Now that the New Years Resolution crowd has thinned out, it’s finally safe to return to the gym. While your home gym doubtlessly provides more creature comfort and convenience than your local gym, there’s no denying that there are a number of benefits to joining a gym. Let’s say you can’t quite fit that treadmill in your apartment, or you have a particular penchant for the occasional squash game. The gym is the perfect place for you. With these ol’ rusted joints of mine, I know I don’t feel right if I don’t take a relaxing swim every so often. Since my cave ain’t exactly swimmin’ pool conducive, I make the most out of my gym membership by taking the occasional dip in their Olympic sized pool – chlorinated to perfection.
But the thing is, not all gyms are created equal and it’s important to find a gym that both suits your individual needs and one to which you’re likely to return. The sad fact is, most people join a gym, get excited for a couple of weeks, and then stop going after around 3 months. So how do you find a gym that you’ll enjoy and stick with? Here are Scratch’s tried and true ways to make sure that your gym is a keeper:
- 1.) Location, location, location
It’s really important to find a gym that’s close to your home or office. This seems like a simple tip, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take this into consideration. People may think that a gym just 20 minutes away from their house is a great idea, but you have to recognize that 40-minutes of roundtrip travel might be too much. If you can find a gym that’s within walking distance of your house, this is the best way to go. Not only will the walk burn off a few extra calories, but it’s a great warm-up for your exercises in the gym. The walk home can also serve as a cool-down for your muscles. Somewhere closer to home is also a lot easier to work into your schedule. A lot of people that go to gyms close to home find that they can get in a quick work out in the mornings, shower, and head off to work!
2.) Find out about the Gym’s Membership Offers and Policies
How does it feel when you first walk into the gym? A good rule of thumb: if someone immediately takes you aside and starts pitching you the benefits of membership like a used car salesman, it might be a good idea to head right back through those doors and look elsewhere. Instead, see if the person behind the desk asks about your exercise goals, what types of classes you like, and times of day that are convenient for you. It’s important to find a gym that caters to your needs instead of treating you like just another number. Also, be sure to make sure there aren’t any hidden membership fees. Know exactly what comes with each level of membership. For example, if you’ve signed up for the gym to improve your golf swing, you don’t want to have to pay extra money for special classes that will actually help you accomplish this goal. Be sure to take into consideration all of the costs of gym membership – this doesn’t just mean the sticker price. For example, if you have a job that works nights, taking off a night to head to your favorite spinning class will mean that you’re losing out on the money you would have made if you’d stuck with your shift. It’s important to make sure that the gym you pick can work with both your schedule and your budget.
3.) Take a Walk
It’s really important that you take a stroll around your gym before you sign your name on the dotted line. As you walk around, be sure to notice the state of the equipment. Ask yourself: is it working properly? Does it appear to be well serviced? Is it clean and does it get wiped down after use? If a machine is out of order, ask someone how long it takes for repairs. Note how crowded each fitness station is. If you love the elliptical but notice that there aren’t that many and that they’re all occupied, then remember that the chances of you getting to take a spin on one are pretty slim. It’s important to find a gym that has the right equipment for you.
4.) Get a Feel for the Staff
Look to see how the staff treats the clients. Are they engaged or are they sitting around? What are the qualifications of the class instructors? If you really want to take a yoga class but you’re working with an inexperienced instructor, you won’t get the most out of your session. Inexperienced fitness instructors could even be dangerous to work with and put you at risk for strained or injured muscles. Also, be sure to note what sections are available to you. Often, there are areas of gyms that are men only or women only. If this is the case, you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to lose out on square footage in the gym. If it’s a particularly small gym, this could be a deal breaker.
And my final tip: keep your needs in mind! I know this point has been stressed in the other sections, but finding a good gym is like any other big purchase. You wouldn’t buy a gas-guzzling car if you were an environmentalist, just like you wouldn’t buy a two-door coup if you have a family of five. Your gym has to be suited to your individual needs. If you’re a 45 year old guy looking to work on your muscle tone, then you have different fitness goals from the 22 year old woman who wants to take up Pilates. Whatever gym you end up at, make sure it’s the right fit for you!