Getting fit for free

If you need more interaction than a solo run provides, check out these options for cheap workouts

  • Yoga instructor Jessica Rodgers, center, teaches a free yoga class at the Inner Harbor. Charm City Yoga, in partnership with Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, offers a free yoga class on Saturday mornings at the Inner Harbor until end of summer.
Yoga instructor Jessica Rodgers, center, teaches a free yoga… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
June 01, 2011|By Karen Nitkin, Special to The Baltimore Sun

It's time for your Saturday-morning yoga class. You meet your fellow fitness buffs in a scenic outdoor setting, lay out your mats and begin your hourlong workout. It's a great way to start the weekend. And even better, it's entirely free.

No-cost yoga classes aren't the only options for free exercise in the Baltimore region. Many gyms and exercise studios in the area offers free trial memberships. Most also give free memberships to employees, so if you're willing to teach a class or two, or even work the front desk, you probably qualify.

And then there are clubs that offer organized bike rides, hikes and runs, some for a small membership fee and others at no cost at all. The Maryland Outdoor Club, for example, has no membership fee, and the Baltimore Bicycling Club offers a well-known Instructional Rides series each year that provides instruction, safety tips and group rides, at no charge. The Baltimore Road Runners Club invites nonmembers to its scheduled runs.

Of course, scoring a free workout has always been as easy as lacing up a pair of sneakers and heading out for a walk or run, or keeping pace with an exercise show on television. But freebies are also available for people who prefer professional instruction, organized excursions and rooms filled with serious equipment. Here are some ideas for getting exercise without sweating the price.

Free yoga

Every Saturday from mid-May through August, weather permitting, Charm City Yoga hosts a 9 a.m. yoga class right in the Inner Harbor, at West Shore Park, in cooperation with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. "We do what's called an all-levels class," said Allison Korycki, director of community relations and operations for the studio. "It's structured so everyone from the first-time yoga practitioner to the experienced yogi can get a good workout."

Participants can bring their own mat or rent one there. "It's a great workout," said Korycki. "It's a great way to balance, de-stress, build strength and flexibility, and to experience a good meeting between nature and city."

Also offering a free weekly outdoor yoga class is Lululemon, the retail chain that sells yoga and running clothes, which has a new location in Fells Point, open Thursdays through Saturdays. The classes, open to all levels, are free of charge and held Saturday mornings at 9 in Patterson Park by the pagoda. It will move to the showroom when the weather gets cold, said Amanda Casgar, regional community guru for the Eastern United States.

The store also hosts a "run club" that meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. for a city run of between 3 and 6 miles. The promise: "You can run at your own pace, and we'll be there to keep you entertained and motivated."

Free gym memberships and classes

There are at least two paths to travel if you want to work out for free at local gyms and exercise studios. The first is to obtain a pass for a trial run. The second is to work at the business, even part time, since most health clubs give free membership to employees.

Gyms and fitness studios often offer passes entitling users to a week or two of free classes and use of equipment, as a way to lure potential members. Gold's Gym offers a seven-day pass on its website. Merritt Athletic Club advertises a five-day pass.

"We usually have passes to try the club for 14 days at no risk," said Josh Gerber, marketing director for Lynne Brick's and Brick Bodies, the Maryland chain of coed and female-only health clubs. Pass-holders can use all gym equipment and take classes at any location during the two weeks, he said. Instructors and other employees, even part-time ones, get free memberships, he said.

Other local businesses have similar deals, so if there's a particular venue that interests you, it pays to ask if you can try it for free.

"We always offer a free tryout class," said Danyelle Berger, who owns the Baltimore Martial Arts Academy with her husband, Gary. And here's an inside tip: If you ask, you'll almost certainly get a free week, she said. "It's almost too much stuff to try to come in and try one class," she said. Options include judo, Pilates, kettlebell fitness, karate and kickboxing aerobics.

The Bergers, who opened the studio in 1995 and moved it from Howard County to Baltimore County last year, also give memberships to employees, including students who take on such tasks as cleaning, she said. "We just want to make it work."


Outdoor exercises like running, hiking and biking are already pretty cheap (except for the cost of the bike), but they can be lonely. Instead of setting out on your own, why not join one of the many clubs in the region? They offer instruction, advice and guided excursions. And working out with like-minded exercisers is just more fun.

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