So you’ve decided to do something about getting in shape and you want to join a gym or fitness center? You want this to be a positive experience and an investment that you will actually use so, before you hand over your hard earned money or sign a monthly membership contract, what factors should you consider? Equipment, activities offered, child care, hours of operation and location can be important factors in determining how enjoyable and effective your membership ends up being.
Before you make a decision on which gym to join, visit all of the ones that you are considering and ask for a tour. Try to visit at the time of the day that you would be most likely to be working out to get an idea of how busy it is and what the atmosphere is like at that time. Ask one of the gym employees to give you a tour of the facility. During the tour, you should evaluate the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, the condition and variety of the equipment, the overall cleanliness of the gym as well as harder to define factors such as how well do you fit in with the other members and do you enjoy the type of music the gym plays if they play music. While the first three factors listed are pretty straight forward, sometimes no thought is given to those second two and they turn out to be a big problem later. If you are intimidated by heavy body builders or if you like rock music and the gym plays country, those may turn out to be small things which you use as an excuse not to go. Ask if the gym offers a trial membership. Sometimes they will give you a free pass or at least a reduced price for a few visits so that you can evaluate the gym.
In addition to the equipment, you also need to inquire about the availability of other activities such as classes, aerobics, tanning, and personal training if those are important activities for you. Not all gyms offer group aerobics, for example, so you need to find out if they do if that is a something you wish to incorporate into your work out. Find out if personal training is provided to help you learn the equipment and if so, is there a limit to the number of sessions per member that are free. In many cases, trainers are available for a limited number of sessions to help you learn how to correctly use the equipment, but any further sessions must be paid for per session and are not covered in your membership fee. Many gyms also offer the use of tanning beds at the gym but this is almost always at an additional fee. If you are interested in that service, but sure to find out how much the extra charge is and how many sessions you get. Also, find out if they have enough beds so that your wait time is not unreasonable.
Another important factor for parents is the availability of child care. If you will need child care, find out if it is offered, when it is offered, what the qualifications of the staff are and how many children are usually in child care at the time you plan to work out. Often child care is covered by the membership fee but be sure to ask this as it might not be. Also, make sure that you tour the child care area to be sure that it appears clean and safe and ask to meet the staff to be sure that you feel comfortable leaving your child with them.
Hours of operation and location are two more factors to take into consideration. Be sure to find out the hours of operation. Some gyms issue members swipe membership cards so that you can get into the gym any time. If you have an unusual work schedule or prefer to exercise very early or very late, you may want to find a gym where you always have access. Location is also very important. If the gym is near you or on the way home from work you may be more likely to go than if you have to drive further or to a less convenience location.
Be sure that you consider all of these factors before committing yourself to a membership contract. Many gyms require a two year contract and will only let you out of the contract if you relocate a certain distance away from the gym, usually a minimum of 30 miles, or if you have documentation from a medical doctor that you can no longer exercise because of a health condition. Do your research. You don’t want to end up paying a monthly fee for two years for something that you don’t use.