My friend Kacie is considering a gym membership, so she asked me for some advice on how I chose my gym. When I started thinking about it, I realized how much more goes into choosing a gym than just finding a good deal.
No matter how little you spend per month, it’s a waste of money if you’re not using the membership. Before you sign a contract, spend some time researching, visiting gyms in your area, and asking questions. As you consider your options, keep these things in mind.
How do you like to work out?
When I’m working out, I like to be alone with my thoughts. I read a book while pedaling on a stationary bike or listen to music while running on the treadmill. For some people, nothing sounds more boring, and they’d rather take a fitness class. If you’re looking to tone up and you’ve never lifted weights before, you’ll want beginner weight lifting equipment. If you’re not sure, you’ll want a gym with a mix of cardio and weight lifting equipment as well as a variety of class offerings so you can try it all.
How much instruction do you need?
If you’ve never worked out before, you might want to choose a gym that offers guidance through personal training or fitness classes. My gym offers free orientation sessions where they teach you how to use all of the equipment and help you develop a work out plan that fits your needs. If you’re a beginner, that kind of instruction and guidance may be what you need to get started on the right track and stick to it.
What kind of gym culture do you want?
Make sure you take a tour of the gym you’re considering during the time of day you’re most likely to work out. Pay attention to the people working out and the way you feel around them. You should be comfortable and feel like you fit in the gym. You may feel a little timid if you’re a beginner, but you shouldn’t feel inadequate or uncomfortable.
When I was looking for a gym, I visited two different places. One of them was filled with big muscle men and women. The women looked like they’d put on makeup and did their hair before heading to the gym. I would not have fit in there. My gym caters to people who are trying to lose weight or get in shape, so it’s a much better fit for me.
When do you want to work out?
Be sure that your gym will be open when it’s most convenient for you to work out. If you’re a night owl, a gym that closes early isn’t for you. If you like to get up at the crack of dawn, make sure your gym has early hours. And be sure to ask about weekend hours.
Wait for a deal.
Once you choose your gym, don’t just rush in and sign up for full price. It seems like every other month my gym is covered in signs offering great deals for new members. I paid full price for my membership, and a week later, they started a promotion that waived the $30 application fee. I could have saved $30 just by waiting a few days.
Before you sign up, ask if there are any annual membership drives coming up. Continue working out at home for a few weeks while you watch for deals. You could end up locking in a cheaper monthly price just by taking your time.
Understand your contract.
Just because they’re pushing you to sign a 12-month contract doesn’t mean it’s your only option. Think realistically about your track record. Are you someone who has struggled to stick with exercise in the past? Then a 12-month contract might not be for you. Ask about other options to protect yourself from throwing money every month at a gym you’re not using.