“20 Stairmasters are great, but if 10 of them are out-of-order and 5 others make a loud squeaky sound the entire time you’re on it – well then you’re down to 5 and a half hour wait for one to be free.”
It’s so ironic to me that I planned to share this post today, and yesterday I discovered that a gym near my home was converted into my ALL-TIME FAVORITE gym chain.
And now I may potentially get a membership again. Because this gym chain rocks. And I can’t help it.
So what makes me feel so devoted to this gym “brand”? Particularly a newly opened location?
Well, it’s a lot of things, but it’s also because I’ve realized what gym criteria are important to me. If you don’t know what you want from a gym and have a lot of options in your area, you’re going to want to nail down those qualifications before you select your choice. Otherwise you’ll become one of the stereotypical “attend for a month and then never go again” people.
And that’s not why you’re considering a gym membership. You’re considering it because you want to get in good shape and want to have a good place to go and do so.
So what should you look for in a gym membership?
I’m going to go over the main categories and throw in some notes along the way to make it individualized to you. Then you’ll have your checklist ready when you start exploring.
What are the necessities a gym must have? These include working equipment, a clean environment, well-maintained locker rooms, and functional restrooms. They seem like a no-brainer, but these are some of the first things you need to make sure your gym has.
I’ve been in a gym before where half the lockers were broken, the equipment was extremely old, and it looked like they needed to do a hard-core cleaning. Needless to say, I didn’t become a member.
Gyms that have all these things don’t have to be expensive. In the past I’ve been a member of a Planet Fitness where I paid $12/month, and the facilities were immaculate. If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on a gym membership, only do so if it at least provides you with the necessary things.
The physical size of the gym is more important than you may think. For instance, the Planet Fitness I attended was in a huge space. I could be exercising on the treadmill and have no one else around me – which I liked. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to have tons of people around as you’re sweating profusely and breathing as though the zombie apocalypse has just begun (get it! by the way), then you’re going to want to opt for a physically larger gym.
That’s not to say it won’t fill up during those busy hours. But it’s much less likely to be overly crowded than a smaller gym.
Besides just physically being big enough, the gym you choose must have enough equipment for your workout. This will look different to everybody. For me, I need to have a treadmill, elliptical, dumbbells, and a mat available to me every time I enter the gym. I’ve done the waiting in line for a treadmill thing – it’s not fun!
Make sure the gym’s equipment is functioning! 20 Stairmasters are great, but if 10 of them are out-of-order and 5 others make a loud squeaky sound the entire time you’re on it – well then you’re down to 5 and a half hour wait for one to be free.
If the equipment looks old and worn down, it probably is. Gym equipment needs to be replaced frequently because of how often it’s used. So if the equipment’s not well-maintained I’d seek out another gym.
Now this may not be important to you, but if you’re a lover of group classes then try to find a gym membership where the classes are included. Then think about what kind of classes are important to you. Do you only want general full-body workouts, or would you be up for some Zumba? Maybe cycling? Yoga? Or my personal favorite: kickboxing?
The last gym I attended had a large variety of classes included, which is ultimately what made the membership such a good deal. My body was continuously challenged from the different workouts, and I never got bored. I loved it. So if classes are something you may be interested in, be sure to scope them out while exploring your gym options.
People to meet
People join gyms all the time for various reasons: getting healthier, losing weight, becoming stronger, getting motivation, a personal trainer, the classes, etc. But joining a gym is also a good way to meet people. And if that’s one of your goals, the best way to do it is through classes or group training sessions at the same time every week. The “misery loves company” phrase applies here – when you’re working your butt off with other people you just can’t help but create a bond. So if you’re looking to meet new people, consider a gym that has some sort of group workout.
Amenities may or may not be important to you too. As society has increasingly realized the importance of health and wellness, gyms have gone into the business of luxury. And I mean more than just having showers for after your workout.
The last gym I went to had a hot tub and sauna in each locker room, two cafes with healthy food made-to-order, a water-slide by the outdoor pool, and a spa complete with massages, haircuts/colors, and manicures and pedicures (to be fair, you had to pay for the food and spa treatments). Not to mention every piece of aerobic equipment had a full TV attached. It was the height of the gym amenities.
I will say this: every time I went to that gym I felt as though I was going to a high-end club. It made me want to spend the entire day there. And quite often I would stay for a long time, with my day looking a little like: kickboxing class in the morning, shower, change, grab a protein smoothie, and sit by the pool reading for an hour. I’m not gonna lie. For a health-nut it was a dream come true.
But do you NEED all of those things? Of course not. So it’s up to you if you’re interested in paying for the extra amenities that some gyms will offer.
Learn about gyms in your area
Once you have your mental checklist, head to the internet. Gym websites often have a lot of information about their facilities and what they offer.
When you’ve picked one or two potential gyms, go tour them! Assess the space and equipment. Do they have the machines you require? Ask questions about the busiest times of the day and what classes are offered when, if applicable.
And don’t let any sales reps pressure you into a gym membership if you don’t immediately feel it’s a good fit. It’s always okay to think on it and come back the next day.
If you do like it and it covers all your gym criteria, go for it! Signing up for a gym membership is exciting and can open a lot of doors for your exercise regimen!
I hope you found this helpful! Especially with the New Year coming up and gyms running specials, I wanted to help anyone who’s feeling ready to tackle their fitness goals.