How to choose the right gym

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If you’re going to join a gym, finding the right one can make a big difference in your ultimate success. It has to be a place where you will actually go, so you need to feel comfortable there. One resounding truth about getting in better shape is that if you can find an excuse not to, you’re likely to take the easy way out. Your gym needs to fit your needs.

Location, location, location

If the gym isn’t convenient for you, you simply won’t go as often as you need to—and you may eventually stop going at all. Convenience has a lot to do with where you will be traveling from when you go to work out.

  • Will it be from home, from work, or maybe from someplace you’re often at, such as your child’s school?

Finding a gym near this destination will make it easier to go. Your workplace might have a gym that would be convenient for you (and maybe even free or available at a reduced rate). If a gym that’s part of a chain is near you, it will offer access to all its other locations—even the ones in other parts of town, which can make working out even more convenient.

Take it for a test-drive

It’s very important to visit a gym you’re thinking of joining before you make a commitment. Every gym, even the chain ones, has a different feel or personality, and you can sense this by visiting. Once you find a place that might work for you, give it a trial run. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free pass. Many gyms will give you one if they know you are interested in joining and not just seeking a free workout.

During your visit

Look at the age range and gender of the folks who are working out there.

  • Is it primarily bodybuilders, moms with kids, older adults, or a good mix of everybody?

You need to feel that you will be comfortable in whatever mix of patrons the gym has.

Check out how crowded the gym is by visiting at a time you’re most likely to be there. You don’t want to be constantly waiting for the piece of equipment or find yourself closed out of an exercise class. A gym looks very different at ten in the morning versus six in the evening.  Make sure the gym’s hours suit your needs. This is especially important if you plan to work out in the early morning or late at night.

Many, but not all, gyms are now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some also offer child care while you work out—be sure to check out the available hours and space if you plan to use this.

Also check out the staff and facilities.

  • Are the people who work there friendly and helpful?
  • Is the facility clean and well-maintained?

The locker rooms should be clean, and the equipment should be in good working order. Check to see if the machines are sturdy and move smoothly, without excessive noise. You don’t want to see any frayed cables or rusty dumbbells.

You also need to see if the gym has a good range of high-quality equipment that’s appropriate for the workouts you’re planning. In addition to cardio equipment, free weights, and weight machines, does the gym offer any classes, such as aerobics, spinning, or yoga? You might be interested in water exercises or racquetball. Does the gym have a well-maintained pool? What are the racquetball courts like?

You don’t need to join the first gym you see

If you decide to join the gym, don’t feel pressured into signing anything. Find out how long the contract is for and if it renews automatically. This could mean you get renewed even if you don’t want to. Find out if classes are extra and try to get a month-to-month, pay-as-you-go plan if possible. The fees and the length of the contract are negotiable, particularly upfront fees. Find out about the cancellation process if your situation changes. This will protect you from any surprises later on.

All in all, signing up should be a painless process. If it isn’t, you should probably look somewhere else. The cost of gym membership will depend on where you live and how fancy you want your gym to be, but around $30 – $60 a month would be reasonable.

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