Best Gyms Under $80 a Month

Don’t want to shell out for fancy locker rooms, Olympic-size pools, and other frills? Check out these more affordable gyms, ranked in descending order.

1. Fitness Formula Clubs

LOCATIONS: Boystown, East Lake View, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Oak Park, Old Town, South Loop, Union Station, West Loop

COST: $65 to $80 a month; $99 to $260 initiation fee

BEST FOR: Someone who wants the features of a luxury gym without a full range of nonfitness

AMENITIES: Café, childcare, free parking, wi-fi

This Chicago-only chain opened its first gym in 1984 and now has nine locations. Beyond the expected features—weight rooms, cardio machines of every ilk, and a packed group fitness calendar—there are many amenities, including indoor lap pools, rock-climbing walls, free parking, onsite baby care, full-service spas, and cafés. Fitness Formula Clubs could compete handily with the upscale gyms in the city, and the lower monthly fee—six of the nine gyms, including the ones in Lincoln Park and the West Loop, charge just $65 a month—vaults this chain to the top of Chicago’s budget gyms list.


2. Xsport Fitness

LOCATIONS: Avondale, Belmont Central, Lake View, Logan Square, Mayfair, Old Town, Portage Park, South Loop, and 16 other locations

COST: $49 a month; $35 initiation fee

BEST FOR: Nose-to-the-grindstone exercisers and people who want personal training

AMENITIES: Café, childcare, free parking, wifi

Started here 15 years ago, XSport Fitness now has 24 locations in and around Chicago, including many in the suburbs and three smaller Express sites (just $9.95 a month). The focus? Personal training. The Lake View location alone has 34 trainers on staff; others have about 15 to 20. And these aren’t your fresh-out-of-school trainers. You’ll be getting tips from ex–NFL players and Big Ten conditioning coaches. The larger gyms—in Belmont Central, Logan Square, the Loop, and Old Town—have loads of cardio equipment, full-size basketball courts, steam rooms, and pools.


3. Cheetah Gyms

LOCATIONS: Andersonville, Bucktown, Edgewater

COST: $59 a month; $49 initiation fee

BEST FOR: Machine workout lovers

AMENITIES: Free parking

The cardio equipment at this Chicago minichain—a big percentage of which was replaced last year—is from top-of-the-line brands such as Precor, Nordic Track, Arc Trainers, and LifeFitness. Every treadmill, elliptical machine, and bike has its own flat-screen TV. There’s also a studio for spin classes and room after room of strength-training machines, including a boxing apparatus you can spar with. Cheetah distinguishes itself with some thoughtful touches, such as free coffee in the morning and coin-operated washers and dryers. Attention, Logan Square residents: Cheetah plans to open in your neck of the woods later this year.


i.d. Gym

LOCATION: 2727 N. Lincoln Ave.

COST: $65 a month; $149 initiation fee

BEST FOR: CrossFit dabblers and people who want a variety of group classes

AMENTITIES: Childcare, free parking, wifi

Opened in Lincoln Park in 2009, this gym’s claim to fame is its creative group fitness options. Alongside the usual kettlebell and body-sculpting classes, you’ll find Fly Yoga (you hang from special hammocks and perform poses in the air), the Caveman Workout (you swing a sledgehammer and pull heavy ropes), and parkour (you leap, climb, and vault off things). The gym also offers CrossFit classes, the hardcore boot camp workout, for a higher membership fee (starting at $125 a month). Socializing while working out is even an option: At Friday night’s Vinyasa and Vino, unwind with
an hour of yoga and then continue to relax at a nearby wine store with a tasting just for your class.

Edgewater Athletic Club

5. Edgewater Athletic Club

LOCATION: 1040 W. Granville Ave.

COST: $59 a month; no initiation fee with annual contract

BEST FOR: Far North Siders who appreciate friendly service

AMENTITIES: Free parking

Ten years ago, the Edgewater Athletic Club opened in the historic Sovereign Hotel, aiming to turn an underused space into a neighborhood gym. In 2005, the EAC transformed the building’s striking domed ballroom into its weight room and, three years later, renovated the entire property and expanded to its current 15,000-square-foot layout. Definitely not a megaclub, this gym offers some nice features for the price, such as a 20-yard indoor pool, a steam room, and newish cardio equipment. The locker room showers could use another round of fixes, but the rest of the space is spiffy and never too crowded. You’ll like its proximity to Metropolis Coffee, just one block away.

