It’s the busiest time of year for fitness and health clubs. This is the crazy period. Believe me I work at these places… I know! It’s the time of year when everyone comes out of hiding. Like they suddenly remember they have gym membership. Plus, you see a HUGE influx of new members. The question is, with so many options which facility do you choose? Even in our small city we have 5 large gyms. That’s not counting the pilates studio, yoga studio, cardio barre, the YMCA, dance studios, crossfit boxes, bootcamps, martial arts studios and the city run gym and classes. So how I do you know which one is going to work for you?
Location, Location, Location
While usually associated with realtors location is important in your gym choice too. While a fancy building with all the latest equipment might look enticing, if it’s too far away are you actually going to use it? So many gyms see members sign up all eager and committed in January, only to never see them again after February. Great for them, not so great for your pocketbook if you signed a contract. Make sure the gym is close to your house, college, school or work. If you do a school run perhaps look for locations near your kids school. Having a place to workout near your home, school or work is especially good if you get together with friends or work colleagues and go to the gym together. Studies have shown that having a workout buddy makes you accountable and therefore more likely to stick to your workout routine. So broaden your search!
Not all gyms are created equal when it comes to opening hours. Some places only open until 10pm, and close early on weekends. For us, some evenings we don’t get to the gym until 9:30pm so that’s just won’t work for us. While it is common sense, just be aware that circumstances change. Even though right now you workout in the morning, that doesn’t mean that is going to hold true for the whole year ahead. If your job changes, you switch career, finish school, of the kids have summer off school etc then your schedule changes. All of a sudden you want to workout late at night and the gym is closed! It’s also worth noting that some gyms are open 24/7… like they never close, ok except on holidays. This is definitely an appealing feature. Especially if you work shifts.
What kind of exerciser are you? If you are a beginner it’s easy to get intimidated by the big gyms so maybe a smaller more family run or boutique fitness studio would suit you better initially? If you prefer lifting free weights does the gym have the equipment you want? Conversely some only have free weights and no machines, so make sure the equipment is going to fit your preferred training style. If you are a woman who is self conscious about working out then consider a women only facility. One of the big draws of the larger gyms, is the group fitness classes. If you do want to incorporate group classes into your routine then please check the gym’s current class schedule. If you don’t finish work till 6pm, and the classes all finish at 7pm then chances are this isn’t the place for you!
For some the gym amenities can be deciding factors. Do you need showers? This can be especially noticeable in smaller boutique style studios which may only have one or two restrooms and no showers. Does the gym provide toiletries, hairdryers, towels etc? If you have children, does the gym have a daycare? Or are there other childcare facilities nearby? Do those childcare opening hours coincide with your workout times? It could be the absolute best local gym, but if you can’t put little Johnny in the creche at 11am then how is it going to work? Walk through ALL the amenities, check out the changing rooms, lockers, creche, steam room, jacuzzi, bathrooms, etc. Free shampoo is great, but if you have to pay for parking then maybe it’s not the deciding factor you should be considering?
Price & Fees
For most people this is the dealbreaker! In January many gyms have new member deals. With so many great offers it’s easy to get caught up in the bargains before realizing that the gym isn’t right for you and your lifestyle. One tip for the hard sell is, don’t get sidetracked by the savings! Even if you have to walk away for a while, and come back a day or two later. Make sure the contract works for you. If you aren’t prepared for a regular monthly fee, or don’t want to commit to a contract, then research pay as you go locations like the YMCA, smaller private gyms or some yoga/pilates studios. Many of these places have “drop-in” rates too.
Follow these tips to make sure this is going to be the right gym and financial commitment for you and your family.
Do you have any tips for people trying to find a gym?
Are you a member at a gym?
What do you consider when joining a gym?