A Gym That Fits You
Selecting a gym can be overwhelming, especially if you've never been a member of one. Here are a few things to consider:
If the gym isn't conveniently located, you'll find all sorts of excuses not to use it. One close to home can be used before work, after work or on the weekends. However, if your weekends are busy (and you're more disciplined with routine), you may find it better to choose a gym near work. This lets you schedule exercise as a part of the workday. Begin your search by eliminating locations that are simply not easy for you to get to during the hours you most intend to work out.
Most gyms have hours that will more than accommodate even the busiest schedules. However, some have limited hours on weekends or in the early morning or late at night, a problem if those are the times you'll use a gym the most. Compare your available and most energetic hours with those of the gyms you might join.
Take a look at potential gyms online, and see what consumers and other members have to say about each location. Some reviews might focus on areas you don't intend to use (such as the pool or the locker rooms), but others may provide you with insight about the things important to you (such as parking or classes).
Classes can be an important part of the gym experience. Group exercise can keep you motivated and can be a great way to meet people. Closely review each gym's class schedule, and the type and experience of the instructors to make sure that the gyms you are considering have classes that you will like and can attend.
Contracts and fees
Some gyms allow you to pay on a month-to-month basis with no fees for canceling or discontinuing your membership. Other gyms may be cheaper but could require you to sign more complex contracts that force you to make monthly payments for up to three years. Review each gym's contract carefully, and make sure you don't sign anything that doesn't feel comfortable or flexible enough for your lifestyle or level of commitment. Compare each gym's fees, and don't be afraid to ask for special rates. The first price you are given is probably not the best price you can get.
Every gym has its own energy. Take a good look around when you visit each gym, and consider the personalities of the staff and the members. Do you prefer a younger or more mature crowd? Do you enjoy a funky, hip environment or a more classic, country club décor? Are you no-nonsense or do you like lots of activities, social events and interaction? Are you inspired by hard bodies, or do you prefer being around people who are just working out to keep healthy? All of these details will influence how often you use the facility. If you don't like the style, crowd or energy, you won't go.
Cleanliness and maintenance
Check for clean showers, tidy workout spaces and working equipment. What you see is probably what you get. If you don't like the way a particular gym looks or is maintained, you won't be motivated to use it.
Any good gym will give you the chance to try the facility for at least a day, but usually for one week. This is the best way to determine if you like it and will use it on a regular basis. Visit the gym at different times, take a few classes and see if you can have a session with one of their personal trainers. Be critical and honest with yourself during this trial period, and ask other members what they think about membership and their experiences.
A gym can go a long way in helping improve your health and fitness. Doing the homework takes a bit of extra time, but it can ensure that you join a gym that fits your personality, pocketbook, commitment level and schedule.
Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Association spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.