7 Tips to Help You Find the Best Gym
Most people in America are very much out of shape. It doesn’t require a university-backed study to see that this is true. All you need to do is look around. The majority of people are overweight and those who are lacking muscle to such a degree that their frame sags and they can hardly be labeled “healthy.” Physicians and nutritional experts are in agreement that the basic solution to this epidemic is for people simply to rework their typically unhealthy diet and get more exercise. This is, of course, easier said than done.
Where exercise is concerned, there are issues with establishing a consistent workout routine right out of the gate. Should you buy some equipment and work out at home or go to a gym? Most will choose to go with one fitness club or another because of the steep expense associated with buying weights and other equipment to get a proper home gym setup established.
Once the decision to sign up for a gym membership has been made, the problem doesn’t go away, it just changes form. What type of gym? Is one gym significantly better than another? Are the benefits associated with having a trainer mean you need to pick a gym that offer personal training services? How close does the gym need to be? What is a fair price for the various levels of amenities that different gyms offer? All these questions and more can make a seemingly simple decision infinitely more complicated. Here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction in selecting the right gym for you:
Location, Location, Location – the single most important factor in selecting a gym is where it is located. Many people fall off the fitness wagon because they decided to go with a slick looking gym staffed with very influential sales people only to find out that the distance between either their home or office and the gym was just too great to consistently make the trip. Getting your gym bag together and making the trip can be a mental challenge in and of itself when you are feeling tired and wore down (which is pretty much how everyone feels in their first six weeks of a new workout regimen) and the first five or six trips, once looked at with excited anticipation, become a dreary, grueling death march in one’s the mind. The result is that people simply drop out. Of course, they are still locked into a contract so they keep paying for a service they don’t use. It’s because of this reason that it’s best to go with a gym that is within 10 minutes of your home or place of employment, even if that means going with a gym that isn’t as flashy and may not put in new equipment ever 36 months. Be sure to actually make the drive too. How many times do we think a trip will be 5 or 10 minutes, but due to a larger volume of traffic than we remembered or the presence of multiple traffic lights, the actual journey ends up being 20 minutes or more?
Parking – it is amazing to me that something as seemingly insignificant as parking can be such a contentious issue. Most likely, if you look for reviews on the gym you are thinking about joining, you’ll find one of two themes being put forth. Either people are complaining about the gym’s lack of adequate parking (especially during peak hours) or they are praising the fact that the gym has great parking compared to their “last” gym which did not. Whichever way you want to look at it, parking continues to be the single greatest factor in whether or not people actually enjoy going to their gym. The amount of parking may not play a significant role in whether or not someone shows up consistently enough to put in the hours needed to change their body and increase overall health, but it is a major determinant factor in overall gym satisfaction. Pay particular attention to the availability of parking when you stop by the club for a tour. The staff probably won’t bring it up.
You Get What You Pay For – in general, price is going to be the single biggest factor in most people’s minds when they look for a gym. The decision to bring the body in line with the mental image we all have of ourselves often comes as a type of interruption and the goal is to spend the least amount of money to solve this apparent “problem”. This is the wrong attitude to take. The old adage still rings true. You get what you pay for. Large gyms with large parking lots, fancy exteriors and landscaping, modern construction and premium appointed locker rooms all provided at very low prices should cause anyone to raise an eyebrow. How are they paying for that place and paying the staff at such a low price point? They’re selling tons of memberships, that’s how. These types of operations, no matter how large the facility, do everything they can to sign up as many people as possible with the assumption that nobody will ever show up to work out. This is not the case, of course, as a lot of people DO make the trip every day and thus these places become overcrowded at peek periods such as in the early evening or around lunch time. It is important to take a tour of the facility at the time when you think you will most likely be working out during the week so that you can see if the gym is overly crowded or not and you’ll have a better idea of what type of experience you’ll receive in exchange for your money.
