You could say there are three types of people in this world: those who go to a gym, those who don’t go to a gym, and those who say they go to a gym, but really don’t.
Gyms offer a range of activities to help you get in shape, but many people who join a gym find that, over time, they go less and less. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Our hectic lives – working all day, feeding the family, cleaning house, helping kids with homework, checking in on Mom and Dad – do play a role in how successfully we follow our plans to exercise. But, for some, another factor is choosing the gym that’s right for you. When you pick a gym that costs too much, that doesn’t offer hours compatible with your schedule, that emphasizes fitness areas that do not interest you, or that do not offer enough options to keep you from getting bored, you set yourself up for failure.
Most modern gyms offer personal attention and convenience, with both cardio equipment and weight-training machines. Class schedules once dominated by aerobics, now include Zumba, cardio salsa, yoga and Pilates. Gyms also offer personal services such as customized fitness training and counseling in nutrition and weight loss. To find the right gym for you, decide what you want from exercise and what type of exercise you want to do. If you choose an activity you like, you’re more likely to stay with it. If variety is your thing, you need a gym with a mix of facilities, plenty of machines and lots of classes. If you are interested in Pilates or yoga, you might want to join a studio rather than taking classes at a health club. Then, consider the following factors.
Location: If a gym is not conveniently located, you’ll be less likely to work out. The reason most people don’t stick with exercise is lack of time. If a gym isn’t close to either where you live or work, it’s more of a challenge to get there regularly.
Hours: The gym needs to be open when you plan to work out. Visit the gym during those hours to get a feel for how busy the club will be and what’s offered. If you want classes, find out when the ones you want are offered.
Reputation: Talk to other members about the quality of the club you’re thinking of joining, and to find out what they like about it. You also can check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the facility you’re considering.
Equipment: What facilities and equipment does the gym have? How busy are the machines and facilities you want to use at the times you want to use them? Are they available when you need them? Are they in good condition and serviced regularly? State-of-the-art facilities are no good to you if you can never actually use them.
Staff: How is the facility staffed and what role do those staff play? Qualified staff can guide you on proper alignment on fitness machines, or proper form in a class to avoid injury. Interview staff members and a few trainers, and ask how they’re certified.
Amenities: Most gyms offer exercise facilities, group fitness classes, lockers, showers and towels as part of their basic memberships. There could also be services you pay extra for, like personal training, massage, and child care facilities. If the club you choose offers these options, expect to pay more than you would to join a small fitness center with a few treadmills and free weights.
Cost: Joining a gym is an investment in your body. Cost is usually tied to what the gym has to offer. Don’t pay for amenities you’ll never use. If all you want is to run on a treadmill, why are you paying for a steam room or swimming pool? There may be a less expensive options in your area, such as a church gym or YMCA. Monthly gym fees add up and, after any introductory periods are over, the price could jump higher than your budget can handle. Do the math before you join, to ensure not only that you can afford the membership, but also that you are getting real value for your money.
Contracts: Most experts recommend paying month-to-month for access to a gym. If the gym requires a contract, make sure they offer an annual renewal option at a minimum. A common point gyms will use to sell long-term contracts is that it reduces your costs over time, but regularly evaluating and making decisions about your health investment are crucial to success. As you become more or less active, your fitness needs change. Don’t get stuck in a fitness program that doesn’t fit your needs.
If you’re joining a gym for all the right reasons, why not take the extra time to make sure you pick the right gym?
Reprinted with permission from Boomerang, a publication by the Ohio Department of Aging.