Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cheapest Months to Join a Gym

As someone who had worked in the past at a major corporate chain fitness center, I want to let you know a little known secret. The best months to join a commercial gym are July and August. That’s when you get the cheapest prices, because they are the slowest months of the year for membership sales.

Although I was never a membership sales rep (I was a nutritionist and trainer when I worked at a corporate gym), I became friends with the sales representatives and I learned a lot of the in's and out's of every aspect of the business.

During the two slow summer months, the management still puts enormous pressure on the sales staff to meet their sales quota. The sales reps are quite desperate for new members to sign on. Therefore, you have the upper hand in manipulating them for a lower price quote, if you play your cards right.

The sales representatives have the flexibility to quote a higher or lower price (within certain limits), but they will pretend as if they don’t have the flexibility or authority to do so. They will pretend that the prices are more fixed than they actually are. When they realize that they have to lower the price in order to get you to sign, they will pretend to “ask the manager” for a lower price.

There are also a few other pointers in order for you to join a gym at the lowest price possible. Here’s the complete list:

(1) Join in July or August.
(2) Join as a group. While you are inquiring about prices, let them know your intention to get a bunch of people to sign up with you. Ask them how many people you will need to get a group discount.
(3) Ask also for further discount for paying upfront for a full year or two years.
(4) Get from them all the documents you would have to sign and the quoted price from them to take home, while you get the group of people together. I recommend having a legal expert read over the documents, or at least read them very carefully yourself several times.

I know someone who by applying these pointers got a quote of $220 total per person for two years (joining as a group of five people, all paying upfront) at a major corporate fitness center three years ago. It was essentially a two year contract since they were paying upfront for two years.

Again, the good thing about inquiring about the price before you put together your group is that you can take the documents home to have an expert examine them (or at least examine yourself). While you are getting people together, you could give the sales rep a call in two weeks or so (if he hasn’t called you already) to let him know you do not have enough people yet. Chances are, he will lower the price for you because he is desperate for your group business in the slow months.

Another thing to consider is – do you really want to join a corporate fitness center? You have to be VERY cautious. Generally, you should only join if you can afford to commit for at least two years. Beware that memberships are usually attached with contracts of two years or longer. Also, beware of free trials or trials at reduced rates. I’ve known cases of people who’ve signed on for a month of reduced rate only to find out later on that they were contractually bound to two years (because of some hidden terms in the signed documents.) It's almost fraudulent, but are we really surprised that major corporations are using underhanded tactics? This is why it is important to have a legal expert read through all the documents before you sign ANYTHING. If you don't have access to a legal expert, at least have someone good at reading business and legal documents. You should also read it at least two times yourself.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

15 Minutes Can Prevent Lower Back Pains

Playing sports you enjoy is a great idea as part of your path to fitness, as long as you do what's necessary to prevent injury or prevent re-aggravation of past conditions (back problems, knee problems, or others). You may be asking – what can you do to prevent injuries or alleviate problems? Warm up and stretch before playing any sports. Afterwards, stretch again. This will take only 10 minutes before playing and 5 minutes after playing. It is important you do this every time you play any sports. It's really simple, but unfortunately, many neglect the simple.

That is merely a total of 15 minutes, and they are well worth spending in preventing or alleviating pains and problems you may have if you don’t do this. Any injuries and pains will prevent you from exercising and which may actually lead to more problems such as gaining unhealthy weight which in turn may trigger or re-aggravate back problems and joint problems, as well as increase your chances of other health problems. You don’t want to enter such a negative spiral. (I’ve written about such a case, the case of Jane, in my previous blog at http://spirfit.blogspot.com/2009/01/bad-posture-leads-to-weight-gain.html)

The following is a simple warm-up and stretch for those with a higher susceptibility to lower back problems:

1. Warm up for 5 minutes, walk on a treadmill. (Do not run.)
If you don't have access to a treadmill, just take a walk outside (in a safe area). You may also get on the stationary bike or elliptical if you feel more comfortable with them.

2. Stretch for 5 minutes
Standing Quad Stretch

i. Stand in front of a wall on your left leg while drawing in your abs (throughout the whole stretch).
ii. Bend your right leg bringing your right heel toward your butt (as much as you comfortably can) and hold for a count of 30. (Balance on your own if you can, but use the wall for balance if you need to.)
iii. Do the same for your other leg.

