Choosing a Gym – Important Considerations
It is the turn of a new year, when many individuals take a renewed interest in their health and wellness. Gym memberships typically skyrocket in the first few months of the year as individuals attempt to shake off the lethargy provoked by holiday overindulgence. Not every gym is the same, however, and selecting one that is a good match is essential to sustaining the motivation necessary to follow through on a fitness plan. The following are some important things to consider for those thinking about celebrating the New Year with a gym or health club membership.
Convenient location is one of the most important considerations when choosing a facility. Joining a gym that is out of the way makes it much easier to skip a workout; and skipping workouts can all too easily turn into a habit. Find a club that is close to work or home so there will be less temptation to back out of regular visits.
Gym membership costs can vary greatly depending on the size of the establishment, the plans they offer, extra services, classes, and level of exclusivity. Membership plans vary, as well. Many gyms require members to sign a contract, which dictates a minimum length of time that one must pay monthly dues before the contract can be voided. Other gyms offer no-contract plans, in which members pay month to month as long as they wish with no minimum commitment and the freedom to cancel membership at any time. Fees can quickly add to the cost of membership, so be sure to research additional charges for things like enrollment fees, personal training, or childcare. Inquire about special promotions or discounts that are often extended to students, seniors, and families.
There are many different kinds of individuals who partake in exercise, and different gyms cater to just about all of them: young or old, beginners or veterans, all-female gyms, express workout centers, full service health clubs, bodybuilding warehouses, mixed gyms, and so on. Choosing a gym in which the average clientele does not share one’s attitudes or fitness goals is a great way to sabotage an exercise plan. Visit several local gyms to get a sense of the kind of individual who works out there; pass on any place that feels uncomfortable or intimidating.
Many health clubs now offer a variety of extra services such as tanning, childcare, personal training sessions, massage, nutrition counseling, fitness classes, and other amenities. Consider the importance of any of these additional services, and be sure to find out if they are included in the price of membership or at an added cost.
Joining a gym that is closed when one needs it to be open does not make much sense. Look for clubs that are open at convenient times – early in the morning, during lunch hour, late at night, on weekends or holidays. This ensures one gets the most use out of membership and makes it less likely to fall off the wagon because of scheduling conflicts.24-hour gyms are an increasingly popular segment of the market and while these may be suitable for a wide range of individuals, there are special considerations that should be taken into account before one signs a contract.
Learn about staffed and non-staffed hours. Some services or amenities may not be available during times when staff members are not on-site, which could impact one’s workout. Be sure the gym has adequate security measures for times when staffers are not present. Ample lighting in parking lots and facility exteriors, digital key entry, alarm systems, and direct links to emergency services are all valuable safety features.
Personal Fitness Goals
The results one hopes to gain by embarking on a fitness plan may play a crucial role in the selection process. Those looking to improve cardiovascular health should look for a variety of treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, stair-steppers, and rowing machines; those who want to build muscle or increase strength will need free weights and resistance training machines. Those who need the added motivation of working out with others should seek out gyms that offer a selection of group classes like yoga, aerobics, or kickboxing. The type of equipment and services provided should compliment one’s personal fitness goals.
With so many individuals moving, sweating, and touching equipment in such close proximity, cleanliness is important in preventing illness and injury. Gyms should be visibly clean – fresh towels and spray solution readily available for wiping down equipment after each use, clear pathways between machines, floors free from debris, sanitary locker rooms and shower areas. Check that machines and equipment are in good repair (numerous “Out of Order” signs should send up red flags). Soft surfaces should be free of holes and tears, grip bars should not be overly worn or cracked, technology like radios and televisions should work. A clean, well-kept gym is a good indication that the staff and service are up to standards.
Most gyms have a very distinct personality. Everything from lighting to the volume of the music played over the public address system can give insight into a club’s atmosphere. Typically, the best indicator of ambiance is the type of equipment the gym has in abundance. Gyms with a large free weight area and few cardio machines generally attract more males, extreme fitness buffs, and hardcore weight lifters; clubs with lots of cardio equipment and a host of trendy classes usually draw a younger female crowd. Depending on one’s personal fitness goals and comfort level, these factors can have a significant impact on one’s decision.
This is a particularly important consideration for beginners. Finding oneself locked into a year-long contract at a facility that is a poor fit, or paying monthly dues to a club even after one has moved away are not attractive possibilities. Even some month-to-month gyms have special stipulations for members who wish to cancel. Be fully educated on a club’s cancellation policy before signing a contract or it could result in a considerable financial loss.