 60, etc.

      • I know someone that pays $39, but it’s the evil WSC.

      • The thing is, is a gym’s not convenient you’re not going to use it. A gym with an $80 membership is far more valuable than a gym with a $25 membership that requires a 20-minute metro ride to get to, or a rec ceneter where you have to share a single treadmill with other people.

        • Agreed on the convenience bit. But there’s an argument to be made that there’s a shortage of reasonably priced gyms in neighborhoods with rapid growth. Or the market isn’t keeping pace. A commenter noted the lack of a good gym in Petworth – which is 100% true. Balance should open a location up here!!

    • Depends on what they have. Places with pools seem more expensive than those that just have weights and machines.

      I paid ~$80 for an off-peak membership in Atlanta for one of the few gyms with a pool, so it’s not just DC where gyms are expensive.

  • I go to Balance Gym and love it. Relatively inexpensive compared to a lot of other DC gyms, locations in Foggy Bottom, Glover Park, and Thomas Circle/Metro Center area. I think it also won best DC gym 2014? Usually not very crowded, modern equipment, good classes and great instructors.

  • I think the Y on 17th and RI Ave is like $60 a month with insurance (has a pool and racquetball), but it is a little “dated” if you care about having new equipment. I think you can also get decent deals at the JCC if you are Jewish (and can still go if you are not, but I think it is like 80 or 90).

  • I know there’s plenty to pick at with WSC, but I like the multiple locations for the convenience. If you stick to free weights there’s not that much difference aside from capacity and hygeine. WSC is generally adequate on both for the ones I use near home and work. Most gym equipment is completely unnecessary and borderline useless (I mean, I could just run outside for free and get some fresh air). I also get it discounted which makes it slightly more appealing

  • I belong to LA Fitness/formerly Results at Farragut North – it is $44/month (plus first and last month), which is a pretty good deal. It is still working out some transitional kinks, but price can’t be beat. Other drawback is it is a year contract, but not an issue if you are stable.

  • I’m more of a class person– does anyone have recommendations for cheap classes? Currently I’m doing Jazzercise ($40 monthly membership for unlimited classes), plus the occasional $12 yoga class at Yoga District, plus the occasional Groupon-type deal somewhere else. And nowdays I’m taking advantage of all the free outdoor classes available around town. Any other suggestions?

    • This is why I joined the Y. Even at $80 a month, it was cheaper than the classes I taking at spin/yoga/barre studios.

    • The YWCA National Capital Area, 2303 14th Street NW Suite 100 , Washington, DC 20009. Great classes. You can pay per class, monthly or purchase several classes. (Boot Camp, Piloxing, Yoga and more) Good Instructors.

    • LA fitness offers classes. Others have detailed the dc pricing, my membership is actually at the rockville club because I work up there, but I can visit any LA fitness. They have zumba, yoga, water aerobics, kickboxing, spinning, etc. Lots of classes. My membership is 55/month, no fees, no contract.

  • I pay $39/month at Crunch. In my experience, you can go to a guy and say that you pay $X at WSC or whatever and you would like them to beat that, and $X could be anything. I got a $65/month to Results Cap Hill that way, and then when I no longer worked over there did the same thing at Crunch to get to $39. I remember paying maybe $50 or $60 in “initiation” fees or whatever… but spread that over 12 months and 2 or 3 years later I’m still paying less monthly. I’ve heard that going toward the end of the month helps, as the membership people have sales goals, but can’t say whether that is true.

    Bottom line– when I was willing to name my price and stick to it, we started negotiations at the low price instead of the gym price and I walked away with a price I liked.

    Classes are great at Crunch, though at Metro Center they are very 9-5 centered. There are more classes at Friendship Heights.

  • Not sure if you’re male or female but I’m a fan of the YWCA. They are extremely affordable and if you’re just looking for classes they have plenty of options for $10 drop-in or $50/month unlimited. They do not, however, have a traditional workout area with treadmills, weight machines etc. This works out great for me as I have a small gym with those items in my office building, but I like attending group classes without being tied down to a long-term gym membership.

    • Sadly, the YWCA is closing their fitness studios in late June. I was really enjoying the $10 classes too!

  • There are no non-specialty gyms in the residential areas east of 14th St. That’s a gigantic untapped market for a savvy entrepreneur. I’m sort of surprised that none of the new buildings will have gyms in them.

  • Bodysmith is $800 for the year if you pay upfront and located on 14th and R. Highly recommended and never gets too crowded.

  • I’ve tried WSC and Fitness First (now Gold’s) and various rec centers. I really like Balance Gym in Thomas Circle – it’s a little out of my way but totally worth it.

  • Look into the Jewish Community Center (JCC) near 16th and Q. Don’t need to be Jewish to join. They have squash, racquetball, basketball court, a pool, etc. It’s basically a smaller version of the YMCA on Rhode Island Ave. I think it’s an underrated facility.

  • There are free zumba classes at the Banneker rec center on Mondays and Wednesdays, I believe. Free bootcamp workouts on Tuesdays/Thursdays. All you have to do is get there on time so you can claim a space in these popular classes.
    There are workout programs all over the DC rec center system, but you have to get online to get a schedule, as it varies center to center. I know Raymond has exercise/workout classes.
    As a DC resident I swim for free several times a week at the Takoma Rec Center. There are pools all over town.
    If all else fails there is always the YWCA, which offers inexpensive classes, I think on 14th St. NW.

  • Gold’s Gym in SW DC near the Capitol is $40/month. Been going there for years. Good equipment

  • All of the local fitness apparel stores offer free classes throughout the week all year long. Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, Reebok, and Washington Sports Club. You could feasibly work out for free every day of the week. Suggest checking those out for a great place to start.

    There are free classes at Yards Park hosted by VIDA Fitness nearly every day of the week from now through the end of August:

    Free pilates and yogalates in Farragut Square Park Tuesdays & Thursdays through June 19:

    Also, I try to keep a running list of reoccurring free fitness classes in DC on my blog: If I hear of any one-time freebies, I’ll announce those on twitter.

    Hope this is helpful!

  • BodySmith Gym & Studios at 1630 14th st is a friendly, independent, neighborhood full-membership gym, with very reasonable rates, and the manager Shane is a great guy.

  • There is a free boot camp at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown (3100 South St) every Sunday at 10:30a. Check out the schedule here:

  • November Project!!! Free Fitness three times a week around the district. Not a running club, not cross fit, not boot camp. The workout is intense, the group is supportive. fit as hell and the F-bombs are well-aimed. Just show up, you’ll get it.

  • Check out Evolution Personal Training Studo on M Street b/w 12th and 13th —

    • Um, did you read the OP’s question? I can’t understand who in their right mind would pay $90 each time they work out. Obviously, plenty of people do, but the OP is explicitly NOT one of those people.

  • Gold’s gym. $35/month. $100 sign-up fee that included three personal training sessions. Cheapest you’ll find in the city.

    Don’t care that much about the training sessions, but it’s better than just paying $100 for nothing, I guess. I used one to have someone double-check my technique on “heavy” lifts (relative term because I’m a scrawny weakling), which was nice because I head learned by watching Youtube videos.

  • This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post.
    Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

Comments are closed.