How does one get into better shape? Do you have to join a gym? The answer is no. Some people can successfully exercise and motivate themselves. But, if you’re like most Americans, you’ll be one of 8 to 9 out of 10 who buy home exercise equipment who lack the motivation and knowledge to reach their goals and give up out of frustration. Motivation and knowledge are the two biggest factors in determining one’s success and are also the two biggest reasons to join a gym.
Nothing can motivate you like a gym with a high-energy atmosphere. You get off work, you’re beat, and the last thing you want to do is workout. However, when you walk through the door of your gym, the music is pumping. Christy, who is usually at the front desk in the evening, greets you at the door by name with a big smile. You make your way to the locker room stopping briefly to say hi to some guys who you’ve gotten to know while working out over the last few weeks. Once you’re dressed you make your way over to the treadmill to warm up. You can feel yourself getting motivated and ready to get one step closer to your goals. While you’re working out a staff member notices you’re doing triceps pushdowns incorrectly and shows you a few adjustments to get the most out of the exercise. On your way out of the gym, after a great workout, Christy says, “have a great evening.”
What do you think would happen if you worked out at home? You get off work, you’re beat, and you pull into the driveway, get out of your car, and open the door to a quiet home. You put some comfortable close on, grab something to eat and sit on the couch to watch some news. The next thing you know you wake up with the TV clicker in your hand and it's time to go to bed. And this example doesn’t take having kids into account.
So how do you choose the gym that’s right for you? First and for most, never join on the first day. Let the staff know before the tour begins, you are not joining today and will not tolerate any high-pressure sales. If a gym you visit uses high-pressure tactics, you can count on the fact they are not a service-orientated center. A gym that offers impeccable service does not have to resort to vacuum cleaner type sales.
When you walk into a gym, look for a good impression. One of the staff should come out from behind the front desk and greet you with a smile. You should feel welcome upon arrival. If you walk into a club that’s playing inappropriate music that’s too loud, and a 250lb guy with a bad tan wearing a string tank top greets you by saying “what’s up?”, unless you’re dysfunctional, this is not the place for you. Hell, I’m as hardcore as they come, and that’s not a place for me. And depending on what you expect in a club may be the difference between taking a tour and not taking a tour.
If you decide to take a tour offered by a staff member, you should pay attention to a few things. What’s the overall "vibe" like? Is it more like a nightclub or more of an adult high-energy club? Pay attention to the type of clientele that is present. Is the gym predominantly female, male, or are there some hardcore lifters? Although their looks alone can be intimidating, hardcore lifters can be a big asset to a properly run gym. Many of them will be glad to give you a spot or give you some advice when asked. If the management does their job, inconsiderate individuals with bad attitudes will not be welcome
As you walk through take an inventory of the equipment. Is there a selection of cardio equipment? What about selectorized equipment, which has a weight stack attached to it. You can change the amount of weight on this type of equipment simply by moving a pin. There should be enough pieces of selectorized equipment to work every body part. How does the equipment look? Does the padding look good, or is it torn and repaired with duct tape? Make sure everything looks maintained and clean.
Are there any pieces of equipment that have a sign saying “out of order” on them? Ask the person giving you the tour how long they been out of order. If he says a month, this is not a well-maintained facility. A gym that has machines out of order for an extended period either has an owner who doesn’t care, or is in financial difficulty.
How does the free weight area look? Are the weights and bars put away if not in use? Does the floor look dusty and dirty, or does it look like it gets cleaned daily? Is there enough space to freely walk around the equipment and the workout areas?
Venture into the locker room and bathrooms while on your tour. Poorly maintained showers, toilets, and sinks are dead giveaways for sub-par management. If the restrooms look gross, you may want to go elsewhere. A lack of cleanliness is not a financial issue; it's pure laziness.
Once the tour has ended, inquire about a trial membership, which includes a free orientation to get you started on a simple program if needed. If a club does not offer a trial membership, or it only offers a day pass, you might want to think twice about spending your money there. A gym that is confident in what they have to offer will have at least a “seven-day” trial membership. Some facilities even offer a “thirty-day” trial membership. A gym that offers trial memberships is very confident with its staff and the services they offer. They feel if they can get you to experience their club, you’ll be impressed and feel comfortable enough to purchase a membership.
A trial membership is a good way to see first hand what the club is like and what it has to offer. You’ll be able to go at different times to see if it’s ever too crowded. Does the club smell? Is it always clean and maintained at varying times on different days? Trial memberships are also an excellent way to see how the staff operates. Pay attention to the staff from the moment you enter the club to the moment you leave. During a trial membership is the best way to see if a particular gym is a place you want to be.
When visiting the gyms in your area, take the list below to each one you visit. Keep in mind; different gyms offer various services. You need to visit all the facilities within a 10 – 20-minute drive from home or work. Once you compile a list for each center, you now can make an accurate comparison between them. Visiting different facilities will also help you to find what aspects of a gym are most important to you. Below you’ll find a list of things a gym may have:
Close to home or work
The right atmosphere, e.g., high energy adult, hardcore powerlifting, rec center.
Music (type and volume)
Friendly helpful staff that’s appropriately dressed
Well maintained locker and shower areas
Orientation for new members (free training sessions)
Good selection of equipment (free weight, selectorized, cardio)
Adequate amount of equipment during busy hours
Well maintained equipment
Shake & coffee bar
Age limits (are kids or teens allowed)
Child care, free or fee
Free trial membership
Policies and procedures in writing
Enrollment fee (affordable, expensive, none)
Hard-core sales tactics (yes, no)
The following are non-essential to a well run facility, and should not make or break your decision. Like <95% of gym members, you probably won’t use them. Consider them icing on the cake.
Now that you’ve made an inventory of what each gym offers, you need to decide which gym satisfies your needs the most. Just remember it’s not the size of the facility. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Many smaller gyms may not offer as much as a larger gym, but they can specialize and do it better than anyone in the area. Do not price shop if you don’t need to. A gym that offers impeccable service is not going to be the cheapest. How can you have the best facility, the best staff, the best equipment, and be the cheapest in town? It doesn’t work that way.
With the information provided in this article, you’ll be armed with knowledge, and knowledge is power. If you still feel intimidated when visiting the facilities in your area, don’t fret, it's a normal response to going into any new situation. At least you can rest assured you’ll know what to look for in a facility. And once you choose the Gym that’s right for you, in a short period you’ll feel like one of the family.