It’s that time of year where people are setting goals and trying to figure out the best way to make those goals happen. Health and fitness is most often at the top of many of our lists, and finding the right gym home can make all the difference in your fitness success. So what exactly should you be looking for in a gym?
Size and Comfort.
Give some thought to if you prefer small, intimate settings where there is plenty of space to move around and hear yourself breath or do you not mind a busier, nightclub like environment. Some people prefer bigger gyms full of lots of faces and activity, while others prefer smaller low-traffic gyms. Be sure to know which you prefer when it comes to working out.
What elements do you require for a productive and comfortable workout? Things like towel service, sauna, steam room, hot tub, pools, smoothie bars, stretching areas, locker rooms, showers, childcare, basketball courts, racketball courts, etc., vary from gym to gym.
What is the gym culture like and who works out here? This matters not because you are judgmental but because you want to feel comfortable and relatable to the environment. This could mean working out at a ladies only facility, avoiding body building gyms where loud grunting and heavy weights rule the floor, athletic performance facilities, cross fit gyms, or a mixed environment that is welcoming and ideal for socializing. It can also be uncomfortable to workout at a gym where no body looks like you, that can be age, ethnicity, body size/type, etc. It’s okay to seek out a gym home where you feel like you fit in and can feel comfortable.
Cost is a key factor in most of our purchase decisions, even before we consider value. Membership cost can vary depending on the gym type, location, plan options, term length, etc. Be sure to do a little research on what’s available. Also keep in mind that some gyms are limited to a single location, other big box gyms like LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness offer multiple locations and this too can play a role in the membership cost. Also be sure to notate their cancellation policy!
Working out is hard enough so you want to make sure there are helpful, friendly faces there to answer questions, help you figure out equipment and make the experience better. Get a feel for the staff and see if they are approachable and personable. Even better if the know the names and faces of members!
No one wants to work out in a dirty gym. Being in a clean environment will make the experience (and pain) of working out more pleasurable. Pay attention to if members clean up after themselves or do they just leave equipment out everywhere, do staff routinely come through to clean up, is there a cleaning staff, and what materials are available to gym goers such as wet wipes, hand sanitizer, spray bottles.
Training services and/or offered classes.
If you’re the type of person that benefits from guided workouts then be sure to find out what services the gym offers that meets this need. This could come in the form of classes or personal training services. Many gyms will offer weekly classes that are included in memberships. Be sure to get details on class descriptions, times to make sure it fits your schedule, equipment needed and feedback from other attendees. If you prefer working solo then getting a personal trainer may be a better option. This is most often an additional cost so be sure to look into pricing and finding a knowledgeable (and hopefully certified) trainer that you are comfortable with.
Type and quality of equipment.
You want to ensure the equipment meets the needs of the workouts you plan to do. In addition to the type and quality of equipment, pay attention to if the equipment well maintained. Take note of quantities of smaller equipment pieces such as bands, balls, small dumbbells (3lb-12lb), etc., because there’s nothing worse than going in for a workout only to find broken machines that are out-of-service, the two treadmills have a waiting line or the one pair of 10lb dumbbells are being held up. Also be sure to pop in during your planned workout time to check out the usage and availability of equipment.
You want to pick a gym that is easily accessible. Is it close to work or home and which fits in best with your schedule based on the days you plan to workout. The location of your gym should be convenient to where you live or where you spend the most time. Going to the gym can be hard enough on its own, so the last thing you want is to be discouraged because of the drive length or traffic.
Is the gym open when you need it? Late nights, early morning, lunch time, holidays? Make sure their schedule meets the needs of your schedule. There’s nothing worse than being pumped for a workout, only to find that the gym is closed or you have to rush through your workout before the close.
Music and Lighting.
These things are often not mentioned, but I think that they are important. I’ve found that lighting can be annoying (as well as unflattering) at some gyms, which for some, can affect your morale during a workout. Music, while often catered to the gym demographic, may not always be to your liking, but you still don’t want to be somewhere where the music totally sucks or is so loud that you can’t even drown it out with your own headphones.
Now that you know some of the key things to consider when searching for a gym home, set aside some time to visit your local options before you sign up. The best time to visit is during the time that you anticipate you’d be working out. Why does this matter? Because you want to get a feel for the environment and the experience as it will be when you are there…because no one wants to be somewhere where they feel helpless, uncomfortable and out of place.