How To Pick A Gym That’s Right For You
A while ago, my gym underwent some major renovations. Parking was difficult, the facility was a mess, things in general were turned upside down. After months, it got to the point that I was thinking of getting a membership somewhere else. It was a decision that I wasn’t taking lightly. You see, I’ve been going to the YMCA for thirty years. It would’ve been very hard for me to switch, and in the end, I didn’t. The Y is my home away from home, my church. So I stuck it out, and all is well now. But I did visit a few other facilities – yes, I had a “gym” affair – and it was an eye-opening experience.
Which brings me to this article. Going from gym to gym made me think about all the things that are important to me in my place of “workout” worship. It made me think about all the things a person who is choosing might want to consider before putting on their running shoes, and handing over their credit card.
So if you are joining a gym for the very first time, or you are in the process of changing locations, you may want to keep a few things in mind…
Consider your priorities. Convenience and location can be very important factors, but they are not always number one. When you are picking a gym, you need to have a reason to get there. Yes, it might be location that draws you in – it’s close and you don’t have to go far – but it could also be the people or services that it offers.
For me, because I work from home, I can sacrifice a little driving time to get to a place that has everything I want and need. The fact that my friends go there is also key. If I didn’t have the time, I might opt for the community centre down the road. It is smaller, and doesn’t have as much stuff, but I would make that compromise. It’s like buying a house. Write down the things that are most important to you, and then find the place that fits best.
Does the place make you feel comfortable? This is probably going to be somewhere you spend quite a bit of time – or at least, some time. If it doesn’t feel good being there, then you just won’t go. It’s about feel. Maybe you like a smaller place. Maybe you like lots of people around. Maybe you like something higher end. For me, I don’t want anything fancy, and I don’t want to feel like I’m going to a spa or a fashion show. I am there to workout and get sweaty. I expect the people around me to do the same. That’s what makes ME feel comfortable. Remember, the idea is to get there.
Try out all the services first. When I was “gym” hopping, I went to numerous clubs in my area, and paid a day fee to go in and try stuff out. I went at the times I would normally go, just to see what it would really be like. I tried to do all the things I would normally do too, and a few things I wouldn’t. I watched or took some classes. I talked to people, usually women in the change room. Not when they were naked mind you, but when people are standing around putting on makeup, it is usually a good time to ask a few questions. You can also talk to the trainers and the front desk staff. Are people friendly? Do they seem knowledgeable? Listen to the conversations going on around you. Do people seem relatively happy? What are some of the things they may be complaining about?
I know for me, there was one gym that I went to – it is all the rage here in town. Everyone who is anyone “supposedly” goes there. When I visited however, there were a few things I just didn’t like. For one, they had carpet everywhere, like under all the cardio machines and everything. For a gym, I think that’s gross. The stretching area was one small room with no windows. It was cramped and depressing. There was nowhere to skip, which was a problem, because I love doing that. In the winter, I need to do it inside. Furthermore, the whole place was so packed with equipment that it bordered on feeling claustrophobic. I knew the very first time, that place was out.
Price. Obviously, price matters. Make sure you are paying for the things you want, and not paying for the things you don’t. Check into what is included and what isn’t. At our YMCA, things like yoga and spinning used to be extra. Now, they are rolled into the basic membership. The little things add up, so pay attention. Sure, the base price may be lower at some places, but add in parking, and all those additional costs, and you might want to consider somewhere else.
Other things to think about…
Do you need childcare? Lots of fitness facilities know that having children can impede one’s desire to get in shape. If childcare is something you need, then be sure to look into it. Most gyms do not offer childcare services all the time. Usually, they have specified hours. Make sure those hours work for you. Also, make sure to visit with your child. Do you like the people working there? Does your child like them? Will you feel safe leaving them there? All these details can mean the difference between you going or you staying at home.
What are the hours? Most places have – in the very least – standard business hours, but you might benefit from somewhere that stays open late, opens really early, or is even 24 hours. Those places do exist, you just have to look around to find them. Remember that key question – what is going to get you there and keep you going?
Do you really need to go to a gym in the first place? Or would you be better off buying some home gym equipment, or getting some workout videos? Gyms don’t work for everyone all the time. Even though I love my gym, there were a few years there when my kids were small, that I didn’t go as much. I walked outside, and rode my bike. There just wasn’t time. Bottom line, be honest with yourself and think about your lifestyle. And know that there are other ways to get fit. I doesn’t have to be within the confines of a building.
At the end of the day, being fit is about moving your body, and you can do that in so many ways. As I told a client of mine once, “If you like to dance, dance. If you like to walk, walk. If you like to jump up and down in your living room like a crazy person, then jump up and down in your living room like a crazy person.” It’s really all up to you.