Gym Selection 101: Picking What’s Right For You

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Free-Weights

Picking a gym is a big decision.

You’ll be spending a lot of time there (hopefully), commuting there, and regularly interacting with staff and other gym members.

Your gym can be an important part of your life, and if you don’t find one that fits your needs, you could end up paying for something that you never use and feel like you’ve made a huge mistake.

Now remember, you don’t necessarily NEED a gym to strength train or to get in shape. However, if you want to focus on barbell training and don’t have the space (or resources) to build your own gym, a gym membership ends up being the best option.

Figure out exactly what you want.

Picking a gym isn’t as easy as running to the closest gym and signing up. There are a lot of things you need to take into consideration

The first thing you should do is make a list of what you’re looking for. Be sure to make the distinction on your list between: “must haves” and “would be nice to haves.”

Let’s cover some of the basic things to look for:

  • Equipment: Before you commit, you need to check out the weight room to see if it meets your standards. If the gym you’re shopping doesn’t have your favorite ab machine, it may be time to head back to the drawing board.
  • Classes: Some gyms offer classes that are free to their members, which can be anything from yoga, some sort of dance fitness, to kickboxing.If classes are something you’ll be interested in, check out which classes are available for free, and be sure to factor this into your price considerations later.
  • Ammenities:  Some gyms offer awesome amenities which you can’t get by working out at home. Have kids? Some offer childcare so you can get a distraction free workout. Are you female and nervous about working out around guys? Some gyms offer women’s only areas! Short on time? Some gyms will even let you drop off your dry cleaning.
  • Training/Coaching: A lot of gyms have training packages or coaches available to help you out with form and help you develop a workout plan. If you’re looking for personalized attention when getting started, be sure to check out what coaches are available.
  • Rules: It may be one of your “must haves” to be able to bring your kids with you to the gym, or if you aren’t a fan of children (it’s okay, not everyone is), you may prefer that kids are not allowed entirely. Also check into minor stipulations, like “no muscle shirts,” or “no dead lifting.” Although rules like that may seem trivial, they can be deal breakers for some.

Think about your budget.

Gym memberships can range anywhere from $9 a month to $365 a month. A typical gym membership costs between $30 and $50, but it really depends on where you live and the amenities offered. When looking at cost, remember that you get what you pay for. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go for the highest cost gym.

Now remember, it costs you money to drive/metro/bus to the gym. If you have a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, you go to the gym 4 times a week, and the gym is 5 miles out of the way, you’ll end up spending an over $20 a month in gas just getting to the gym. So while a gym further away may seem cheaper, it may not actually be in the long run.

Research location and hours.

Consider options close to both home and work/school. While a gym membership close to work could be convenient, if you work an hour away from home, you definitely won’t be working out on the weekends.

If you’re planning on working out near the end of business, check to see if they have a “last person admitted” time. Some gyms, while they close at 11pm, won’t let you start working out after 10:15 or 10:30. If you’re a night owl, or work really odd hours, look into gyms that are open 24/7.

If you can, try to look for a gym that’s on your way to and home from work. That way, not only are you forced to drive by it twice a day, but you’re not spending any extra money on gas to get there.

Take it for a Test-Drive.

So now you’ve figured out what type of gym you want to join, made your list of everything you need, and you’ve even found gyms in the right location.

Before you sign up for a gym, ask for a guest pass. Some gyms give out free passes for a week or two, some you have to pay for (e.g. $20 for 20 days). Even if you have to pay for it, it’s totally worth it.

Make sure you go at the time of day that you’re planning on going regularly.  There’s nothing worse than finding a perfect gym, signing a big contract, and then discovering that the gym is so swamped with people after your work day that you can’t even get to the equipment you’d like to use.

It’s also never a bad idea to talk to the other members and ask them what they like and dislike about the gym.  You can also read reviews online on sites like Yelp or Google, but remember that people are more likely to complain than compliment, so take all online reviews with a grain of salt.

Happy hunting!