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Reboot Your Workout

Photography: (FFC) Jorge Gera; (I.D. Gym) Katie Basil; (Edgewater athletic cluub) Jeremy Bolen; (All Others) Courtesy of gym



2 years ago
Posted by MargieS

Thank you for deleting my previous comments, per my request. I do not know why they posted twice.

Fitness Formula Clubs has a rating of "F" at the Better Business Bureau.

Fitness Formula Clubs refused to mediate through the Better Business Bureau. As a result, it is permanently documented that:

1.)I had a concussion at their Lincoln Park facility, and despite conversation with their corporate it is written as "alleged"

2.)I "apparently" "wanted to have a personal relationship with her (my) trainer." My gay trainer, who wanted his place of business to become my "second home." It did. He wanted me there 5 days a week; I ended up attending that club up to 18 hours a week.

And what did that trainer do when I called him and asked WHY corporate was insinuating the above, before it was permanently documented? Go ask him.

People need to know what happens when you get an injury at a Fitness Formula Clubs. I still have nightmares and it is still very painful to me. And if you have doubts about any of the above I will be very happy to show supporting documentation.

NOW I'm done with this comment. What happened to me was sick and twisted. It was never remedied and I'm the one who carries the burden of what happened. It's not right and it never will be.

11 months ago
Posted by Anon1


The under $80 / month is factually inaccurate when referring to Fitness Formula Clubs.

When I started my membership with FFC in September 2012 the monthly rate was $98.95, that was 5 months before this issue of Chicago Magazine was published.

Additionally, several days ago I got a letter from FFC saying that for November 2013, the monthly rate was going to briefly rise to $153.95, then go back to $98.95 for December. This allows FFC to advertise their prices as under $100 / month, when in reality their average price is over $100 / month.

If you look at FFC's ratings on the BBB (as the poster above noted) and Ripoff Report, they have a history of raising their rates randomly. When I asked the manager about the fee increase, he straight up told me that this was a standard practice by FFC and that they did it in order to "keep rates low." They have an established policy for gouging current members whenever they want more money. Don't take out poor financial planning on your loyal customers!

In the future, please consider FFC's history of randomly raising rates in your next Best Gym column as it is an ethically questionable business practice, and indicates a certain level disdain towards their customers. It also appears to be an attempt by the management to qualify as an under $100 gym, yet average over $100.

Thank you,

Exasperated Exerciser

5 months ago
Posted by Lance E

COMPLETE RIPOFF. I don’t like writing reviews because of how much one negative experience can negatively affect a business, but after giving management every possible chance to do the right thing, they still failed. I understand that a business has to make money, but FFC has some really bad policies that are clearly in place to squeeze every possible dollar out of the members and shows that each person is and always be just a number to them. I left the military in August and found FFC online so I checked them out in person after reading online reviews. After speaking with someone at the West Loop location, I was told that it would be $350 for the first month because you also pay for your last month in advance. This way, you can cancel at any time without worrying about any mandatory contract time. What actually happen was after joining around the 26th of November paying $350, they charged my card again on the first for another $65. Then when I called to cancel my membership on 27 Jan, I was told that they had a policy that even though they hadn’t charged your card for the upcoming month and you pay a month in advance, you still have to pay them for an additional month if you don’t cancel early enough in the month for them. I received a new bankcard in February and never gave the number to them because my membership was cancelled so they charged a $30 late fee. I emailed the manager and their membership director explaining what I was told when joining, explained the fact that I cancelled before the charge was placed on the account, explained that I also hadn’t even been to the facility since late December, and that my roommate had cancelled the same way while having his last month of time waived when he recently cancelled. I received a call from the location manager who wanted more information on the situation so he could research it and wanted my roommates name for proof. After giving him the info, he said he would get back to me. The only response I got was another $30 fee onto the account. They also locked out my account from being able to join again, use my current time left on the account or pay the account balance online once I told them they were a complete ripoff. There are plenty of gyms out there and I hope people find this review in time to save them from going through the same ripoff scams that FFC has in place.
On an unrelated note, for some reason FFC thinks its ok to have women that work there walking through the mens locker room at night putting towels away and cleaning. Completely awkward situation every couple of minutes while trying to get in and out of there. Overall, go someplace else.

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