Now that my gym membership is no longer subsidized through work, I recently changed from Equinox to New York Health and Racket Club (NYHRC).
The Equinox rate for hoi polloi is $145 per month for an individual location or $175 per month for “all access”. Both Simpson Thacher and Davis Polk offer a generous gym membership benefit like most Biglaw firms. While at Davis Polk in 2007, I had $65.67 deducted from my paycheck each month for Equinox club access (which allows access to all locations other than the flagship locations that have pools). I don’t know if rates have increased since then.
Simpson’s mechanism was different. The firm would pay a lump sum of $1,530 each year to Equinox for the same club access on my behalf, and then deduct $530 from my paycheck. I’d then have to pay income tax on $1,000 benefit I was effectively receiving. Assuming a 45% income tax rate, I was out of pocket $980 per year, or $81.67 per month.
What I liked about working out at gyms are the classes: spinning, yoga, interval training, and my favorite, Corey Hill’s CORE classes. But I often could not make it to classes due to conference calls or looming work deadlines, even though there’s an Equinox right across the street from Simpson. When I did make to a class, I was distracted by the red blinking light of the Blackberry. I tried to turn my Blackberry off during yoga classes to avoid upsetting others, but I would end up getting more stressed.
I must confess that I was not blameless for my lack of attendance. I would sometimes make last-minute excuses, such as “I am too tired since I didn’t get enough sleep” or “It is going to take too long with shower and hair drying” or (even though I was planning to return to work afterwards) “what if someone sees me leaving the office, argh, it is just too much trouble”.
I can count on my hands the times I went to the gym during the year I worked at Davis Polk’s New York office. The carrot was not working and I needed a stick. I felt that the only way to workout regularly while working is to have a personal trainer. With a 24-hour cancellation policy, having a trainer at least prevented me from succumbing to one of those excuses. So, when I returned to New York with Simpson, I made a point of hiring a personal trainer at close to $4,000 per year.
My trainer, Daryl, and I worked out a system so that if I got a last minute conference call or work assignment, he would accommodate me for another slot for the same day or the next day. Daryl also didn’t mind me checking the Blackberry.
So, now, out of work, I can’t justify having a personal trainer. I was going to stay with Equinox to get the all access membership, but then I noticed that NYHRC, which recently opened a location that is right next to our apartment, was running a special: $1,059 for 15 months, or $70.60 per month.
Although NYHRC is less stylish and has fewer amenities than Equinox, it is significantly cheaper and much more convenient! Now, I no longer have any excuses for not working out on a regular basis. I have gone to 3 classes in one week already, each time without my Blackberry, and I sweated and felt the burn in my muscles. I felt great.
Law firms are generous with their gym subsidies, but the bargain has its price. As a Biglaw lawyer, it is hard to find time to go to the gym and even when you do it’s hard to get a great workout when you are so distracted. If you examine the numbers, the bargain is not a great one after all. I worked out at Equinox approximately 70 times during the past year. That made the per visit cost $71 — the same amount as what I now pay per month.