Hamstring Stretch

i. Lie on the floor facing upward.
ii.Bend your right leg at a 90 degree angle while straightening your left leg.
iii. Grab the back of your left leg and pull it toward your chest
iv. Hold for a count of 30.

Spinal Twist

i. Sit on the floor with left leg straight, and the right leg bent and crossed over the left.
ii. Draw abs in.
iii. Slowly turn your upper body to the right while pulling your right leg with your left arm.
iv. Count to 30.
v. Switch sides and repeat.

Note: These three stretches are the minimum that you must do (before and after playing) to prevent or alleviate lower back problems. However, you should add other stretches if you have the time.

3. Play your sport
Be mindful of engaging or your abdominals throughout playing, to prevent stress on your lower back.

4. Stretch for 5 minutes, after playing.
Repeat the same three stretches (#2) above.

Note: Even if you don't play sports, doing this 15 minutes of warm-up and stretch daily can prevent lower back pains. Keep in mind also that nothing works overnight. It must be done habitually and consistently before you can reap any benefits. There are actually more things that can be done for lower back problems, but I have to keep it simple here so that you can do it on your own. Feel free to contact me at healthsciencewriter@gmail.com for a free session (for new clients) about what you can do for back pains, using exercises and stretches.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Officially a Pandemic, But No Need to Fear

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that we are officially in the beginning of a H1N1 pandemic. (Based on scientific criteria, alert level is raised to Phase 6.) However, there is no cause for panic or fear at this point, because a “pandemic” does not necessarily mean that the virus is severe. A pandemic merely means that it is spreading very quickly and it is a new type of virus. This H1N1 (swine flu) virus at this point is still moderate, relative to the seasonal flu. Most people who are infected so far recover spontaneously without medical intervention.

Because of the unpredictability of viruses, however, the WHO is recommending all member nations to implement appropriate preparedness plans. One of the key things is to prepare an adequate supply of vaccines. Depending on how the virus changes after it mingles with other viruses and other factors in the Southern Hemisphere in the next few months, we may or may not need the vaccine.

At this point however, everyone should still be vigilant in terms of hygienic practices such as hand washing and use of hand sanitizers, especially pregnant women and people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, various lung disease, and other diseases. If you have flu like symptoms and you are under the afore mentioned categories of pre-existing conditions, seek medical attention immediately. If you are not pregnant, do not have pre-existing condition, and you have MILD flu-like symptoms, you will most likely recover spontaneously (without medical care.) However, listen to your instincts. If you become VERY sick with flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention. As long as we are implementing precautious hygienic measures, there is no cause for fear.

I don’t believe we should criticize the WHO or other health agencies in various nations for being alert and keeping a close watch on this virus. They need to do this because there’s no way of knowing whether this virus will become as deadly as the one in 1918 or as moderate as the one in 1968. (By the way, people in the mass media tend to remember the worst case scenarios like 1918 but they tend to forget the mild influenza of the 1968 pandemic. However, there’s no way to know at this point how the current swine flu will pan out. That’s why the WHO and other health agencies have to be alert.

Again, this flu is still relatively moderate even though it is rapidly spreading, as we are in stage 6 – pandemic phase (which only indicates rapid spreading, not severity).

For more information

Precautions we should take
1. If you have severe symptoms of influenza, go see a doctor and stay away from everyone else. (Stay home other than visiting a doctor.) Be sure to wash the dishes and utensils you use thoroughly with dishwashing soap and water). Symptoms of influenza include:
- Sneezing , coughing, and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Fever
- Backaches and other body aches
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Headache

Note: If have flu-like symptoms and you are pregnant or has a pre-existing medical condition, you should seek medical attention even if your flu symptoms are mild.

2. We need to practice prevention – which includes habits that we should have anyway to be healthy and fit:
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Exercise and stay fit. (Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use a public gym.)
- Wash your hands with soap and water whenever you have a chance (especially before you eat, before and after you use the bathroom, and after you’ve used any public facilities where you’ve come in contact with surfaces that are touched by many (such as poles in a public bus).
- Do not touch your ears, nose, or mouth.

3. Pray. We need to recruit the power of collective prayer to ask God to not allow this H1N1 to become severe.

Disclaimer: Consult a medical doctor before you taking advice from this blog.

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