What's my motivation? Gym memberships charge you for not showing up

We’re 108 days into this calendar year. So how are you doing with that New Year’s resolution to exercise four times a week? OK, I’ll start. I lost steam well before President’s Day.

If you’re looking for some motivation, look to Harvard grads Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer, who launched the Gym-Pact program last year in Boston.

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When you don’t show up for your workout, the gym hits you where it hurts: your wallet. Gym-Pact offers users a discounted membership fee to join if they agree to exercise a certain number of times of week. If members don’t keep to the schedule, they get hit with a fee of $10 per day they miss. Talk about motivation!

Zhang says the idea occurred to her when during a behavioral economics course in college, where she learned that losing money is a bigger incentive than making it. She’s even put the program to the test herself, admitting that she’s missed workouts, and has been charged the slacker fee.

After raising money from family members to launch their business, Zhang and Oberhofer say the venture is now turning a profit. They hope to expand the concept to other existing gyms.

Why does it work? First, it draws in new customers — those who struggle to keep to an exercise regimen and might not otherwise join a gym. Second, the program helps reduce customer turnover, a problem gyms face when people give up on working out altogether. (I first read about this program in Kiplinger’s magazine. Check out their interview with Zhang here.)

To me, the added value of this program is that it would ensure that I get more value from my gym membership because I would actually use it. I would venture to say that I have wasted thousands of dollars over the years by signing up for a gym – and then using it rarely. Or never.

But if I had to fork over $10 every time I didn’t show up to work out, I would definitely throw on my sweats and get to the gym. I would be fit and the gym would enjoy my continued business. Everyone wins!

How about you? Would a financial penalty help you reach your workout goals?

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