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Best Affordable Gyms for the Budget-Conscious Fitness Fanatic

By Mathew Katz | January 14, 2013 7:20am

NEW YORK CITY — As a New Yorker, it's likely that you spend more on rent or going out than you'd care to admit. But just because you're paying through the nose for a fabulous apartment, clothes or food, it doesn't mean you need to shell out big bucks to stay fit. 

Whether you're looking for somewhere to pump iron, run a few miles, go for a swim or just get the occasional workout, there are gyms all over the city that offer all the amenities at a fraction of the price of an Equinox or Crunch.

These affordable gyms also tend to have more personality and camaraderie. Instead of putting on your headphones and ignoring the world, at many community gyms, new members are greeted with a pat on the back or even a cheer when they accomplish that heavy rep or extra mile.

"Around here, it's a community where everyone supports one another," said Jay Hirschhorn, owner of J's Big Gym, in Washington Heights. "Whatever your goals, the people here help you out."

DNAinfo.com New York has you covered with some of the city's top affordable gyms.

J's Big Gym

625 W. 181st St., Washington Heights, Manhattan

Price: $65 for a monthly membership or $398 for your first year, $299 for each additional year

Target Audience: Diverse

For nine years, the tall Jay Hirschhorn has towered over this two-floor everyman gym in Washington Heights. The owner and fitness buff is a friendly presence nearly every day of the week, welcoming both new members and longtime regulars for their workout of choice. 

The sprawling space, though tightly-packed, offers nearly every machine you could ever want, with labels for each in English and Spanish. Along with 34 classes a week included in the membership price, Hirschhorn claims his gym has more pounds of weights than any other gym in Manhattan — totaling roughly eight tons. 

"With everything we have, we're twice the gym anyone else is," Hirschhorn said. "This is the place you want to be — you can't not want to get fit here."

Boom Fitness

1438 Third Ave. and 4 Park Ave., Manhattan

Price: $29.99 a month for the Upper East Side location, $19.99 for Midtown

Target Audience: The luxury-minded on a budget

Like the towels, smoothies and fancy beauty products of Equinox gyms, but don't like the price tag? Boom Fitness aims to provide a luxury experience for a portion of the cost of bigger competitors.

"We're trying to provide the program, equipment and quality you would find in an Equinox," said Boom's CEO, Damon Risucci.

Like Equinox, Boom has group classes, free towels and even personal training, but lacks the crowds — and lines — of many bigger fitness chains. 

Metropolitan Pool and Recreation Center

261 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Price: $150 a year

Target Audience: Back-to-basics fitness enthusiasts, hipsters, swimmers

Almost invisible among the continual development of hipster Williamsburg and just steps from the Bedford L train stop, Metropolitan Pool offers a bare-bone fitness experience along with a lap pool for swimmers. Since it's one of the city's own recreation centers, it's dirt cheap, but offers a great fitness experience.

Along with the popular 30-by-70-foot pool, the center has free step classes, aerobics, teen fitness, tai chi, and plyometrics classes (a type of exercise involving short, fast, powerful movements). 

Weight and cardio rooms have all the basic machines and racks, including spinning bikes, albeit in a cramped space. But for most members, the price is right.

"We don't have the fanciest of weight rooms, but we have everything you would need to get a good workout," said Farrell Coates, the center's manager. 

Steel Gym

146 W. 23rd St., Chelsea, Manhattan

Price: Ranges, up to $79 a month

Target Audience: Weightlifters, bodybuilders, LGBT

Right in the heart of Chelsea, this 24-hour gym is a haven for the muscle-bound, along with those hoping to get bulkier. The gym has all you need to get pumped up, including steel dumbbells that go up to 200 pounds, several bench-press racks, and more.

The spot is lacking in cardio, however, although it's not trying to be a place where you slim down, but is more as an old-school spot with clanking weights and lots of heavy squats.

McBurney YMCA

125 W. 14th St., Chelsea, Manhattan

Price: Center membership is $94 a month, or $75 a month for students and seniors.

Target Audience: Diverse group of seniors and locals

Straddling the border of Chelsea and the West Village, the YMCA is less expensive than many of its neighbors, and has more than many private gyms in the area, including a huge pool and numerous fitness classes, such as yoga and Pilates.

The YMCA recently introduced a $300,000, 3,362-square-foot strength training center featuring brand-new Life Fitness equipment. It also offers a free, 12-week personal fitness program that lets members with little fitness experience work with a trainer to set and achieve their fitness goals.

Brooklyn Yoga Collective

795 Franklin Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Price: $7-$15 donation a class

Target Audience: Budget-conscious yogis

Yoga to the People made a name for itself out of its pay-what-you-can classes, but those same classes can fill up fast. If you're looking for a quality yoga experience that will make you shout "Namaste!" — without the crowds — this collective may be your best bet.

The small storefront space offers several kinds of yoga at all levels, taught by experienced instructors from studios around the city. Unlike other studios that pay based on class size, the collective pays each instructor equally per class, allowing for more diverse class offerings — not to mention more room while you're stretching.