The reasons people sign up vary greatly. Some are looking for specific workout equipment, some like the camaraderie of a gym, others are looking for ways to stay motivated. Regardless of your reason for being there, finding the right gym for you can be a daunting task.
Before deciding which gym to join, you will need to do some research on gyms in your area. Make sure to read company reviews and ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers for their recommendations. Once you decide on a few to check out, call to make an appointment for a tour and then visit in person.
When there, here are our top 15 things to look for when choosing a gym that’s right for you.
#1 – What’s the Cost of Gym Membership?
Membership cost can vary greatly from gym to gym. From low-cost, no-frills gyms to gyms that rival some of the poshest spas, there’s a huge difference in price points. Always keep your budget in mind, when choosing.
One thing to look for is a seasonal discount. Many gyms offer discounted rates during popular seasons. ALWAYS ask if there’s any current discounts.
Be sure to find out if there are any additional costs, beyond the standard membership. For instance, is there a locker rental fee or do some services, like tennis courts or group classes, cost extra? Is there a sign up fee?
#2 – Avoid Long Term Contracts
Be careful of long-term contracts and request all agreements in writing. Many gyms try to pressure people into signing up for 1- to 3-year contracts up front, and do not explain the contract locks you in to paying even if you’re no longer attending the gym.
According to the Better Business Bureau in the public gym category, contracts were the number one source of complaints in 2008. Make sure to inspect your contracts and statements for discrepancies or extra charges you did not agree to.
Specifically ask what the cancellation procedure is and find out if they offer the ability to pause your membership for times, like extended vacations, when you won’t be using the gym. For instance, I pause my gym membership for the summer months, when I can exercise outside regularly.
#3 – How Convenient is the Gym Location?
Most people choose a gym close to their home or work. Be sure your gym is in a convenient location. If it’s too far away, you will end up using that as an excuse not to go!
#4 – How Busy is the Gym?
Plan your visit during the hours you will be working out to determine how busy the gym really is at that time. Look at the equipment and/or classes you’re most interested in – is there availability? Waiting a half-hour for a treadmill or not being able to get in to a spin class can be very frustrating.
#5 – How Clean is the Gym?
Just like walking into your home, the gym should feel comfortable and inviting. How clean does everything look and smell? Are people wiping down the equipment after use? Typically, a towel and spray bottle are available to clean equipment after use. Many gyms have rules that cover this, but many do not enforce it.
Besides being gross, an unclean gym can be unhealthy. From the spread of the flu virus to athlete’s foot – you want a gym that makes cleanliness priority one! Be sure to check the locker room too. Look in the showers. Is there mildew and/or hair? Are the bathroom stalls clean? If there’s a pool, is the water clear?
#6 – Are There Stretching Areas?
Although stretching is one of the most important aspects of a workout, many gyms do not have a dedicated place to do so. Make sure there is enough room to stretch comfortably if the place is packed.
#7 – What Weight Machines and/or Free Weights Do They Offer?
If you are going to be using weight machines and/or free weight, check which machines and/or weights the gym offers. Are they clean? Are they in good working order? Are there enough of them that you won’t be waiting forever?
#8 – What Cardio Machines Do They Offer?
Similarly to #7, look at the type of cardio machines the gym offers, if they are clean, working well, and are plentiful enough for the time of day you’ll be working out.
#9 – What Specialized Programs Does the Gym Offer?
Group classes can be a great motivator for improving your fitness. Look at the gym’s class offerings. Do they look like classes you’d be interested in? More importantly, are there classes that are interesting to you, at the time you’d like to work out?
#10 – Are There Any Gym Membership Privileges?
If you travel often, some programs allow you to use sister gyms at no extra cost, or have locations in an area you will be travelling. Some offer discounts to spa services at partnered spas. Discounted personal training, nutritional classes, competitions, etc. are all possible privileges that can make one gym stand out from another.
#11 – How Comfortable Are You at the Gym?
If while walking around, you feel uncomfortable than chances are it’s not a place you are going to make the effort to come to regularly. It’s OK if you don’t feel welcome. Keep looking around – you WILL find one that’s the right fit for you!
#12 – Does the Gym Offer Accessibility?
If you have any sort of special needs, make sure the gym is completely accessible to you.
#13 – Is the Gym Maintained Well?
You’ve looked at the equipment, now look at the gym overall. Is it being well-maintained? Do all the showers work? Is the outside well-kept? Etc. A gym that takes care of its building is more likely to continue to take care of its equipment.
#14 – What are Their Hours of Operation?
Some gyms stay open 24 hours; others have specific hours of operation. Make sure the gyms you are considering are open during the hours (and days) you plan on working out.
#15 – What is the Parking Lot Like?
If you are driving, you will want to make sure there is plenty of parking available during the time you’ll be going. Also, for the safety of you and your vehicle, check that the parking lot is well-lit, if you’ll be going at night.
#16 – BONUS TIP – FREE TRIAL
ALWAYS ask for a free trial membership. Most gyms allow a new potential member a 1- or 2-week trial. This gives you the opportunity to really see if the gym is the right one for you.
So, tell us what do you think? If you have a gym membership, what factors did you consider? Are you happy with your choice?