How to Choose a Gym

Joining a gym is a big decision. With such an assortment of themes, sizes, and amenities, it’s not surprising why the decision becomes complicated. Don’t allow your judgment to be clouded by unnecessary perks or promotions that sound too good to be true. The best facility for you offers the following:

  • The equipment and support needed to achieve your goals
  • Characteristics that motivate you to go
  • Fits within your budget

What Results Do You Want?

Choosing a fully-equipped gym, as opposed to purchasing your own equipment, seems the best choice for most people. The types of equipment and support you need are determined by your fitness level and goal. More seasoned gym goers may also have specific preferences or specialized equipment needs.

The first step in this process is to decide why you are going to the gym. Your choice will depend largely on your training goals, of which there are several types:

Weight Loss

Total caloric expenditure and diet are the most important factors with this goal. Equipment needs vary, but for best results, use a combination of strength training and cardiovascular activity. Things to look for:

  • Cardio options such as treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, rowers, and/or step mills.
  • Strength options like free weights, cables, and/or selectorized weight machines.
  • Class schedules including a mix of cardio and strength options.
  • Nutritional support and guidance in the form of weight loss programs or seminars.

Gain Muscle or Increase Muscle Tone

If you want to gain muscle you have to lift weights — period. Having a more “toned” look to your muscle also requires the addition of strength training to your regimen. The type of weight you lift is a matter of preference or experience. Things to look for:

  • Large selection of dumbbells with at least one duplicate set
  • Several adjustable benches and/or weight benches
  • At least two power or squat racks
  • Pull up and/or chin up bars
  • Various selectorized weight machines
  • Cable stations or machines with variety of accessories

Maintain or Improve Health

Being active is a main ingredient for health. If you don’t have specific body composition changes you would like to see, then look first for activities you enjoy. What exercises do you like to do? What aspects of your fitness would you like to improve? Things to look for:

  • Equipment and/or classes you enjoy.
  • Nutritionist on site — proper nutrition is another big component of health.
  • Seminars or Professionals who specialize on specific components of fitness. Examples include: heart rate training, endurance, strength, or flexibility.

Increase Athletic Performance

Training for the specific demands of your sport both in and off season will drastically affect your performance. A good athletic training facility should have a lot of space! In addition to the tools needed for increased strength or speed, the room to actually move around is essential to your athletic performance. Facilities should offer training specific to age. While some are limited to youth athletes, most will offer programs for athletes of all ages. Things to look for:

  • Private or semi-private classes designed for specific age groups.
  • Sport specific tools. Examples include ropes, sleds, tires, medicine balls, or prowlers.
  • Olympic platforms and bumper plates and/or a selection of free weights and cables.
  • Tracks and/or free space to perform athletic drills.

How Much Support Do You Need?

Your fitness expertise is a consideration when deciding on how much support the facility you choose provides. Regardless of your fitness level, however, there is always value in having someone available to assist, critique, or spot you.

Things to look for are:

  • A personal training staff that is certified and does continuing education.
  • Introductory specials or complimentary personal training sessions included in your membership.
  • Floor trainers available to assist and/or spot.
  • Educational seminars.
  • Affiliations with other local health care providers.

What Are You Looking for in Your Gym?

What motivates you? Joining a gym and wanting to go to the gym are two different things. Now that you’ve established your equipment and support needs, consider the types of things you would prefer your gym to have. Your needs are the foundation of your decision but your preferences help choose the best fit.

The look and feel of a gym will play a major role in the overall experience. Rank the following in order of most to least important:

  • Cleanliness
  • Friendly staff
  • Size
  • Quantity and variety of equipment
  • Number of group fitness studios
  • Designated stretching areas
  • Designated personal training areas

What Amenities Do You Need?

Amenities can make a huge impact on your gym experience, as well. It’s easy to be impressed by all a gym has to offer, but it’s important to evaluate what you really need and further what you will actually use. Here are some common gym amenities:

  • Locker Rooms
  • Showers
  • Steam
  • Sauna
  • Locker rental
  • Laundry service
  • Towel service
  • Café or smoothie bar
  • Wireless internet availability
  • Pro Shop
  • Sport Courts
  • Pools
  • Parking
  • Child care
  • Additional Services

Create a list of what your gym must have, and use that to narrow down potential choices.

Research, Tour, and Workout

Use your list of “must haves” to keep you focused on your gym search. Schedule time to visit each gym and inquire about a free trial. Most gyms offer trials from one day up to a week. You need to experience workout in order to make an informed decision.

Make Sure It’s the Right Fit

The perfect gym isn’t so perfect if it’s too far away or too crowded. Make sure the answers to the following questions are an absolute “yes”:

  • Is the gym a reasonable distance from home or work?
  • Is the equipment I need available during peak times?
  • Am I comfortable with the other members and staff?
  • Is this gym within my budget?

What Can You Afford?

Your gym budget should consider your income in conjunction with the value you place on your health. It’s necessary to choose a gym that fits within your budget, but be careful not to make your decision based on price alone. Your gym membership should reflect the value of the overall experience. You will, more often than not, get what you pay for. Questions to ask yourself:

  • How often will you use the gym? Does the number of times you workout make sense to pay a membership or a guest fee?
  • How far away is the gym? Would a closer option for more money make more sense, or vice versa?
  • Does this gym offer additional benefits like social and/or business networking?
  • Will you be happy here?

Make the Commitment

You’ve done your research and now it’s time to make a commitment. Joining a gym is an excellent step toward a healthier lifestyle. Be confident with your decision and excited about making exercise a priority.

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