People are increasingly conscious about the importance of physical fitness and exercise to not just their physical health but also mental well-being. For many people, the route to this is joining a gym, preferably a local neighbourhood gym. Finding a gym that is compatible with your lifestyle and meets your particular needs may take some effort but it’s worth it. Here are a few things to consider as you shop around for one.
Convenience and accessibility are crucial considerations when it comes to picking a gym. The further away your gym is, the less likely you will find yourself going. If you can’t pick one that is close to your house, it may be a good idea to pick one that’s on your way to work making it convenient and accessible. If the gym has several branches, find one near your home and one near your office, maximizing convenience and accessibility and your chances of consistently using the facilities. The closer the gym is to you, the less you have to work at convincing yourself to go and also eliminating a long commute means you get to spend the majority of the time actually working out. Choose one that’s within walking or biking distance of your location.
2. Gym hours
Another key consideration is the operating hours. A gym that opens late and closes early may not work with your schedule. Determine what your preferred time to work out is and find out if the gym is open then. Find out about holidays and other planned closures. Also, find out what is offered during those hours that the gym is open.
3. Variety of equipment
Inquire about the gym equipment and visit the gym to see the equipment as well. A gym should have dumbbells, weight machines, stretching areas and cardio machines among others. What you want is a wide variety of equipment and enough pieces that people do not have to wait in line to use them. Visit at different hours to see how crowded the gym potentially gets. If a facility has many out of order machines or long waiting times to use gear, consider that a red flag.
4. Training options and quality of staff
People are different and have different working out styles. Some people feed off the energy of group training while others prefer one-on-one sessions. Some people prefer to do their own thing while others prefer having access to a trainer or fitness professional. A gym that offers professional personal trainers at an affordable price is preferable. Working with a personal trainer is one of the best ways to achieve your fitness goals. You want a trainer who can help you plan a path to success and walk you through how to maximize your time at the gym.
Find out which classes are offered from the high energy workouts to the ones that are designed for relaxation and everything in between. Also, find out which classes and services such as personal trainer require extra payment outside of your membership fees. Find out if there are any discounts for booking more sessions or for signing up as a group for a particular class or personal training session.
You also want a gym with friendly, knowledgeable staff who are able to answer your questions or refer you appropriately. You want them to have effective communication channels so that announcements are communicated in a timely fashion.
5. Guest & Membership privileges
Make no assumptions about what is offered as part of your membership package. Some gyms will offer guest privileges as well in the form of guest passes so that you can bring a friend once in a while to work out with. If it’s a chain of gyms, find out if you can use any of their branches.
This is an important consideration because gym memberships and personal trainers are a lot of things but one thing they are not is cheap. Find out if they offer a free or low-cost trial period and if there are any discounts for seniors, students or family plans. Equally key, always ask about cancellation options and conditions before you sign anything. Avoid long term agreements.
Gyms and their salespeople are notorious for getting people to sign on for a year or more which leaves you stuck if you end up not liking it. Salespeople also try to sell add-ons and extras along with the memberships which you should be wary of at least in the beginning until you have been at the gym for a while and know you want to keep the relationship.
7. Population & Member profile
Aside from finding out how crowded the gym gets at different times, do a walkthrough to find out the membership profile of the gym. More gyms these days are catering to only a specific group of people for example women-only gyms. Some women may not feel comfortable being in a gym that has mixed members so if that’s you, that may be something to consider. Objectification of women in the gym and the resultant discomfort is not something to be trivialized. You want a gym where you feel safe, secure and comfortable. This is key.
Such gyms also have specialized programs for that particular demographic which is a plus, for example, workout specifically designed for seniors factoring in their age and bodies.
8. Quality of facility
Overall, you want a gym that is clean with a spacious area to work out in. Look out for signs of poor maintenance and negligence. A good gym should provide clean towels and have working equipment. It should have the highest standards of hygiene so check the showers and locker room areas, the sinks and toilets, etc. You need to be comfortable there because you will be spending a lot of time there. Does it have air conditioning and how is the ventilation? Gyms can get really musty… putting it mildly. Is there a comfortable place to sit and wait, read or eat? Are there lockers and designated places to store your stuff?
Here’s hoping that’s been helpful, happy gym hunting. But before you go to the gym check out Fitness: 7 Things You Should Know Before You Hit The Gym. Here’s a great piece on 7 things to pack in your gym bag. Also Fitness: 8 Dos And Don’ts On Your First Day At The Gym