Buying a gym membership will be the soundest investment you ever make. Prioritizing your health will pay back dividends greater than any portfolio you own. The benefits are countless, and the return in your personal life will be transformational.
Great. So you made the (right) decision to invest in your health? What’s next?
You want the right gym. Not just any run-of-the-mill sweat box, either. A home: one that’ll give you a community of like-minded people.
Here’s what to look for:
I distilled it into four major categories: Culture, Amenities, Accessibility, and Price.
You can sense the gym environment the minute you walk through the doors. Take a look around. Are people investing in their exercise or haphazardly galavanting around the gym? Is there an air of positivity and growth or more negativity and undertones of judgment? The environment will break you if it’s not the right fit. Establish what kind of people you want to surround yourself with and reverse engineer it to find the appropriate environment. For example, I want to be around enthusiastic lifters who care about their goals and offer impactful assistance to others. I find those people inside performance-based facilities like powerlifting or strength and conditioning gyms.
B. Gym Goers
Piggybacking on the last point, what kind of people does the gym attract? Are they respectful? Do they clean up after themselves? Will they offer you a spot when in need? Immerse yourself in the gym before signing up. Ask about a free trial, so you can get your feet wet. Use that trial period to visualize your place in the gym. Talk to some other members about their experiences so far.
The gym staff is responsible for the organization and operation of the facility. They should be approachable, engaging, and helpful. They should be your concierge service: available to answer any questions or concerns. Connect with the staff right away before joining the gym. Ask for a tour. Air out any apprehensions keeping you from signing up.
Although personal training is an add-on service in most gyms, trainers are still available to you. Quality trainers are knowledgable and service-oriented. They will be open to your questions and form critiques to an extent. Part of their work is maneuvering the floor and engaging members. Certainly to bolster their business but also as a means to support the gym goers in their fitness journey. Don’t be shy, either. If you have a question, approach them for help. And when you’re really in need, I highly recommend paying a personal trainer for their knowledge and expertise.
There is a range of suitable fitness equipment. The average person doesn’t usually care about the brand but the quality and maintenance. That is, will the equipment break down during use? Variables to think about include cleanliness, functionality, and versatility. You don’t want a gym with a lack of equipment or worse: maintenance signs for months on end!
Classes are a cornerstone of any public gym. It’s enticing to members and gives off a premium service tone. Consider the variety of class offerings, instructors, and times. Classes are a great way to introduce you to the gym, meet new members, and build your confidence in a chosen exercise modality. See that they have a service catered to you and instructors keen on accommodating all skill levels.
No need to belabor this point. Are the gym areas clean? Is there work (actively) done on maintaining the facilities? Look no further than the bathrooms and showers to display this.
D. Other Services
Additional service offerings will be subjective to your needs and lifestyle. Pools, saunas, showers, and childcare are common examples. To further qualify your decisions, separate your needs, wants, and nice-to-haves. If you’re on a budget, choose the essential features. As you expand your budget, more services will be available.
To qualify gyms based on size, look at the weight room, cardio section, stretching areas, and locker rooms. Up-scale facilities will have multiple floors with dedicated spaces to free weights, machines, and cardio equipment. Their locker rooms are known to be clean and luxurious. Conversely, smaller facilities may have one area for both weights and cardio. Their locker room is merely a place to lock your gym bag. There are different strokes for different folks.
There are three areas to consider: Gym, Pool (if applicable), and Childcare. Before even entertaining a membership, you’ll need this information. And double-check they have the support staff to keep those amenities open. I can’t tell you how many times a gym lists its hours yet have no working coverage for the shifts. The last thing you need is to take your allotted hour for your workout, and the childcare is closed.
Of course, the price will be the easiest to figure out but the hardest to swallow. Gyms will vary from as little as $10/month to as much as $500/month. Most of the highest value options lean towards the middle of the spectrum. I’ll advise that the lower price point gyms are betting you won’t show up. That is, the price point is so low that most of their members don’t care about the monthly charge.
If you want a community of avid gym goers, you’ll find it at a moderate price. The polarizing sides of the spectrum speak to only a subset of the population. When determining this, consider the best value. What price point can you stomach at the criteria you established at the onset?
Always visit the gym for a tour before signing up. You wouldn’t buy a car without a quick test drive, would you? That way, you can assess the environment and staff simultaneously. You’ll interact with them more than you think, so pay attention to their demeanor.
Before the tour, identify the qualifying characteristics that we discussed above. Turn those into questions for the staff. If you have an educated buying decision, you won’t fall prey to manipulation tactics.
Don’t be afraid to walk away and try a few options. Think of it like speed dating. It’s not perfect, but you can usually identify a formidable match after a few minutes. Once you shorten the list of options, you can give more attention to the ones you like.
Remember: Most gyms offer a free trial to entice you to sign-up. Use it!