Joining a gym is a big decision. At the risk of sounding alarmist – it could make or break your quest for health and fitness. A good gym can make working out a pleasure and something you look forward to whereas a bad gym can put you off exercise forever. Don’t join a bad gym – join a good gym by following these tried and tested insider tip.
Gyms have personality and where some are hardcore “spit and sawdust” type places, others are more ferns and soft music. Some gyms are known for their association with certain sports or sports teams where others are favored by older exercisers and are more social than physical. Pick a gym that makes you feel comfortable and syncs with your own personality.
Does your prospective gym offer a free, no-obligation trial so you can try it out and see if it is the gym of your dreams? If they don’t, you need ask about cancelation policies as you may find that, after a week or two, the gym isn’t what you hoped it would be. A free trial, preferably lasting a week, will allow you to try before you buy.
Is your prospective gym near where you live, near where you work or otherwise easy to get to? The best gym is no better than a hole in the ground if you can’t get to it easily. A gym near work or school is ideal if you intend to work out on your way home or at the start of your day but a gym closer to home may be better if you want to exercise at weekends. Either way, location is an important consideration.
Will your gym be open when you want to exercise? If you like to train early in the morning, can your gym accommodate you? How about weekends? Some gyms have reduced opening hours at the weekend which may limit your access. If you have time off on public holidays, will your gym be open? Check and double check gym opening times and ask for guarantees that they won’t change. Any public holiday closing should also be disclosed before you sign up for membership.
Are the staff friendly, helpful and well-informed? Is someone qualified on hand to offer advice on your workout and diet? Will you get a free induction/show around from a qualified gym instructor when you sign up? Of course, you may not NEED any help or advice if you are an experienced exerciser but for gym neophytes, this is important.
Does the gym have everything you need for your workouts? A fitness club might not have enough squat racks and free weights for a serious weightlifter whereas a hardcore powerlifting gym may well not have the cardio machines you want if general fitness is more your goal. Pick the gym based on what type of training you want to do so that you do not have to compromise your workouts. Don’t be fooled by “state of the art” equipment that looks impressive but in actuality is not as good as more traditional exercise equipment. You’ll pay a heavy dividend at gyms with lots of very modern equipment when a cheaper, more traditionally-equipped gym may be better value for money and just as effective.
Group exercise classes
Are group exercise classes available, included in your membership and the types of classes you enjoy? Does the timetable change periodically and are there classes on at the time you want to attend? Is the studio light, airy and well ventilated and is the sound system of good quality? Is there enough spinning bikes and other group exercise equipment available? Do you need to book in advance for your classes? If classes are your thing, ask these questions and make sure you are going to be able to get the most from the gym’s group exercise timetable.
Cleanliness and maintenance
Does your prospective gym look well maintained and clean? Cleaning and maintenance levels show just how much the owners care about their facility, services and your patronage. Dirty locker rooms, grubby or broken equipment or general disrepair would suggest that the owners are taking out but not reinvesting money taken for memberships.
What additional facilities do you want from your gym? Do you want to be able to play tennis, take a swim, soak in a hot tub, enjoy a beauty treatment, grab a meal or drink after your workout? If you want a more rounded fitness experience, look at health clubs rather than plane-Jane gyms. If you don’t want these extras, don’t join a gym that provides them as you’ll only end up paying for facilities you won’t use.
Getting and staying fit is a long term commitment so you need to find a gym you can afford not just for the next three-months but for the foreseeable future. You may find the price is negotiable and that there are discounts and special offers available. Ask about couples and family memberships, discounts for longer contracts, off peak memberships and bonuses for referrals.
Read the small print on your membership form and make sure you aren’t committing so something you don’t agree with. Some pay-monthly clubs insist on a 12 or 18-month commitment and will not allow you to cancel your membership even if you no longer want to attend the gym. Contracts may be legally binding so take note of the contents and ask if you need any clarification of the terms and conditions of your membership.
Are you allowed to suspend your membership if you are unwell or otherwise unable to attend the gym for a month or so? You don’t want to pay for the gym if you can’t go so if you envisage needing to take a break, make sure you are able to suspend your membership and avoid losing time paid for.
What, if any, additional perks are available if you join this particular gym? Do you get a discount with any local traders? Any free introductory personal training sessions? Subsidized parking? Discounted massage or beauty treatments? Although the perks won’t make or break your membership, it’s always nice to know you’ll get a little more for your money.
Does your intended gym allow you to bring the occasional guest? It can be nice to bring a friend or relative to your gym so they can see where you have been spending all your evenings recently! Some gyms will allow you to bring the occasional buddy for free while others may charge a nominal fee. Some, to preserve exclusivity, may operate a strictly members only policy. If you think you may want to bring a friend to the gym with you, check that it’s okay before you sign your membership contract.
Gyms come in all shapes and sizes – just like the people who use them! Do your due diligence and check out a few gyms so you can be sure you are making the right choice. If you join a gym and things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would, don’t just vote with your feet and stop going. Remember you are a customer as well as a member and you have every right to complain if you feel you have been mis-sold to or are not getting what you paid for.