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'Buns of Steal' wants a year of free workouts

Law student is using free passes and persuasion to exercise gratis for a year. Savvy shopping or dishonest?

By Teresa Mears Feb 23, 2010 3:26PM

Julia Neyman has embarked on a thrifty crusade: The 24-year-old law student wants to work out in New York gyms free for a year without spending a cent.


She plans to do this through a combination of persuasion (she is in law school) and the free trials anyone can get from most gyms.


She lays out her objectives in her blog, Buns of Steal:

Gyms, yoga studios, karate dojos and the like all want my (nonexistent) money, and they’re willing to lure me with the offer of a free session, or sometimes even a free week. They think it’ll be love at first sweat; that I’ll fall swooning from the elliptical, right into their membership office. A hundred a month, and I’m theirs for the keep. But I’ve got an ace up my sleeve: desperation, and the willingness to travel all over the five boroughs to make sure my workout is gratis.

In addition to scoring week-long trials at major gym chains and sampling fitness classes, Julia so far has gotten a free Bikram yoga class through a bring-a-friend promotion, and she found a free weekly dance class at the Jewish Community Center. She also admitted that she loves running in Central Park and chose that for a free workout one day rather than commuting to a gym far away. She is clearly much too athletic to be satisfied with walking, a great free workout for those of us twice her age.

She also details her failures in her blog, including being thrown out of another branch of a national chain where she had previously done a free trail, and realizing that flirting would get her nowhere at a predominantly gay men’s gym.


Still, she is persevering. "Most people aren't cheap enough to do this for a whole year," she told the New York Daily News. "But I am."

Ryan Tate at Gawker’s ValleyWag speculates Julia is trying for a book deal, along the line of Julie Powell of “Julie and Julia,” who cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes, and Robyn Okrant of Living Oprah, who followed Oprah Winfrey’s advice for a year and wrote a book about it. Julia Neyman may have made her crusade a little more difficult since she’s been written about in the New York Daily News and interviewed on WCBS-TV.

She objected to the Daily News’ characterization of her as someone who would “lie, finagle, beg and even flirt” to get free gym sessions.


She responded: “I don't beg, lie and finagle to get my free passes. Most of the time, they're just printed off the Internet or ripped from a magazine. Sure, I say I'm shopping around for gyms, which is quite true. At the end of this year, I will pick the one I like best and join."


Flirt? She pleads guilty. But, she says, "the point is that anyone could do the same thing I'm doing.”


Well, maybe anyone who lives in a large city and is willing to commute all over town. It's certainly easy to get a guest pass for a few days or a week or get a deal on membership at a gym.


Julia shared these tips for finding free workouts with the BrokeAss blog in Chicago:

  • Search online. Do a search for “free workout” and your ZIP code. Check the Web sites of nearby gyms.
  • Ask. She writes, ”You know that saying, 'Ask and you shall receive?' Well, the converse is, if you don't ask, you're not getting squat.”
  • Open your eyes. Julia has seen ads for free fitness passes on the subway, at promotion events, on grocery store receipts and on bulletin boards.

WCBS has a poll on its Web site asking viewers whether they think Julia is a scammer or a savvy shopper. So far, 58% of respondents in the unscientific survey say savvy shopper while 42% say scammer.


What do you think? Would you do what she's doing? Do you have any tips for saving money on gyms, workouts and fitness?


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