Let's face it – for those of us who are serious about health and fitness, the gym is our extended home and its employees and members are like an extended family. So choosing the right gym is crucial to creating an environment for health and fitness that is both welcoming and sustainable.
Here are some helpful things to consider when forking over hundreds of dollars a year for a gym membership. All these considerations must be balanced against each other in order to choose what is right for you.
People have the tendency to pick the gym that is closest to their home or work for convenience. But proximity should not take precedence over how well-equipped the facility is and whether it provides fitness classes you might need. If the gym is somewhere you enjoy going, you won't mind a few extra minutes of travel to get there.
Most gyms will offer passes to potential members. I find that the better clubs offer weeklong passes so you can really kick the tires. A week is good because it gives you the opportunity to get a sense of the ambience of the place, sample all the equipment, meet the staff and familiarize yourself with the management style of the facility.
Going to the gym for the first time can be intimidating to many people. Feeling welcome is important because your visits will be frequent. Does the staff quickly call you by name, make eye contact, smile and make small conversation? These are all hallmarks of a well-run club that cares about its membership.
Does the club provide an array of aerobic or fitness classes that might be of interest to you? Are the instructors good physical specimens whom you would like to emulate?
Hours of Operation
Is the gym open at hours that are convenient and fit your schedule? Be particularly aware of weekend hours if you have to work weekends. A lot of clubs do not cater to a weekend work schedule and close at 5 or 6 o’clock. A gym that serves it members will stay open until at least 7 p.m. on weekends and be open on holidays for at least a half-day or weekend hours.
Does the facility have a wide array of free weights and machines that are in good working condition? The wider your repertoire, the better conditioning you will achieve and the less chance you’ll have of stagnating by doing the same movements over and over.
Are there a lot of out-of-order signs on the machines, and do the signs stay up for extended periods? If so, this is a bad sign.
Be skeptical of lifetime contracts. Whose lifetime, exactly? Yours or the gyms? Try to sign on for a year, and read the fine print. Gym salespeople can be pushy. A lot of gyms provide two- and three-year memberships at reduced rates. But do you really know what you’ll be doing in three years?
Also be aware of things like automatic renewals after your contract is up and monthly withdrawals from you bank account or credit card. Like with big banks, these fine-print items can end up costing you a lot of extra money in fees and penalties if you make just one mistake. Virtually all gyms have these contracts, but good ones will also have customer services such as the ability to pause your contract for a month should you get injured or have to travel. That sort of customer service is exactly what you’re looking for when choosing a gym you’ll want to return to several times a week.
Happy gym hunting, and Happy New Year!
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Thursday, 28 February 2013