A friend of mine is looking to join a gym and asked me how to choose one. I think that’s actually a great question and she’s probably not the only one who isn’t sure how to go about it. So let me give you some tips here.
First of all, if you are asking yourself this question, then congratulations. It’s a great problem to have! I just spent two months in a little town that had no gym at all. The next gym was over 30 km away over a mountain, so consider yourself lucky if you’ve got options!
I’m going to assume that you live in a city or even town with at least some variety of gyms to choose from, and now I’ll show you how to narrow it down.
First, make sure your gym is either close to work or close to home. If your gym is out of the way and takes more than 10 minutes to get to from your work or your house, I am sure you will find many excuses on many days not to make the trip to the gym in the first place. It’s too cold to go, it’s too hot to go, you don’t have time to go….. I think you get the point.
Obviously choosing the location will depend a lot on when you are actually planning on going to the gym. When I was working in the city and I had long hours at work, it was great to have the gym near the office. This made it possible for me to go to the gym during lunchtime or after work. But maybe you want to work out first thing in the morning and have a shower and breakfast at home before you go to work, so a gym near your house will be more convenient. It’s also better to have a gym near where you live if you’re planning on doing your gym sessions mostly on the weekends and maybe at night, or obviously, if you work from home.
In terms of location you also have to consider how accessible your gym of choice is. For example, I tend not to go in the evenings because it’s so hard to get parking around my gym. The thought that I have to leave 30 minutes earlier just so I make it in time because I have to wait for a parking space for so long turns me off. Another friend of mine actually does find parking in the vicinity of her yoga studio, but basically sprints from the car to the studio because it’s in a dodgy area.
If you use public transport to go to the gym, but the next bus or train stop is a 15 minute walk away, you might find that an obstacle or ready excuse from going to the gym. If for example it’s -10°C on a winter’s night and you want to go work out, but the fact that you have to walk 15 minutes in the freezing cold temperature may keep you away from the gym.
Making sure that your gym’s location works for you is really important so you will actually GO to the gym.
- Try Before You Buy
Second, once you’ve narrowed down a few gyms that are near either your office or your home, make sure you go and see them all on the inside. If the gym offers classes, try one. Most gyms offer free trial sessions anyway. If you are not into group classes or group exercise, then maybe try a session with a personal trainer. That way you will actually use the exercise machines, the shower, the change room and other facilities such as sauna, steam room, toilets et cetera. Working out at the gym will also give you a feeling for the vibe and the energy. You can see the kind of people that are working out there. For this reason it is important to try the gym at a time that you usually would go. At my gym for example, the morning people and vibe is completely different from the evening crowd.
Having said that though, don’t be too intimidated if you feel the gym is crowded with big guys lifting heavy weights. I think I have mentioned before in some previous blogs about joining my gym here, how intimidated I felt the first time I walked in. The thing is, unless you are an experienced exerciser and gym goer already (or just blessed with huge amounts of self confidence), you will probably feel a bit intimidated or uncomfortable anyway. But that should not stop you from going to the gym. Ever. I have said it many times before – nobody cares at the gym what you look like or what you do. Everybody is focused on themselves (and maybe on their reflection in the mirror). Nobody has started going to a gym in perfect shape lifting massive weights. Everybody knows how a Newbie feels. However, I still think it’s important to feel a good energy and a good vibe on the gym floor or studio or whatever it is you’re looking for. As I said, I felt intimidated too when I joined my current fighter gym, but it felt right. Obviously, if you don’t like the equipment, the showers or the personal trainers, then try another gym.
So you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of gyms with the right location and a good vibe, what comes next is the cost of the membership at the gym. For many people this is the first consideration, but as explained above, to give you the best chance of sticking with going to the gym, cost should actually come last.
How much does the gym cost you? Does it offer monthly memberships, three months memberships, annual membership, does it offer discounts at certain times of the year, how much is a personal training session, do you have to pay extra for classes? That brings me to another point about money. Of course there is a limit on what you can afford to spend on a gym membership. However, you also have to consider what you get in return for that money. Maybe it’s a really cheap gym, but that might mean that it’s overcrowded and you have to take classes at inconvenient times because the other ones are full, or the exercise equipment is always busy and you never get to actually use the benchpress for example. It may cost less, but half of the cardio machines are never working or they only have a limited set of dumbbells. Make sure when you look around the gym that you check out how much you are actually getting for the money you pay.
Some gyms are on the upper end of the scale and they give you fresh towels every time you go or they have a jacuzzi or steam room, but if you don’t need it, what’s the point of paying for all that.
When picking a gym, you should also make sure that it offers what you are after. I’m into Muay Thai right now, so for me at the moment it’s very important that the gym offers martial arts classes. If you have an interest in a certain sport, check that the gym caters to that. Maybe you love dancing, ballet, Pilates, cycling or lifting weights? If you don’t know yet what you are into, then pick a gym that offers a wide variety so you can try them all.
I think these are the most important points to consider when you’re looking for a gym. Try and have fun with it! It’s very exciting to look for a new gym! I have moved to different countries many times and I always enjoy looking for a new gym, finding out what is out there and maybe even challenge myself to new things (like Muay Thai this time!). So good luck with your search and let me know if you have found your perfect gym yet!