If you’re a regular gym goer and you need to choose somewhere new to work out, whether because you’ve moved, or changed jobs, or you’ve just become bored with the gym you’ve been going to for the last few years, then there are essential things you need to consider, whether you’re joining on a daily basis or as a full time member.
1. Location – If it isn’t in a location that is easy to get to, whether by tube, on foot or car (depending on where you live), no matter how much you like the facilities, in the end you’ll tire of the journey and won’t bother. So pick a gym that’s convenient.
2. Opening hours – Will it be open all the year round, early in the morning and late in the evening? Many gyms have restrictive hours. Some even close at the weekend as they’re aimed at business members. Look for one that’s open as much as possible so you can choose when you go. Who knows… you may spring out of bed at 5am and say to yourself ‘what I really feel like is an early workout’. You won’t be happy if your new gym isn’t there ready and waiting for you.
3. Is it clean? – So many overlook this one when taking a peek around at the gym and the locker rooms. Just how clean is it? How often is it cleaned? Are there people on hand all the time? Are there wipes for the equipment and clean towels or do you have to pay for them or worse, take your own? Make sure you have all of the facts before you join. Are there toiletries in the showers and hair dryers? Some prefer to take their own – like me – but they should be available.
Ok so you’ll pay a little more, but if your gym is going to become somewhere you visit regularly you’ll want a clean gym, spotless locker rooms and showers and loads of towels plus hair dryers, shampoo and lotions. After all, if you’re really a gym nut or intend to become one you’ll be spending hours there. And if you want to be able to shower, change, do your hair and go out on a date straight from the gym it needs to be really clean.
4. Equipment – Are the machines and weights etc from some bygone era or are they the very latest. Actually they don’t have to be, professional machines by brands such as LifeFitness and Precor etc last for years. And weights? They don’t go out of date either. But it’s a bonus to find equipment such as TRX (suspension training equipment) and Powerplate (vibration machines which are good for all types of training and wonderful for stretching.
If you don’t see these ask about them, a lot of gyms don’t bother. They’re not essential, but they’re out there, they really work and they show that a gym is forward thinking equipment-wise.
5. Is there a good free weights and stretching area and do they offer enough mats, weights and balls? Many gyms skimp on this and you’ll miss it if it’s not available.
6. Classes and trainers. How many personal trainers do they have (a good indication of how popular the gym is) and what’s the class schedule? If you know you’re going to want to take in a Pilates class each week make sure that’s available. There’s no point in joining if you don’t get everything you want. A popular and busy gym will have lots of both on offer, and regularly update their class schedule. Find out if you have to pay for classes or if they’re included.
7. Free Wi-Fi. We tend to take this one for granted but don’t. Make sure you ask and can be sure that you can keep in touch if you need to while working out, or watch the latest episode of Homeland on your iPad while on the elliptical.
8. Is there somewhere to relax after a workout? Can you get a smoothie, protein shake or a coffee and sit and read the paper or chat to a friend? If you have extra time, this can be an essential extra.
9. Try before you buy. Ask for a guest pass and try out the gym before you commit. You’ll usually be able to get a 7 day pass. Then you can check out the equipment, the other members, the trainers and general staff members. You’re looking for somewhere efficient and friendly. Make sure you’ve found it.
10. Check out the contract. Read the small print. Every single word. Don’t sign up for anything until you’ve done this whatever type of membership you’re going for. And ask for amendments if you need them, don’t sign until you get them. Don’t allow any change to the contract without your prior consent.
If you’re an ‘out of towner’ like me, you want to make sure that you can freeze your membership if you’re away, and not get charged anything other than the smallest amount.
Ask about discounts for new members, don’t hold back on this, most gyms want and need new members but they won’t offer a discount unless you ask. Be firm and be prepared to walk away. You’ll most likely get a call back within a very short space of time from all but the busiest gyms.
Having just joined a new gym here in Dallas – Lifetime Fitness, it’s come home to me just how important all of the above is. Your gym needs to feel like an extension to home if you spend a lot of time there, with great facilities and friendly and helpful people. Otherwise you’ll end up making an expensive commitment you won’t use. So go through the checklist and get it right.