Let’s face it, there are a million different gyms out there today and all of them are a little bit different. You have your Curves for the ladies, you have the Powerhouse’s for the powerlifters, and you have the Gold’s for the bodybuilders, and so on and so forth. Finding one that you feel comfortable with is key. If you join a gym where you are uncomfortable or intimidated, you will more than likely quit and give up. Therefore it is important to really feel at home with whatever gym you choose.
So think about what you want in a gym. Are you strictly there to lift weights? Do you want to take aerobics classes? Do you strictly want it for the cardio equipment? Do you want all of these things? As you can see there are many options you need to think about when deciding what gym would suit you best. You need to think about what type of workout you want to get and go from there.
Let’s go over some basics of choosing a gym that fits YOU…
Questions to ask while visiting a gym…
- What are the hours of operation?
- When are the busiest times of the day?
- How much does the membership cost? Are there any option plans available?
- What do you have to do to cancel?
- What are the billing cycles or can you pay it all upfront?
- Is the staff certified?
- Is the gym equipped and staff trained for emergencies?
- How old is the equipment?
- How often is the equipment replaced?
- What equipment gets used the most?
- Are the class sizes limited?
- Are there any extra fees involved or are all the services include in the price?
- Does the gym have child care? If so is it free or how much is it?
- Do you get shown how to use the equipment free or is it fee based?
- Do they do any free body composition testing or similar?
Things to Consider:
Is the location of the gym accessible to you? You want to find a gym where you don’t have to travel very far and that you know you wouldn’t mind driving to. If the gym is too far and cuts into too much time of your day, more than likely you aren’t going to stick with it too long or not as often as you would like. Find a place that is possibly close to where you work so right before or after work you can go there or during a lunch hour. Look to see if there is anything close to your house. That will enable you to go to the gym whenever you want and you don’t have to worry about cutting into precious time during the day—especially good when you are looking for a quick workout or some cardio.
Hours of Operation
Do their hours jive with your schedule? Can you comfortably get in a workout and not be pushed for time? You want to make sure that if you are paying for a membership that your workout schedule is well within their hours of operation, if not then you will be wasting your money by not being able to full utilize their facility and get a good workout. Your best choice would be a gym that is open 24-hours a day. That would ensure you that no matter what time it is, you can go get in a workout.
This should really be at the top of your list. How much money will it cost you and will you get your money’s worth? It’s much easier to spend a little extra money on a membership with a gym that has top of the line equipment and that is more inspirational to be in rather than a warn down gym that looks like a cave.
You also need to realize what time of the year you are purchasing a membership. Gyms tend to have better deals during the high times of the year such as around New Years and in September. If you can hold off getting a membership until these times you will surely end up saving some money in the long run.
Make sure you are paying for exactly what you want for that price. Don’t get coaxed into adding on services that you aren’t going to use or paying for things that don’t interest you. Many gyms will nickel and dime you to death, watch out for salesmen who run down a list of extra options/services that you could add to your membership.
Another thing you want to watch out for are gyms that make you lock in with a long-term agreement. These places will lock you into your contract for 1-3 years and there is no way to get out. Say down the road you don’t like the gym anymore or something happens which turns you off, if you are locked in you have no way of getting out of it. Now you are stuck paying for a gym that you won’t use or dreading everyday you force yourself to go.
How clean is the facility? Are there staff members who wipe down the equipment daily? Do they make sure members wipe down their equipment after using it? Is there trash on the floor? Are their locker rooms a mess? These are all things to consider when purchasing a membership. If the place looks like a mess you need to evaluate if that is something you can put up with everyday visiting the gym. For most people, a trashy gym is a huge turn off. If they can’t take care of their facility, how do you expect them to take care of you?
Membership Privileges and Features
Do you get discounts on anything they sell once you are a member? Do you get to tan and use the pool for free or is there an extra charge? Do they have massage therapists? Is there a gym child-care to take your kid to while you workout? Is there a juice or snack bar? How much will you be paying for these things? You need to find out what extra features come with the membership and what you have to pay extra for. See if there are any perks to joining their gym over another one. Make sure you understand exactly what comes with your member and what doesn’t before you sign any papers.
The equipment that you use needs to be in good working condition with no problems with its usage. Look at the different styles and brands of equipment that they have and make sure that it is something you are interested in using. How is the free weight room? Make sure the dumbbells aren’t broken or that there aren’t dumbbells missing or that one of the pairs isn’t missing. Make sure the grips on the barbells are worn down so bad that they are completely smooth and your grip will be compromised. Look around to see how the members are handling the equipment. Are they dropping the dumbbells on the floor? Are they banging the barbell off the rack or ground? Are they slamming the machine weights down when they are done with a set? If you see any of these things, be weary about the gym and the equipment. Surely there are going to be some serious issues and damages to equipment when they are used like that. Especially look to see how the staff handles a situation like that. If they have good equipment, they will surely make sure things like that happen. If no one seems to care from the staff, more than likely their equipment is junk.
What types of people are working out at the gym? Do you see many men? Do you see mainly women? Is there a good split between both? Make sure you feel comfortable working around the people you see at the gym. Some gyms are known for being more hardcore such as the powerlifting gyms and the bodybuilding gyms. If you feel intimidated or unsafe being around these types of people when working out then keep searching for a place that you can call home. Remember, searching for the right gym is all about you, no one else.
How is the atmosphere of the gym? Is it upbeat or is it bland? Find a gym that is inspirational and makes you want to workout. There is nothing worse than going to a gym to workout and feel like you are stuck in a dreary day. Find a gym that is bright and energizes you. Look around and see how the members are interacting. Are they friendly or are they snobs? Comfort level plays a huge part in motivating yourself to go to the gym for a grueling workout.
There is nothing more frustrating than going to the gym to hit a body part and seeing that a piece you always use is broken. How quickly is a piece of equipment fixed after being broken? Do you go tell someone that the equipment isn’t working and then when you come back a week later it is still broken? Some pieces of equipment do take some time to fix depending on the parts they have to order, but how quickly are they to accommodate to the situation? If it takes a long time to fix a piece of equipment, that is a tale tell sign that they are pinching money and will hold off as long as possible to replace something just so they don’t have to spend any money.
Always try out the gym before you purchase a membership!
Let me just say this in start off… No matter what you see, always try out the gym before you purchase a membership. You will make a big mistake if you just walk in a buy a membership without looking around at other options as well as seeing how the gym you are looking at is operating. You want to ask for a trial membership, or a guest pass, or anything they have that will allow you to try out the gym for at least one day. Most places will give you a pass to try it out, however for those who don’t the average price for a day pass is roughly around $10 a day. Even if they make you pay, it will be well worth it to see if you like it. A $10 investment is much better than spending $500 and hating every minute. You want to go to the gym at the same time that you would normally workout. This will allow you to see how busy it gets during the times you are going to be there.
When you decide on a gym, ALWAYS read the fine print before you sign!
By reading the agreement and the fine print, it makes you aware of the contract you are signing. This can include how you will be paying for the membership, the term of the contract, cancellation policy, and other pertinent information that you need to know.
Hopefully this made things a little easier for you in deciding what gym to join. When it comes down to it you really need to take all of the things mentioned above into consideration. If you don’t like something about the gym, check out some other places. The fitness industry is really taking off the past couple of years and gyms are popping up almost everywhere. Make sure you understand what you want before looking and make a list of things you want to look for and ask before you go visiting gyms. When you are there don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the salesman tries to avoid any of your questions or is answering around the question without truly answering it for you, place a checkmark next to that gym and keep looking. When it comes down to it, a gym membership is an investment—an investment towards better health. Good luck and happy searching!
Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN