I worked out at premium gyms around New York City without committing to expensive memberships — a new fitness app helped me do it on a tight budget
Category : entrepreneur
Going to the same gym every day offers much-needed consistency and reliability, but it can also get boring after a few months, or it’s simply not possible due to travel or busy schedules. When your weekly schedule resembles less of a regimented schedule and more of a free-flowing string of events, meetings, and life happenings, it’s unlikely that you’re able to commit to a single gym or gym chain.
POPiN is a free app for anyone who wants variety and flexibility in their workout routine, whether out of preference or necessity. It lets you “pop in” to any participating gym (currently only in New York City) and only pay for the time you’re there, down to the minute.
Gyms usually charge a monthly or yearly fee for unlimited access to its facilities, but this design isn’t ideal if you don’t want to or can’t visit the same gym often. With POPiN, you can skip the expensive daily passes or annual memberships, and work out on your own time. The app charges you for every minute you’re in the gym and you can visit as many of its participating gyms as you want, making it a flexible, affordable, and commitment-free way to stay fit.
Always a fan of services that address the growing population of people who aren’t tied down to traditional physical spaces, I downloaded POPiN to give it a try.
This is what it was like to use the app.
First, browse POPiN’s selection of participating gyms and view detailed information about each one to see which one you want to visit.
You can search directly by gym name or location, and filter by price and amenities. For each gym, you’ll be able to view:
- Photos of the space
- Available amenities (e.g. shower, spa, digital locker)
- A map and directions to the gym
- Class schedules, if the gym offers classes
Once you arrive at the gym, pull up the app and scan the QR code at the front desk, which should have an iPad ready with the corresponding code.
The clock starts ticking once you’ve checked in. Rates range from $0.14 to $0.35 per minute depending on the gym, which means you can spend as little as $8.40 per hour for your workout.
After you check out at the end of your workout by scanning your app at the front desk again, you’ll immediately see a summary of how much time you spent and how much will be charged to the card on your account. You can also rate your experience to help other users choose a gym.
While I’m a creature of habit, I still appreciate variety and flexibility in my life. POPiN’s design fulfilled that need.
I saw that one of the gyms was less than half a mile away from my office, so one day after work I popped in and took a great spin class for only $10. Another night, I had plans to go a concert but the venue was halfway between my office and apartment, and I didn’t want to waste time traveling back and forth. I found a gym a few blocks away from the concert venue, squeezed a short workout in, and paid an accordingly small price.
I loved that I could try out new gyms without the commitment of paying for a membership and get a sense of which ones I would return to in the future. I could enjoy the best parts of each gym rather than commit to only one gym chain.
Premium gyms can cost $140 a month, but I don’t necessarily need premium services all the time, and I’m a girl on a budget. I like running outside and doing at-home workouts as well, so POPiN served as an excellent, affordable way to fill in the gaps with classes and weight training.
The app also emphasizes that time truly is money. Knowing that I was paying by the minute, I was hyper-aware of the quality of my workout and didn’t waste time scrolling through my phone or dawdling like I normally would. Each action or repetition felt more intentional — it’d be wasteful otherwise.
One feature that wasn’t immediately intuitive for me was scanning my app before leaving the gym. I’m used to simply walking out the doors after a workout, especially if I’m tired and operating on auto-pilot. However, if you forget to check out and don’t realize until two hours later like I did, you can just email POPiN’s support team to resolve the issue. Don’t worry: You won’t have to pay $60 for your mistake.
The flexibility and affordability of POPiN might remind you of popular service ClassPass, but they differ in a few key areas.
ClassPass is a membership that gives access to only studio fitness classes (e.g. spin, barre), has cancellation fees, and is available nationwide. Meanwhile, POPiN doesn’t require a commitment, gives access to gym equipment, facilities, and classes (though the classes are not at dedicated studios), has no cancellation fees, and is only available in New York City for the time being.
If you are a hardcore studio class enthusiast, ClassPass is probably a better service for you. But if you want even more flexibility and like to work out through a variety of methods, you should try POPiN.
With POPiN, I could make gym time work with my life instead of the other way around, and it changed the way I valued each workout.