How to Choose a Gym

Exercising at a gym can add variety to your workouts because you can use cardio and strength-training equipment as well as attend fitness classes. Enjoying your workouts is the key to staying consistent. If the gym, an aerobics class, or help from a personal trainer is your thing, stick with it.

You need to know what to look for in a fitness facility and what to ask before joining. Take a tour of the facilities you’re interested in and consider the factors that are important to you. Ask for a free day pass or buy a week’s visit before you sign on the dotted line.

Here are some guidelines to help you choose the gym that's right for you:

  • Where is it located? Location is the first consideration for most people when they’re choosing a gym. If it’s not convenient, chances are you won’t go. First figure out what times you most enjoy working out, or when exercising fits into your schedule. If you like to work out at lunch or right after work, you may want a gym located near your office. On the other hand, if you like evening workouts or you’re a weekend warrior, find a gym close to home.

  • How big is the facility? Some of the new super clubs can be overwhelming. Going into one is like entering a shopping mall. Smaller gyms can offer a more intimate workout environment and give you an opportunity to get to know the staff and members personally. On the down side, a small club may be limited in how many classes and types of equipment they offer.

  • What are the fees? And does the gym offer any discounts or specials? Some gyms may give you a hard sell and try to sign you up for a membership that locks you in for a lifetime.

  • What types of equipment does it have? Is the equipment a quality name, is it in good shape, and does it fit your body properly? Ask if the equipment is adjustable.

  • Is the place clean? Check the bathrooms — they usually tell all. Does the gym offer its members towels if you forget to bring your own? Does it have showers, locker rooms to change in, and other bathroom amenities that are important to you?

  • Does it have air conditioning or fans and good ventilation? Check it out at different times of the day. If the afternoon sun is shining brightly through the window, the temperature inside will increase.

  • Does the club offer health screening for members? Ask if the gym offers body fat testing, cardiovascular testing, and strength and flexibility testing.

  • Does it offer adult fitness classes that appeal to you? How crowded are they, and at what times are they offered?

  • Does the club offer other amenities you may desire? For example, does it offer a juice or snack bar, massages, a sauna, a steam room, a Jacuzzi, personal trainers, nutritional/weight control counseling, audio and television hookups for the cardio room, or a pro shop?

  • Does the staff help you get started? Watch out for gyms that sign you up and toss you into the lion’s den without teaching you how to use any of the complex equipment, especially the new computerized pieces. Ask a staff member to give you a tour of the gym and show you how to use the equipment. Most gyms help you design your own workout program and provide you with a fitness card to keep track of your workouts.

  • Are the staff, trainers, and teachers qualified? Do the trainers and teachers have any practical experience, certifications, or formal education? Educational background may include degrees in physical education or exercise physiology.

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