Julia Neyman paid for this drink.jpgIt’s hard to fit the gym into your schedule. Sometimes it’s even harder to fit it into your budget. Especially if you live in New York, where monthly gym membership fees could fetch you a studio apartment somewhere in flyover country. Of course, there are more hard bodies to ogle at Equinox than in Phoenix.

That’s why we spend the long hours at the office, sitting motionless at desks, staring hard at a computer: to make the big bucks so we can afford to go to the gym. It would suck to have a low-paying blue-collar job where you spend all day lifting heavy stuff, manipulating machinery, and running around, because then you couldn’t afford to go to the gym to…

Hmmm…. Well, it’s easy to afford a New York gym membership when you’ve got a Biglaw salary, but it’s not so easy if you’re a New York law student paying for it with your student loans. Is a hard body really worth it with an 8.5% interest rate?

Columbia 2L Julia Neyman, 24, has found a way around this dilemma. As reported by the New York Daily News this week, she’s spending a year taking advantage of free gym promotions across the five burroughs and chronicling it on her blog, Buns of Steal. (Gawker felt the need to point out the double meaning in that title, but we assume you all get it.)

From the Daily News: “Neyman will do whatever it takes to score no-cost gym sessions: lie, finagle, beg and even flirt.”

Well, not exactly, says Neyman. We caught up with her yesterday about her pro bono gym program….

Buns of Steal makes for an enjoyable read, likely because Northwestern journalism grad Julia Neyman honed her writing skills at the South Florida Business Journal in Miami for two years before heading to law school.

We interviewed her yesterday about her mission to be frugally fit.

KASH: What inspired this?
NEYMAN: I’ve always been an athlete and I love to find new, fun ways to stay in shape. I’m also a former journalist and really miss creative writing. I guess somewhere between running the millionth loop around central park and seeing the millionth free gym pass advertisement online, I realized that I could combine my three favorite activities: writing, working out and exploring the city. I started this blog strictly for my own amusement and maybe to provide some helpful gym reviews for fitness buffs. I never thought it would take off like this.

KASH: Are you hoping for a book deal as Ryan Tate at Gawker assumes? If you got one, would you take that over a Biglaw offer?
NEYMAN: Depends on how nice of a gym the firm has. Just kidding.
No, I have no idea where Gawker got the book deal idea. I’d love to parlay this into some freelancing opportunities, but I have no interest in a book deal, nor do I think a year-long free workout quest would make a good book. That was just Gawker getting overly creative.

KASH: How did the New York Daily News find out about the blog?
NEYMAN: They found out over facebook. Kevin Deutsch (the NYDN writer) and I actually used to work together at the Miami Herald, and I guess he saw a facebook post about my blog and thought it would make a good story.

KASH: You said the NYDN article wasn’t entirely fair. What were the most annoying parts about it?
NEYMAN: The NYDN article was really misleading. I don’t lie or flirt to get free passes – 99% of my free passes are just printed from gym websites, or from TimeOut NY or other magazines. This is the whole reason I was inspired to start this blog: if you are enterprising and keep your eyes open, there is an endless amount of freebies you can take advantage of.

KASH: NYU has a gym — The Palladium — that rivals Equinox. It also has Coles, which doesn’t. My Columbia friends tell me that you uptown kids have a “free” — if you discount the mandatory student activities fee — gym as well. One friend did describe it as “awful,” but said he didn’t think it was so bad as to make going to another borough worthwhile. Why not work out there?
NEYMAN: Aside from the terror of running into professors wearing short shorts? The gym is dark and dank, there’s always a huge wait for the machines, and the classes (which you have to pay extra for) aren’t very good.

KASH: You told me that, after the stories came out on NYDN and Gawker, a lot of people took issue with the fact that you were taking advantage of free day passes without committing to a gym. And an Equinox employee called you a “gym grifter” in the NYDN piece. Give me the law student spiel on why there isn’t anything wrong with what you’re doing.
NEYMAN: I’m just taking advantage of the marketing that the gyms put out there themselves. Sure, I don’t intend to commit to a gym membership just yet, but once my year is up I fully intend to pick the gym I like best (and can afford) and get a membership there. Think of it as a REALLY thorough gym search, which I blog about partly for my own amusement and partly to provide ongoing reviews of the staggering array of fitness options around the city.

There is actually a really successful company called American Health and Fitness Alliance that aggregates like 600 free passes to gyms around the city and charges people $75 to buy this pack of passes. Gyms honor the passes and promote through the website, so they’re obviously willing participants in all this… So I’m basically doing for free what this company charges people $75 to do…

Neyman has a BigLaw job lined up for the summer, and plans to continue her “gym grifting” as a summer associate. At the end of the year, one lucky gym will get her membership. Though, apparently, it won’t be Equinox.

Buns of Steal [Julia Neyman's Blog]
Columbia Law School student, Julia Neyman, to flirt way into free gym sessions for a year [New York Daily News]
The ‘Gym Grifter’ Is Wisely Mooching Her Way Toward a Book Deal [Gawker]


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