1. What type of workouts do you do?
There are all kinds of gyms these days – free weights-focused, machine-focused, cardio-centric, running clubs, full service, strip-mall circuit training gyms, public centers, racket-centers, golf club-focused gyms… you name it, you can sign up for about any type of gym.
You need to think about what type of workouts you like doing. If you’ve never belonged to a gym before, do as many 1 week trials at gyms around you as you can and see what you use and like. Get scientific about it and make some notes or charts. Consider:
- Do you only use the cardio machines? If so, find a gym with the best cardio equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, etc.
- Do you like the latest weight machines? Some gyms invest in some pretty cool weight lifting equipment. Try it out.
- Do you like fitness classes such as yoga, Pilates, a running club, cycling classes, martial arts, etc. If so, see which gym offers the best classes. Make sure you check whether there are additional fees for classes.
- Are you looking to play racket sports and/or golf.
- Do you like swimming laps?
- Do you like doing everything (like me)? If so, look for the best full-service gym.
2. How much can you afford?
Most gym memberships charge a monthly fee. Some charge an up-front fee and then a monthly fee. Other gyms require that you sign a contract committing you to a gym. I prefer an up-front and no contract.
IMPORTANT: almost every gym will negotiate terms to suit you. Do not accept the terms unless they work for you. The terms typically negotiated are up-front fees and contract length.
The monthly fee is what adds up over time. Expect to pay anywhere from $15/month (for a small retail circuit training facility) to $300 plus per month for a swanky, full-service urban gym. Most gyms cost $30 to $70 per month.
The way I look at is if I go twice a week, I’m getting my money’s worth. Usually I go more often, but I almost always go twice a week.
3. Do you like using spa and other facilities at your gym?
Do you like using steamrooms, saunas, pools, hot tubs, etc.? I know this is a factor for me. These features help me unwind at the end or middle of the day. However, many people never bother with these pricey features. Are there other facilities you like such as studio space to do yoga or martial arts?
4. Is the gym conveniently located?
This is critical. Look for a gym that you will actually go to – whether close to home, work, or both.
5. Women: do prefer a women’s gym only?
More and more full-service gyms offer a women’s only area. There are also many strip-mall circuit training gyms cropping up as well.
Don’t forget to give any gym on your shortlist at least a 1 week trial run.
Most gyms will let you try out the facility for free for one week at least. I strongly recommend you take them up on the offer and go there at least 3 times before making a decision.
Don’t sign up at 4 gyms during the same week because you won’t sufficiently try out each gym sufficiently to pick a gym. Dedicate one week to one gym. Then the next week pick out another gym to try, and so forth.
Regardless of which gym you’re thinking of joining, you want to ensure it is clean (again, the 1 week trial run will help you notice cleanliness) and that the customer service is friendly and helpful.
If you’re not sure about picking and joining a gym, maybe you’re looking to establish a fitness regimen at home.