If you are thinking of joining a gym, don’t.
I’m not joking.
January is the very worst time to join a gym – it will be crowded, full to bursting with new gym-goers, fresh from making their New Year’s resolutions and you won’t be able to move easily from machine to machine. You might love the atmosphere at the gym by March and might even enjoy going but the crowds in January will put you off like nothing else.
Also, if you think you truly want to join a gym, consider whether you have enough commitment to keep going after January is out. For most people it is a complete waste of money. 80% of the people who join a gym in January never go much beyond February (if they even last that long).
Though you think the pain of paying for something and not using it will make you go – it doesn’t seem to work for most people. The pain of going to the gym seems to be bigger than the pain of paying for it!
If you think you want to become a regular gym goer, think about what a commitment that is. How much time will it take you to get to the gym, get changed, work out and get showered and home again, three or more times a week? What will you NOT do to make time for that? And if you don’t think you will have to give anything up, then think again so that you can be ready for how much time will disappear rather than surprised!
If you still think you want to join a gym, prove to yourself that you are committed to fitness…
Keep up a non-gym exercise routine for two months and then reward yourself with gym membership. You can work out with weights at home (the weights will cost less than a gym membership) and you can run or walk for cardio training.
Better still take up an exercise you will love, something where they won’t be able to keep you away, like dancing or skating or rock climbing – whatever floats your boat.
It’s not that easy choosing a gym.
Even though I don’t go to the gym any more, I was once a member of a great gym which had a spa attached. It was just round the corner from my office – handy for fitting in a session at lunchtime or after work (even before work when I was really keen).
And when you walked through the door you could smell the aromatherapy oils from the spa and feel like you were entering a new world. Solid wood lockers, fluffy towels and a calm atmosphere. A little bit of luxury as a reward for working on YOU.
If that gym had been crowded and chaotic, dirty and unfriendly there’s no way I would have gone so often (if at all). With this gym, I only stopped going because I left work and it was too far to get across town.
So if you want to join a gym, it’s important to make the right choice.
1. Don’t Go Only on Price
Although you have to weigh up the monthly cost against your budget, if you never actually go to a cheap gym because the whole experience is unpleasant, it’s not a bargain offer. Be sure and check the joining fee and additional costs for classes and so on when considering your budget but also think about whether you’ll get value for money by wanting to go there three or more times a week.
2. Make Sure it’s Convenient
Choose a gym which is close to your home or office – that way you’re not going to waste an hour (or spend a small fortune in gas) getting there and back every time you go.
3. Look at the Equipment
Does the gym have plenty of the type of equipment you prefer? Is the equipment clean and well maintained? Is there plenty of space between each machine? (There’s nothing worse than heavy breathing right in your ear from the machine next to you).
Also, are you paying for facilities you will never use? My gym had a great pool which I NEVER used (swimming is not my thing). Others cost more because they have tennis or squash facilities attached – worth it only if you like these sports and will play regularly.
Some facilities such as air-conditioning and water coolers are essential. Others make going to the gym a pleasure (or less of a chore). Can you watch your favorite show while you work out? Check that you are able to choose what you view if the gym offers this and that all TVs are not fixed to a few channels – the ones the instructors like…
4. Consider the Classes
Are fitness classes included in the membership? Does it have a range of classes to suit you? What is the system for booking (and cancelling if you have an ever-changing schedule)? Are they oversubscribed/crowded?
5. Visit at Peak Times
Many gyms which are an oasis of calm during the day get hectic in the peak hours after work. Visit the gym during the times you will use it to get an idea of what YOU will experience as a member.
6. Look at the Opening Hours
Make sure that your gym is open when you want to use it. Some gyms close at weekends. Others may not stay open as late as you need or open early to fit in a session before work (if that’s when you like to work out).
7. Check out the Changing Rooms
Are they clean and well-maintained? Are there enough lockers and showers? Are there facilities for drying hair etc?
8. Ask about the Instructors
Are there plenty of instructors around? Are they qualified? Find out how the gym helps new members get to know the equipment. At my gym every new member had an initial 1-to-1 session with a personal trainer to create a tailored program and teach them how to use the equipment. And a session every month or two to update their program.
9. Consider the Atmosphere
While you’re checking everything out on your visit, you’ll get a feel for whether you’re comfortable in a gym. Are you happy enough with the people, the place, and the atmosphere enough to want to go?
Some gyms are geared more towards bodybuilders, some towards casual exercisers, some towards women. At some you will feel comfortable in your old sweats. At others you have to wear the latest gear to avoid being looked down on. Will you fit in? This is also where small details like flowers in reception, good music or friendly staff can mean a lot in making your visit a pleasure.
10. Do A Trial Run
Never sign up for a long commitment without giving your chosen gym a proper try for at least a day (Buy a day pass if they don’t allow a free trial). Then, if possible, sign up for 1 to 3 months and give the gym a true test. If you are still enjoying your visits after that time you have found a good gym for you.
Try and make your choice without being pushed into anything. I know that many gyms employ pushy sales reps to try and get you to commit before you’re ready and to push you to buy additional services. Forewarned is forearmed.
Here are a couple of articles about this by the Consumerist