Last year I joined and left three gyms. Which was disappointing, frustrating and a waste of time. And ended up going back to where I started.
If you’re thinking of joining a new gym you need to keep certain things in mind, it’s not just about how much you’re going to use it – it’s more about the little things that make all the difference between staying and…er….wanting to leave but having impediments placed in your way. I’ve written about this before but as I moved on since that post (don’t ask) I decided a re-write was in order.
If the new gym you find, however attractive it looks, is out of the way either from where you live, where you work or in between don’t bother. You may manage the odd visit at the weekend but you want somewhere you’re going to go to regularly and believe me, if it’s out of the way, you won’t.
2. Opening Hours
Most gyms are open most of the time. Don’t just think about when you’re likely to use yours the most, think about Bank Holidays, early mornings and late evenings when you suddenly feel like going for it. Most people are either a morning or evening workout person but you never know when the urge is going to hit you.
3. Equipment – Is there enough?
Cardio machines, weights, resistance machines, floor workout areas, gym balls, resistance bands, bars, kettlebells, mats, the list goes on and on. What would you like to see there and is there enough? This last is vital – you don’t want to be queuing to use the elliptical at a busy time any more than wait for a space to do floor work. Also TRX and Power Plate – These are less available but forward thinking gyms will probably have them.
4. Changing Rooms – Towels – Lockers
The gym that I go to has a plentiful supply of towels, regularly cleaned showers (and enough of them), enough hair dryers and well lit vanity areas.
The lockers are also full height with hanging space. Having been to several gyms where I couldn’t hang anything and didn’t have enough room to store the ridiculous amount of stuff I take with me I wouldn’t swap these facilities for anything less. You may be rushing in and out of the gym in your gym clothes after a yoga class or you may need to wash and dry your hair, re-do your makeup and change into something completely different. Without decent facilities you don’t have the options.
5. Relaxation area
There’s no coffee machine or cafe at my gym which would be great (are you listening?) but there is a large area for relaxation within the changing rooms with big sofas and chairs. So if you’re waiting for someone and you have half an hour to relax and watch the last episode of Suits on your iPad you can, in comfort.
6. Free Wifi
Most gyms have this now, don’t go to one that doesn’t. I like to do Pilates workouts to a YouTube video in the gym and watch TV shows while incline walking on the treadmill not to mention using email, skype and watching Netflix later. We tend to take wifi for granted. Don’t before you sign up.
7. Friendly Staff
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a fitness center where the staff haven’t been friendly but catch people’s eye and smile when you visit. You want a smile back.
8. Classes and Trainers
Are free classes included in your subscription or will you have to pay extra to join a class. How much do they charge for one on one training. The prices differ considerably from gym to gym so it’s worth getting the facts first.
9. Get a free pass for a week and try before you sign up. Pretty much all fitness centers now offer this. Don’t join a gym that doesn’t. This gives you a chance to really check out all the essentials before you commit.
10. The Contract – How Long do you Have to Commit? Maybe I should have put this first but you need to be aware of everything else you should look for before you join. Read it from start to finish. Most importantly how long does the contract last for, how can you cancel if you want to without losing a fortune – if you move, for example or you’re going to be away for a long period of time. Are they going to be flexible. The best gyms allow you to join month by month, although a longer commitment will frequently be less expensive.
More and more fitness centers are run by bureaucratic people whose only responsibility is to the bottom line. In most respects this makes sense, however flexibility is a strength, not a weakness – no pun intended – and if you want something to be written into your contract they should listen to you. Make sure they do. And when you join is the best time.
Finally if in doubt. Don’t. As always. There are plenty of fitness centers all waiting for you to join.