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I’ve never been one to drop hard-earned money on expensive gym memberships. I prefer using that cash for an annual ski pass and dues for local volleyball leagues—or just going for a free run outside after work. (Worth noting: I’ve also been lucky enough to live in apartment buildings with in-house gyms.) But earlier this year I started feeling that working out solo wasn’t giving me quite the fitness push that I wanted. A friend in San Francisco with auspicious timing mentioned that she’d recently signed up for ClassPass—a gym membership pass that offers access to unlimited classes for just $79 to $99 per month. It launched in 2013 and is now in 34 cities, including Denver.
One of my chief reasons for not buying gym memberships is the high per-class cost. If I pay, say, $149 per month for a boot camp and attend just two times per week (a realistic goal with my hectic schedule), I’m paying almost $20 per class. No thanks. With Denver’s version of ClassPass, which launched in December for $79 per month, I’m paying just $10 per class (or less if I get my butt to the gym more often). Not only did that sound reasonable, it was totally within my budget.
I decided to give ClassPass a shot and signed up about a month ago. I now have access to a growing list of more than 50 fitness studios across the Denver metro area (including Boulder), which offer everything from barre to strength training to parkour to dance. Denver’s list of studios, perhaps unsurprisingly, does skew a little too heavily toward yoga, Pilates, and barre, but in four weeks, I’ve checked out three new-to-me venues (QiFlow Downtown, Fitness in the City, Pearl Street Fitness), as well as spots I’ve tested out in the past (Bonza Bodies Fitness, The Dailey Method Denver-Highlands). Every Monday, I open the (free) app and make my fitness schedule for the week. I can sign up for as many classes as I want (there’s a 12-hour cancellation policy or you pay $20 for a no-show); the only caveat is you can only visit the same studio, which includes all the company’s locations, three times in one month.
So how does ClassPass manage to stay so affordable? CEO and co-founder Payal Kadakia was only available to answer questions via email and vaguely cited “variety and flexibility.” It’s also unclear how much the associated studios benefit financially—and from a membership standpoint. Per a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, “ClassPass pays studios a set amount of money for each class that is booked through its systems,” likely a lower fee than the studio’s typical drop-in rate.
Jamie Atlas, owner/founder of Bonza Bodies, told me he has mixed feelings about ClassPass. “On one hand, everyone who has come to us from ClassPass has been super high energy, happy, and in-shape people, which is the kind of people you love [to have] in class. On the other hand, we haven’t had any sign up for membership.” (One perk, per Atlas, is being able to compare himself to his peers by hearing how other workouts have gone for ClassPass-ers.) His perspective is that ClassPass devotees are people who are committed to working out but get bored easily.
In other words, people just like me. Though I’ve recently developed a few qualms about how well compensated local studios are, the one thing I am sure about is that ClassPass is keeping me motivated and excited to work out. And that’s worth something.