The Fitness Quest

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This Doesn't Count As Fitness, Does It?

I hated PE at school (you could usually find me in the locker room with a book), and had naturally assumed I was allergic to sports. But when I started yoga four years ago, I amazed myself: I immediately loved it.

Canada is a car country, and winters are long and cold. It’s harder to exercise outdoors and it’s not often possible to walk from point A to point B. I quickly understood that I had to make a conscious effort to exercise in order to stay healthy.

Shortly after coming to Canada, I joined the YMCA. But I quickly got bored with the machines, half of them bearing cryptic instructions. Then I found a yoga studio and never looked back. In 2010, I started hot yoga. Sweating like a pig in a very hot room full of strangers might not sound so fun but I found it liberating. Not to mention that yoga is a good workout and it isn’t so much about meditation (phew!) but rather about building flexibility, strength and balance.

Unfortunately, yoga has become popular in Ottawa. Not as popular as the Lululemon store at the Rideau Centre where hipsters pay $200 for sweatpants, but popular enough that classes are getting very crowded and very expensive.

Heartbroken, I decided to look for a cheaper alternative.

My first thought was to join the YMCA again. But at $60 a month, the membership was more expensive than I remembered it to be, and the class schedule wasn’t too practical for me. I kept this option as a plan B.

My plan A was Goodlife Fitness, a gym with several locations in Ottawa. The membership fee being one of my main criteria, I went online to see how much it was. Surprise surprise, the fees were nowhere to be found. Instead, those interested in joining Goodlife where asked to provide their info to be contacted about plan rates.

Not being the patient kind, I went to one of the Goodlife clubs (the one at the Rideau Centre) to ask directly about membership fees.

“Take a sit, fill this out and someone will be with you shortly,” instructed the woman at the front desk.

I looked at the paper she handed me. Full name, phone number, email, address, signature… I wrote down my name and signed, assuming the rest was optional.

The woman looked over my shoulder and frowned. “You gotta fill out e-very-th-ing.”

I love when people treat me like an idiot.

“I just want to know the price of a membership,” I argued. “You don’t need my contact info for that.”

She sighed. Clearly, I wasn’t getting it.

“We are gonna give you a tour of the gym. This is a waiver. It’s compulsory. By law.” She stressed the last word, as if to impress me. She failed. I wrote down I lived on Sunset Blvd, Strawberry Fields, ON. What? It sounded nice. Sue me.

Two minutes later, the local male bodybuilder/personal trainer took a sit in front of me. Subtle. Sent a guy for a female “applicant.”

“How is your nutrition?”


He looked up at me, as if to guess when I last had French fries.

“What?” I protested. “I eat my broccoli!”

“Why do you want to join a gym?”

“I’m going to a yoga studio but I’m looking for a cheaper alternative,” I answered honestly.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a freelancer.”

“Who are your clients?”

This is none of your fucking business. “It depends,” I deflected.

I looked at the piece of paper on which he had actually scribbled “it depends.”

He kept on asking questions, all more personal than the next. Remember that at this stage, I just wanted to know how much the membership was. Right there, I decided I did not want to get a membership there. If I had to take an entire survey just to know the prices, I would probably have to share my DNA to exercise there.

Eventually, the guy mumbled something about the price, quoting a bi-weekly rate. “The contract is here,” he added. “I just need your signature.”

“I don’t want to sign a contract,” I replied. “I just wanted to know the price of a membership. Thank you for the information.”

“Wait! You will never get that rate again!”

“That’s fine. I’m not ready to sign a one-year contract on the spot.”

“I just need your banking information.”

“And I just needed to know the membership rate. I’m not signing a contract today.”

“You are passing on a great deal.”

“I’m taking my chance.”

I left.

I later found this article when I did a quick search on Goodlife. Can’t say I’m surprised.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Wow. That’s harsh. I never knew that gyms can get violent in Canada. Can’t you just use local university facilities? Here, I can use the university gym for free, and yes they have yoga classes, but I definitely know that non-university people also use it, for a small fee.

  2. Goodlife and other gyms run quite the scams, but good for you for sticking to your guns and not letting them pressure you into signing anything.

    I used to do martial arts, bellydancing and yoga classes and have been to a gym once or twice to stay in shape, but the best thing that I’ve found is the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred dvd:

    It cost only $10 at Chapters and I just wake up early a few times a week, put on some music and follow it.

    It’s SO much easier and cheaper than taking exterior classes and being roped into memberships!

    • That’s a good idea actually! Thank you for the link, I will check it out. I’m just afraid I won’t be as motivated doing that alone at home.

  3. Hey Zhu,

    Yup, Goodlife is a cult. I was a member for a few months back when it was a little more relaxed, but I hated the idea of being locked-in at a certain fee for a whole year. I was a broke student at the time, and the almost $80 per month could be put to better use, like eating broccoli.

    Now, the suggestion to look into university gyms is a great one. I actually did yoga at UofO (I was never a student there) for very cheap. The instructor was a student at the university, but she was great. Also, a lot of yoga teachers in Ottawa will come to your house or another location if you can get a group of 7-10 people together. (PS: I happen to know three of them ;))

    • I didn’t know you did yoga at the UofO! I should check it out. It’s just that from my experience, everything at university is super disorganized. But maybe that was just my limited experience as a student there.

      We need to recruit more people and book private classes, you are right!

  4. Oh no, what a terrible experience, it would have been funny if it hadn’t actually happened. I know there are websites with a ton of exercise videos, including ones just dedicated to yoga that are very reasonably priced. Guess you’d have to crank up your heat though to qualify as hot yoga.

  5. I have never used a corporate gym for this reason! Besides, the Goodlifes here are all in Yuppie Central and I avoid them like the plague. There’s even one connected to Union Station.

    My company benefits include covering gym memberships up to $100 per month so the downtown gyms know they can crank up the fees. I work for a Bay Street company, and I imagine many of the others in the Financial District have similar benefits. Thankfully we’re not locked into where we can have memberships; I’d rather use my benefits at a neighbourhood place, not a chain like Goodlife.

    • That’s cool you get such company benefits! Most government agencies here have some kind of agreement with Goodlife, that’s how I heard about them.

    • Ahem… I have to tell you about this place next time we meet. It’s pretty weird actually, or maybe it’s just me. It’s part of Goodlife though, and they don’t have classes, which is mostly what I’m after.

  6. Hi Zhu,
    In Toronto, I thought that Goodlife was the least aggressive gyms. I had a trial membership for a week and they never bothered me, but at Extreme Fitness, every single time I went they asked me to sign this “one time special offer”.
    Eventually I have settled on an independent small gym, but I keep the membership only during 6 winter months.

  7. I’ve had the exact same experience at the Good Life Fitness gym on Queen St in Ottawa. The gym visit took close to an hour and whenever I would ask about the membership fees he kept saying “you’ll need to meet with the manager for that” or he would just change the subject.

    At the end of the tour, I asked if I could sign up then and there and they said I had to make an appointment because the manager wasn’t in. I stupidly left my contact information with them and they called me a good 10 days in a row. I never bothered to go back because it seemed like too much trouble.

    If you just want a gym with a pool, treadmills, elliptical machines, try the gym at the Marriott on Kent St. The prices are fixed, actually much cheaper than Good Life and it’s usually very quiet. The only downside is that they don’t offer classes.

    • Thank you for the tip!

      I’m not surprised you had a similar experience, it seems to be consistent with Goodlife’s policies. Well, I’m not signing up with them, I don’t like these shady practices!

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