Congratulations! You have made the decision to join a gym and get in shape. But choosing which gym to join can be a daunting process. There are so many factors to keep in mind. Over the past 15 or so years, I have belonged to dozens of gyms, and I have learned a few things about what to consider in choosing the right fitness center.
The first thing to look out for is whether the gym requires you to sign a contract for a lengthy period of time. Many of the larger gyms do something like this to you: you show up at the gym in your workout clothes, wallet in hand. You ask how much it will be to join. You get whisked into an office where a muscle laden fraternity boy starts hammering you with questions about your lifestyle. By the time you leave you have signed an agreement stating that you will pay for the gym for the next 3 to 5 years. You are not even sure how much you have agreed to pay, or whether it is a good price.
My recommendation is to avoid this type of gym at all costs. A few months down the road, you may decide that it is not the gym for you. Or maybe a better one will open up in your neighborhood, and you are stuck with the big chain on the highway. This type of gym may be okay for some people, such as those who know for a fact they will go regularly for the next decade to that gym, do not mind reading loads and loads of small print, and have money to burn.
Instead, the best thing to do is search around for a gym that allows you to be a member on a monthly or quarterly basis, and does not require binders full of paperwork.
The best thing to do when searching for a good gym bargain, is to shop around. Many gyms, especially smaller and independently owned gyms, are upfront with their pricing. A good rule is that if you call up and ask the price, and they tell you they can’t give you that information over the phone, you should cross them off your list. When pricing gyms, be sure to visit the facilities to make sure you like the atmosphere and the equipment.
When thinking about the amenities you want in a gym, consider what will inspire you to work out. Would knowing you can jump in a hot tub or sauna after a workout give you the incentive to go to the gym? Do you appreciate a good dance studio? Be sure to take a tour, and don’t be afraid to ask for a free trial workout.
Most gyms offer classes of some sort. Some of these might be aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, pilates, abdominal work outs, boot camp, low impact, and strip tease. It depends upon how trendy of an area you live in. Even if you don’t think you’ll go regularly to the classes, it is good to have them as an option. Mixing up your workout is a sure way to avoid boredom and stay motivated. Some gyms charge extra for the classes, and some gyms do not. This is something to keep in mind when calculating the price.
Finally, your fitness center should be somewhere you feel absolutely comfortable. Nobody needs an extra reason to avoid going to the gym. The number one factor in a person’s comfort level at a gym is probably the other people who go there. Some gyms are filled with young buff guys and girls in great work out gear. Other gyms have a mix of ages in regular sweatpants and T-shirts. Decide what type of people you would feel comfortable working out around, and factor that into your decision. Many fitness centers cater just to women or senior citizens. If you think that would be your cup of tea, try it out for a week. If you feel good there, chances are you will go back.
Try not to choose a gym that is too far away from your home or work. If it takes too long to get there, you are more likely to run out of time, or just scratch your workout all together. Think about your schedule and when you’d be most likely to exercise. If you like to exercise in the morning before work, choose a gym near your house. If you have time on your lunch break or after work, choose a gym by your office.
The key to sticking to your work out routine is to make it into a pleasant, fun, and affordable experience.