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After my startling discovery of gaining 15 pounds, I knew I had to do something.  The snow and ice prevented me from going out for much of a run (this is the worst winter I’ve seen in years), so I realized I needed an alternative.

Finding a Gym

Last year I joined a local gym.  Why did I join this particular gym?

  1. It was close to home
  2. It had some of the things I wanted
  3. It was cheap

The only problem with the gym is that I never went.  I went a few times in the beginning but stopped going.  Why did I stop?

  1. It didn’t really have what I wanted (spinning classes)
  2. The décor was dark.  I felt like I was working out in a dungeon
  3. Lack of group classes and camaraderie
  4. Staff help was barely existent.

The one thing I can say about the gym was that the price and the location were right.

Searching for the Right GymGym

Now that I wasted an entire year’s membership and gained 15 pounds, I decided to take this year’s search for a gym more seriously.  You see, years ago I belonged to a gym that I really liked.  I eventually canceled my membership when our financial situation changed (unemployment). I decided to revisit that gym.

When I walked into that gym (really an athletic club), I breathed a sigh and knew that this was the place to join.  Aside from the bright and airy décor, the staff was everywhere.  The atmosphere was conducive to working out.

Self-Evaluation before Choosing a Gym

Before going out to join a gym, do a bit of self-evaluation.  Think about what you want before they tell you what the gym has to offer.  Consider the following:

  1. Your fitness level.  Will you need lots of help and advice from the trainers or are you experienced and can do it on your own.
  2. What type of exercise do you like? Do you like group classes such as yoga, spinning, cardio-boxing and the like or do you prefer to build your own program by using the gym’s exercise equipment and weights?
  3. Amenities: Are things like a pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, tanning room and child care important?
  4. Atmosphere. Do you prefer bright colors, lots of windows and a feeling of openness or do dark colors with neon highlights get you in the mood for working out?
  5. Location and convenience. Decide if you are willing to travel to find the right gym or if convenience to work or home is all that matters. While considering the convenience factor, think about the hours of operation. Is it open early or late enough to accommodate your schedule?
  6. How much does it cost? Gyms are getting smart.  No longer do they only offer long contract plans.  They now offer pay as you go plans where you pay a higher rate but you can cancel at any time.  They also offer the more traditional long-term monthly plans.

What to Look for at The Gym

Once you have a good idea of what you’re looking for (write the important things down), then go out to find your gym.  You may not be able to find one that has everything you want, but you’ll come closer to finding it if you write it down.  It’s awfully easy to get caught up in the hype when the membership coordinator is giving you her spiel.

While you’re there, check out the following:

  • Check for cleanliness in the bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, etc.  Talk to a few of the members to get a few honest opinions.
  • Check to see if the equipment is in full working order or if there are “Out of Order” signs posted on the equipment.
  • Most exercise equipment such as treadmills, stair climbers and stationary bikes come with flat-screen TVs.  Walk around to see if there are any “Out of Order” signs on the TVs too.
  • Look at the ceiling to see if there are leaks, check the floors to see if they’re dirty.
  • Ask about their first aid response routine. Is there trained medical personnel on staff?
  • Ask about the child care staff. Go to the child care area to talk to the staff and see whether the child care area is safe and controlled (rather than unsafe and chaotic).
  • Utilize your other senses.  Take a deep breath.  What does it smell like?  If it has a pool, you might smell chlorine and if the staff has just Gymcleaned, you might smell a hint of bleach, but that’s to be expected.  Sniff for unexpected (non-gym related) smells.  Listen to the gym noises.  Do they allow weight slamming and foul language or do you feel comfortable using the weight room?
  • Some gyms offer a separate weight room for women. If you are a woman and don’t feel comfortable working out in a co-ed weight room, lack of a separate weight room might be a deal breaker for you.
  • Snack bar: Is there a snack bar or vending machine in the event you forgot to bring water or need a quick pick me up?

Gut Feeling about Gym Memberships

My last and most important piece of advice is to follow your gut. If you follow your gut, you’ll probably make your decision within the first 2 minutes of walking into the gym.  The rest of the time is spent either trying to support or dispute your initial reaction.

As for me, my gut told me not to join the first gym.  I didn’t listen and I wasted time and money.  I didn’t enjoy the gym one bit.  Similarly, my gut told me to join the second gym.  Taking the tour through the gym only served to support my initial gut feeling.  Now that I have a brand new membership, it’s time to get in shape.

About the author: Felicia has learned the hard way that health, whether good or bad, is a result of daily choices and habits. On this blog, Felicia shares what she’s learned and the healthier choices she now makes as a result of her new knowledge. She hopes to encourage others to experiment to find alternative solutions to nagging problems (she’s also is a bit of a tree hugger and likes to share ways to lighten the toxic burden on the environment).

in Fitness