If you drive down the street of any metropolitan area, how many gyms will you see? Two? Ten? And if you are looking to transfer your gym membership or want to start from scratch, how are you supposed to know which gym is right for you? Shopping for a good gym membership fit can be a confusing and intimidating process, especially for beginners.
While the decision will ultimately come down to your fitness goals and person preferences, there are a few tips we can give you to help take the guesswork out of the process.
Before signing a contract, visit some local gyms. Take a tour, meet with a staff member, and ask some questions. Don’t sign up at the first gym you set foot in. Shop around a little!
Are you a serious bodybuilder or just a workout beginner? Where you are on your fitness journey is probably the most significant factor in your decision making process. Your goals and abilities will influence what services are most important.
For example, if this is the first time you’ve worked out in a gym, you’ll need extra guidance from the staff. At the very least, you’ll want a staff person to show you how the equipment works, teach you basic exercises, point out injury-prevention techniques, and educate you about healthy eating. Is that service provided free with membership?
If you are already an exercise regular who just wants to change gyms, you will probably be more interested in the equipment and atmosphere. An introductory session with a staff member probably isn’t important to you.
Are you an early riser or a night owl? When do you plan to workout? Will the gym be open at the crack of dawn when you want to exercise?
Make sure the gym is open when you want it to be. Also, ask about early morning and late night staffing. If you are interested in personal training, will it be possible to schedule an appointment at 10pm?
Fitness goals and applicable equipment
A top-quality workout will involve a mix of cardio, strength training and flexibility. Are there enough cardio machines (treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair-steppers, and bikes), free weights, and resistance machines to meet your needs? Is there enough equipment to meet the needs of everyone working out at a given hour? Is there enough variety to keep you from getting bored?
While you are scoping out the place, check the condition of the equipment. Are there a lot of “out of order” signs taped to the machines? Are the seats, benches, grip bars worn or cracked?
What if you aren’t interested in using machines and weights? Does the gym offer exercise classes? Is there a pool? Are there tennis courts? Basketball courts?
Clientele and atmosphere
When you visit prospective gyms, note the clientele they attract. Are there tons of ripped bodybuilders grouped around the free weights? Will their presence inspire or intimidate? Will the young 21 year-olds with perfect abs who are strutting around discourage or encourage you?
After checking out the people, check out the facility. Is it clean? What are the bathrooms, showers and locker-rooms like? Are they well-maintained? Does the carpet have stains? Is there obnoxious music blaring from the PA system?
As is true with any other relationship, what you see is what you get. Don’t expect the gym to change to meet your needs. If the chipped tiles in the bathroom and screaming rock music will bother you every time you set foot in the place, find a different gym.
Read the fine print of a gym contract carefully. A lot of places will offer tons of “free” services. What they really mean is the extras are included in the price of your membership. But do you really want to pay for towel service, shampoo and soap, training and nutrition consultation, permanent lockers, discounts on supplements, and pool access for the kids?
When all is said and done, the decision will probably come down to price. How much bang can you get for your buck? These days, gym memberships can range from practically nothing to the equivalent of a car payment. Before signing up, make sure you discuss all the possible charges – annual membership fee, initial signup fee, monthly fee, cancellation fee, etc.