When you are trying to get healthy and in shape, it makes sense to turn to a gym to help you achieve your goals. How do you find the perfect gym for your needs? I have put together a guide to help you find the right place for you to work out and find support as you move forward in your fitness journey.
1. Explore your employer’s health and fitness program (if they have one) and visit the website for your health insurance provider.
Personally, I was somewhat intimidated when I was choosing a gym, I wasn’t sure where to start and social interactions aren’t easy for me in the first place. Thankfully, there are some great ways to narrow your choices before you even start talking to people, and they may save you money.
Many employers offer health and fitness programs for their workers that often include discounted gym memberships, additional gym benefits, or both. The same goes for most health insurance providers. They will usually have a Health/Fitness section on the website that will detail any plans they provide to give you low cost (or even free) access to gyms along with other benefits and perks. It is well worth it to do some digging and make sure that you are making the most of any plans you belong to.
My health insurance plan, for example, provides a program where I sign up directly with them for a set price per month. This price is right at half the cost of a retail-priced membership at my gym. I pay this to my provider and enroll in their program and then contact the gym I’ve chosen, from their list, and I’m good to go.
By looking into which ones are discounted through your employer or health plan, you will narrow down your list of available gyms right off the bat. Then you are ready for the next step.
2. Define your workout goals.
Are you a cardio fiend? Do you want to focus on strength training and/or weightlifting? Is a group setting the way to keep you motivated? Different gyms specialize in different things. A small, local gym may be an awesome place to get great one on one assistance with weightlifting forms. Several large chains offer lots of space and great cardio equipment. Classes are a part of many gym experiences but depending on the gym, they may come at an additional cost.
For my gym, I was looking for a place with adequate free weights and space to lift, enough treadmills to always be able to get a run in, and a friendly environment. I was lucky to find it fairly close to my house. I pay a little more than I would at a well-known competitor, but the environment and work-out offerings were perfect for me.
3. Do an in-person visit at the time you plan on working out and come prepared.
Completing an on-site visit to a gym you’re interested in is common sense but there are a few things to think about to get the most out of your visit. I recommend going at the time or times you will be working out. How busy is the gym then? Will you be able to have space/equipment to get your workout in?
I also think that it is important to have a list of questions ready for the person giving you the tour. You don’t want to sign a contract and then find out that the yoga class you were really interested in is only offered at times you can’t attend or that the personal training that caught your eye is way out of your budget. If there are things important to you, make sure you write them down and ask about them specifically. You may include questions like what classes are available and when? What is the policy on bringing guests? What are the terms of cancellation? Do you provide towels? Are there locks available for the lockers?
If you know that you will need or want help from staff on form, exercise or nutritional plans, or anything else, it’s important that you know how qualified the staff are. This is a great time to mention any specific health issues that may impact your routines. You should feel comfortable that any advice you are given comes from a competent person who is qualified to dispense such advice. Not all gyms will have this, and that’s fine, but they should disclose that up front.
4. Ask about a trial period or to sit in on a class.
Once you feel comfortable with a gym, you should ask if you could have a trial period, even if it’s just for one workout or to sit in on a class. Actually using the gym and seeing how classes are run could reveal some make or break issues. Most gyms will be happy to accommodate this request. I am wary of gyms that don’t allow this. Making a commitment to a gym is a financial and time investment and they should encourage you to make sure that you are comfortable with it.
5. Don’t neglect to check out the competition.
You are 100% comfortable with the gym, the staff seems amazing, the price and contract limits are good, and your trial workout went smoothly. You should sign up! Right? Not yet. You should still check out the competition, just to ensure that you are committing to something that is the best fit and the best value.
If price is a huge determining factor for you, there is often a big difference in the cost of different gyms. Or, you may find that the competitor has better hours, more equipment, or well-trained staff. I committed to my gym for 2 years with a contract that has an extremely restrictive cancellation clause. I wanted to be 100% sure that I was in the right place, paying the right amount, and would be comfortable for the duration so I definitely called the competitors and got comparison information. Two years is a long time to lock into something!
Thanks For Reading!
If you follow these 5 tips you should be pretty confident that the gym you are choosing fits your needs, budget, and lifestyle. What other tips would you recommend? Let us know on social media if you have any additions to this list.