There are many gyms, and like choosing a hotel or restaurant, the options can be overwhelming. You know you need to make your health a priority, but how do you possibly choose? Joining a friend or family member’s gym may be just the push you need to get started (because we all know it’s a little easier to get your butt there when you’re accountable to someone else), but there are a handful of other important things to keep in mind. Consider this your trusty checklist so you can feel confident and comfortable when you shop for a gym.
1. Is it near your home or office?
Convenience is king. The closer the gym is to where you spend a majority of your time, the more likely you are to add it to your routine. Easily accessible gyms that have ample parking and quick access to get in and out will also speed up the process and inevitability of working out!
2. Is it open when you want to go?
Much like convenience of location, if you can’t access the gym at a time that is conducive to your schedule, it will be hard to stick to a routine. Choose a gym that is open during the days and hours that you might be able to work out.
3. Would you feel comfortable around the people?
Choose a gym that is welcoming and full of people just like you. The last thing you want is a gym full of intimidation, or where you feel unwelcome. Fitness—especially if you are just getting back into it, or starting for the first time—can be a bit scary. Finding people who are on a similar path, with like goals, will help you ease in. Most gyms offer a tour, and some even a free trial membership, so you can explore and make sure you are comfortable before committing.
5. Do you have enough support?
Speaking of people: You’re not just looking at the gym goers. Consider the staff and other resources as well. Is there someone available to answer your questions or is everything a la carte/add-on pricing? Be sure there is someone(s) to assist you—whether it’s helping orient you to the equipment and resources at the facility or building a plan to set you on the right path. Perhaps you’re not new to working out, but need some ideas to push you further or a quick check of form and technique. You’re looking for qualified fitness professionals (trainers should hold a NCCA accredited certification such as ACE, ACSM, NASM or PTA-Global) and a caring support team (front desk, manager, floor staff).
There’s more—hopefully. What online resources does the club have (virtual workout tools, informational blogs, social media)? Are there training programs available for groups, individuals, or small groups? Do they offer free resources such as health screenings, nutrition talks, workout suggestions? These are all great offerings beyond providing gym walls and equipment, and if you take advantage, they’ll help you reach your health and fitness goals even faster!
6. Does it offer the equipment & amenities you want?
If you’re a beginner and unsure what you might use, this may be tough to determine. Be certain the gym has at least one cardio machine you can see yourself using, and hopefully, there is more than one! Then visit during the time of day you’re most likely to work out and see if they’re always in use! There’s nothing worse than wanting to use something and it never being available. Next, check out the strength options. Are you going to be using the free weights or certain machines? Be sure the weight and equipment you’d want is available. Finally, is there a space to stretch or do core work? Mats, foam rollers, balls, and BOSUs are among the equipment you might want to use for this portion of your workout. Beyond the equipment, a quiet place out of the main line of traffic will be useful. For amenities, will you need to go straight to work? If so, how’s the shower situation? Will you need your own towels? Is there space to get dressed? Consider the full picture and everything you might want to do during a visit.
7. Is it clean?
Be sure to visit during high traffic times and see how the gym looks. Cleanliness is important for your health and safety, and also a factor when it comes to the longevity of the club and equipment in general.
8. Does it fit into your budget?
This question often comes up first for new members, but we’ve put it last because like you’ve seen above, there are many variables to consider. Unless you’re severely restricted by a certain budget, consider all the options that will set you up for the best success first. Then look at the cost, and see if it’s realistic for you and your goals. That may mean cutting back on a few mochas or eating out one less time a month, but consider the upside: that’s even better for your health! Of course: Make sure to see if your health insurance offers a discount for regular visits, and ask if there are any other membership discounts that may apply to you, like savings for seniors or the military. It pays to take advantage! Happy shopping.