Enter through the front doors of a gym for the first time and re-experience a mental montage of high school anxiety: Will you like it here? Will you fit in? What clique will you identify with -- the meatheads or maybe the treadmill walkers (who, somehow, manage to simultaneously read the paper)?
Picking a gym isn’t an easy feat. Actually, it’s somewhat like scoping out a potential mate. Start by evaluating its appearance and assets. (Attraction is key, no matter what they say.) Move on to the cleanliness of the restrooms, showers and equipment. If you’re an elliptical type of gal or a treadmill type of guy, then check out the inventory to see if the gym offers enough of the machinery.
In other words: do you find yourself compatible with this gym? Do you foresee a reliable future with this gym?
Another factor to take into account while selecting a gym: the availability of classes. Gyms with regular, free classes are going to up the membership fee. But make sure that you check to see if class fees are applicable because not all may be free. Some gyms, such as Bally Total Fitness, might charge members session fees for classes like zumba.
If you’re the lone wolf type of gym-goer, then you won’t have to worry about things like guest passes. However, if you’re the type who enjoys the companionship of your buddy (who just so happens to be a nonmember of a gym) at, say, the racquetball courts, then ask management about the cost of guest passes. Planet Fitness, for instance, doesn’t allow its basic members to bring in guests unless you shell out $20 for a day pass. Instead, only black card members (who obviously pay a higher monthly membership fee) are allowed to bring in guests at no charge.
Ask management if they welcome the addition of children before you bring them along with you to the gym. Are there day care facilities or other supervised areas where kids can safely play? Make sure your children will be within sight and, as a necessary precaution, that the play areas are away from exits.
The hours of operation is another important facet as well. If you’re inclined to frequent a gym during peak hours -- like the mornings and evenings, before and after an eight-hour work day -- then stop by the gym at those times to gain an understanding of what the crowd’s like. Long lines for machines and treadmills aren’t necessarily going to be a motivator for even the most intense of gym addicts. Randomly drop by on the weekends, too, to see the crowds in full force.
If you’re still not sure where to look for a gym, just start by asking around. Check with friends, family members or maybe coworkers. And if that doesn’t work, then don’t be shy about searching for gyms online, either. (Come on, everyone’s doing it -- it’s the online era.) Sites like gympost.com are helpful gym locators that offer the addresses and phone numbers of gyms, should you want to stop by or call for information, as well as ratings.
Most importantly, don’t forget to read the fine print in the gym membership contract. Specifically, check for any red flags like hidden costs and fees should you opt to break your contract. Will you have to send a certified letter to corporate headquarters to cancel your membership? Or, will you have to pay the equivalent of your retirement fund should you want to swap locales?
Sure, there’s much to consider while contemplating the possibility of jumping into a relationship with a gym, but it’s important to feel comfortable and happy before signing a contract. So do a little investigating and background checking. Then, go ahead and open yourself up to a healthier you.