THE BLOG
05/18/2010 02:10 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Free Year of Workouts: Lessons, Four Months In

This week marks an important milestone. It has been four months since I started my quest to exercise for a whole year without ever paying for a workout. That means I'm a third of the way done: so far, so good.

In the 120 days since I published my first post, about finagling a free 5 day pass at David Barton Gym in Chelsea, I have worked out 100 or so times (and blogged about 85 of them). I've been kicked out of a gym once (Equinox, for attempting to use free passes to visit two different locations); have narrowly escaped exile (at New York Sports Club, for telling the membership director upfront that I don't plan to join, but just wanted to take advantage of the free trial); and have received countless pieces of both fan mail and hate mail (apparently taking advantage of the countless free classes and trial passes this city's gyms offer is a divisive topic).

If I were to give awards thus far, the superlatives list would look like this...

Best gym: Reebok Sports Club (huge, luxurious, and $206 a month for students. Thank God for free passes).

Best yoga studio: Bikram Yoga Harlem. The instructors rock, and the close knit community of practitioners creates more zen than any goofy incense and music ever could.

Toughest workout: my Brooklyn Bootcamp, with a cycling enthusiast who isn't even a certified instructor. It was a bare bones, white knuckled, athlete-to-athlete workout, and showed me once and for all that you don't need fancy equipment to push yourself to exhaustion (or an impromptu asthma attack).

Craziest class: tie between Pole Dancing and Boing! With Kangoo, both at Crunch Fitness. I'm fascinated by what gyms in this city do to differentiate themselves, and clearly Crunch has claimed the "ridiculous" niche.

But oddly enough, the gyms themselves haven't been the stars of my journey. Sure, they've been the necessary catalyst, or, more precisely, the everyday fodder. They are the common denominator for what has otherwise devolved into a chaotic life of endless subway rides, random blogger encounters and meticulously planned days that weave like tendrils around that far-flung kickboxing class I've just been dying to go to.

But in reality, they've been incidental to the insane people, ridiculous places and hilarious interactions I've had thus far.

A week ago, I found myself tanning on the rooftop deck at Reebok Sports Club, a posh gym that I could not afford and that I had no business being at. The women were gazelles, and the men were millionaires. I was embroiled in a dispute over intellectual property rights, with a sixty year old movie producer who offered me a job, a lunch invite and a lollypop (in that order). He asked me if I was a member. I said, no. He asked if I was someone's guest. I said, not exactly. He asked if I snuck in. I laughed. He offered me a job again.

A few weeks before that, I was at Pure Yoga, an Upper West Side outfit that doesn't even let you practice unless you're a member. The yoga wasn't that impressive, but my host, fellow blogger MizzFIT, was. MizzFIT wasn't the first blogger friend I've made, nor will she be the last. She and I are part of a growing community that inhabits a twilight zone somewhere below journalism but above what we do for a living. Back when I was in journalism school, the buzz word was "hyper-local." Newspapers were going bust, and the new trend was to produce stories so particularized that nobody outside your teeny demographic would care, but everyone inside the demographic would grasp at your God-like ability to deliver exactly what they cared about, and only what they cared about. Well, it seems that bloggers have taken this concept to a new, more perfect level. We have no start-up costs, our expectations are lower (100 hits a day is pretty damn good for an average blog), and we can wax poetic at will since space is unlimited. That means we can practice until we make prefect (or at least pretty good). MizzFIT blogs (well) about the intersection of fashion and fitness; fellow blogger Snack Girl addresses foodie/nutritional issues (though she's more well read than I ever hope to be, and I almost had a heart attack when she commented on my post); I blog about the intersection of fitness and free. Comically (or tragically) this combination seems to have found an audience, and a community. I continue to be fascinated by blogger love.

A few months before that, I was on a first date with a guy I had met on the subway, while I was returning from a gymhopping visit. In fact, this guy later referenced himself as "Chris from the Subway" while defending my honor on the New York Daily News comment wall after they had published an article about me. Anyway, I was on the fence about telling "Chris from the Subway" about my blog idea (I had started hopping, but hadn't started blogging). After all, it was kind of a strange pursuit. So I held off. Until we had finished the first bottle of wine. Then I spilled. Without missing a beat, he answered: "I love it! You should call it, 'Run for your money.'"