Child Watch – if you have one or more children, the focus of which gym you should sign up for switches from location to whether or not the club has a child watch facility. We all have the best intentions when getting into a workout program and we believe that we can swap turns watching kids with our spouse so that both parents can get to the gym each day, but it pretty much never happens that way. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking you’ll be the exception to this rule. Life gets in the way and one partner or the other is not able to watch the little ones and the entire plan gets derailed. Super-gyms such as LA Fitness have a child watch facility on-site means that both parents can consistently go to the gym at the same time. The fact that the children see their parents backing up their words hailing diet and exercise as key to good health by modeling a pattern of life that makes fitness a priority is a benefit that no price tag can be attached to.
Equipment Maintenance – nothing is worse than paying for a gym membership only to find out that the company’s budget doesn’t allow for them to make regular equipment maintenance a priority. The result is multiple pieces of broken equipment that sit around with hand-scrawled “Out of Service” labels stuck to them. It goes without saying that it is difficult to push yourself to the limit in your workouts so that you can see maximum gains in both muscle and cardiovascular performance. Most people find that they can only achieve such consistent levels of performance by getting themselves into a rhythm each day that they show up and broken down equipment can quickly destroy this very tenuous rhythm and hamstring the effectiveness of your workouts. Looking up reviews about the gym you are interested in can often shed insight on how well the equipment is maintained. Just visit Google and type in something like “San Diego, CA Lifetime Fitness” and you’re sure to find a good amount of information.
Staff Professionalism – while this is usually not a factor that is on anybody’s radar when thinking about what type of gym to sign up for, a quick stop at GymsReviewed.com to check out what people are complaining about shows that the attitude and professionalism of the staff ranks right up there with lack of parking and unsanitary conditions as a major detractor of any fitness club. Are the team members who work at the front desk cheerful? Do they carry an attitude which says they are happy to see you again? If not, then their downward disposition can steal the little wind your workout sails have right from the word “go” when you see their sour faces upon checking in. Subconsciously, a message is received that says, “If these people are getting paid to be here and are not happy or motivated, why should I be?” If the personal training team communicates that they are underpaid and desperate for money and thus see you only as another sale which can help them pay their car note this month, your desire to work with a personal trainer as well as your opinion of the gym as a whole will be greatly diminished. Where professionalism is concerned, reading reviews can give you some perspective on how the staff treats the gym members but the fact that more people who are dissatisfied with a club show up and write bad reviews than those who love the gym do can give a skewed image of how the facility is run. In this case, it’s best to file what you read online in the back of your mind and take a tour of the facility. Take everything you are told by the sales people with a grain of salt as they will want to put their best foot forward in order to get you to commit to signing up. Hold off on making a commitment on tour day regardless of the fact that they are sure to tell you about a special offer that is for “today only.” This is almost never true. After the tour, hang out in the parking lot for 30 minutes or so and ask members who are leaving after having finished their workout what their opinion is on how the staff treats everyone. This will give you a bit more of a balanced perspective.
Facility Cleanliness - Nobody likes to work out at a gym that seems to be crawling with funk. Proper gym etiquette dictates that members be active in cleaning the machines after each use. This should be pretty obvious just from taking a stroll through the strength training area. If nobody is carrying a spray bottle or sanitized towel around with them as they do their routine, then it’s a good sign the staff doesn’t care to enforce this policy. As to the facility as a whole, you should be able to tell if the cleaning crew obviously doesn’t care about their job and only do the bare minimum necessary to keep the health inspectors from showing up. Allowing the gym to fall to such a state can impact your own level of success without you even knowing it. Your subconscious mind makes the connection that the place is not clean enough and will steer you away from consistently hitting the gym five or six times per week.
There are many other factors that play a part in the type of gym experience you will have over the long haul. Are the strength training machines equipped with a digital workout tracking system? Does the free weight area have the right gear for doing deadlifts and back squats? Is there a smoothie or juice bar on site? What type of group classes are offered? All of these questions have their place but they take a back seat when compared to the major factors outlined above. Get the big decisions right and you’ll have a fighting chance at being consistent in working out and achieving your fitness goals. Get them wrong and all the fancy computerized gizmos won’t help you see real change in your body or your life.