I’ve been a member of 6 fitness centers and gyms in my life. Moreover, whenever I travel, I scout out a gym or two in the town and do a drop-in. I’m particular about the gyms I attend, even for a single visit. I take my fitness seriously as well as the post-workout spa experience (if available).
However, everyone has their own requirements in a gym. You may not be like me and require a sauna and/or a steam room. Perhaps you use only free weights (whereas I like a mix of free weights and machines).
Maybe you despise cardio equipment outfitted with televisions or at the very least don’t watch the televisions, whereas I prefer cardio equipment with a personal television.
Yes, we all have our preferences. I’ve yet attended the perfect fitness center (although I was a member at one that was almost perfect).
Since not all gyms are ideal for everyone, the following is 5 steps to help you with choosing the right gym for you.
Step 1: What are your preferred fitness activities?
Determine whether you like the best weight lifting equipment? If so, free weights and/or machines?
Maybe you prefer the best cardio equipment outfitted with televisions?
Or, perhaps you join gyms for the free fitness classes? If so, review the class schedule carefully. Do you like racquet sports facilities such as squash courts?
Finally, do you like spa facilities such as a hot tub, sauna, pool and/or steam room? Put together a list of your preferred fitness activities so that you can focus on finding the gym that caters to those activities.
Step 2: Location
How far are you will to drive to attend the ideal fitness center?
Perhaps you work out at lunch and need one minutes away? Or you don’t mind driving 20 minutes to go to a fantastic facility?
I know I’ve driven 25 minutes to attend a super facility with a sauna and steam room. I don’t do this on workdays, but on days off I will (I find driving relaxing so it’s not such a big deal).
Step 3: Big or Small
There’s a trend of small fitness centers cropping up in shopping malls. Usually these cater to women and provide basic circuit training. There are few amenities and the monthly cost is low. Also, many don’t permit men to join.
For me, the larger, the better. I love all the fitness stuff – weights, cardio equipment, squash courts, a pool … you name it, I like using it.
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Step 4: Your Budget
You can spend $15 per month or $100 plus per month. What’s your budget? A budget will dictate the gym you choose to a large extent. Expect to pay at least $50 per month for a full gym facility.
Also consider if you prefer no contract. Many gyms require a contract or will give you a discount if you sign a contract. Be prepared for this and consider whether a contract is right for you. If you sign a contract, be sure you can get out of the contract in the event you move or your doctor states you can’t workout.
One other financial element is an up-front initiation fee. Some places charge this while other places don’t. Usually it’s under $100.
Step 5: Take advantage of trial offers
I’ve yet to find a gym that didn’t offer at least a 1 free day trial. Many offer a free week. These free trials may not be advertised. Therefore, ask. Most gyms will let you try it for free.
When you do your free trial offer, be sure spend a lot of time there and check everything out. Don’t rely on the tour. Go and use the equipment and other facilities. This is important.
Check out cleanliness (especially in the locker room), spaciousness (I don’t like cramped weight lifting quarters where too much is packed into small spaces), friendliness of the staff, ensure the sauna/steam room works (many don’t) and any other features important to you.
Joining a gym can be a great investment in your health. But if you choose the wrong gym for you, it can be a big waste of money. The way I see it is if I go 2 times per week, I’m getting good value for my money.