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How to Break Up with Your Gym


Switching up your fitness routine? Here’s what to do.

woman exercising with the TV

Even when you’re committed to regular exercise, there are many reasons you may want to leave your current gym: You’ve moved and it’s too far from home or the office, the classes no longer work with your schedule, or you’re training for a 10K and prefer to do so outside. But quitting can be tricky. (See: the episode of Friends where Chandler just can’t quit the gym.) Here, experts share when it’s time to part ways—and how to do it right. 

1. Know when to toss in the (gym) towel. Can’t remember the last time you swiped in? That’s a sign you should end your membership, says exercise physiologist Tom Holland, a former gym owner and founder of TeamHolland in Darien, Connecticut. If you’re just too busy to go right now (say, because of a work project or race) but see yourself going back in a month or two, ask to pause your membership. Some fitness centers allow freezes for up to a year, Holland says. 

2. Read the fine print. Once you’ve decided to leave, dig up that contract or ask your gym to send you a copy. It details what you need to do to quit, says Steven M. Katz, a contract attorney in Columbus, Ohio. Many gyms require a notice of 30 days or more, he says. For example, if you want to quit at the end of February but wait until February 2nd to give notice, you may be charged through March or April if the gym doesn’t apply the notice until the next calendar month. The exceptions: Your gym may let you out of the contract if you move away, become injured, or lose your job, Katz says. Holland warns that you’ll likely have to show proof, such as a doctor’s note. 

3. Try negotiating. Spell out your case to a membership manager or the gym owner. They may offer perks, such as a free month or personal training sessions, if you decide to stay, Holland says. Smaller gyms may have some more wiggle room than a big chain, Katz adds. 

4. Don’t give up. What happened to Chandler isn’t so far from reality; you may find it difficult to actually sit down with a manager if your gym requires you to quit in person (funny how they all seem to be out to lunch or out sick all at once). But you can’t just stop paying or cancel your automatic payments, as that would be breaching your contract. A gym can sell your debt to a collection agency, which may affect your credit score, Katz says. If you’re having trouble getting an available manager when you arrive, call ahead before you show up and ask if one is available without saying why you want to speak with one.  

5. Put it in writing. Some gyms require that you send a written notice. But even if yours doesn’t, you should still send a formal email or letter after you’ve spoken in person, Katz recommends. Include your name, membership number, and the date you’re quitting.  

6. Have your new workout plan ready. Cue up your new gym membership or sketch out your race training plan. If you’re not sure what your new fitness routine will look like, try out a few things and see what you like: do a trial weekend at some other gyms, visit local boutique fitness studios, or download some apps or videos and work out at home. Before long, you’ll have a new routine you’ll love.