When you are new to the fitness lifestyle (welcome!), it can be difficult to determine which gyms best suit your needs. There are many factors to consider, and some are no doubt more important to you than others.
Before you make a decision and sign up, visit a few local gyms during the time when you would normally be exercising. Set yourself up for success for choosing the fitness center that will inspire your active lifestyle.
How to Find the Right Gym
- Location. Pick a location that is easy to reach and a quick trip from your home, school, or work. Having a gym close by makes it easier to go – and more likely that you’ll stick to your exercise routine.
- Hours. Many gyms are 24/7, but others are closed on Sundays or weekends. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Make sure that the gym’s schedule meshes with yours.
- Organization and Cleanliness. Are weights, exercise mats, and yoga balls scattered around the floor in random places? A disorderly gym can be dangerous, and it may also signify that the staff lacks management and respect. Is the gym clean? Be sure to check out the locker room and bathrooms to see how well they are maintained.
- Gym Size and Crowd Control. Some people prefer a giant fitness center where they can be anonymous; others like a smaller gym that feels more like a community. Are there enough machines to go around, or is every treadmill busy? If cardio machines have a sign-up sheet, will it bother you to have to wait in line to get in your workout? Does the gym feel crowded?
- Amenities. Most gyms provide towels for wiping down sweat and machines. Will you need to bring your own lock for the lockers? Are there water fountains, snack machines, a juice bar, fans, and/or showers? Does every treadmill share a TV, or will you be able to choose which program you watch?
- Staff. You should be greeted upon arrival and made to feel welcome. Are staff members readily available to answer questions or spot you on a machine? Can you book sessions with an on-site massage therapist or nutritionist? Don’t feel shy about asking for the staff’s qualifications.
- Equipment. What type of strength training machines do they have, and how many? Several broken machines are a bad sign. Ask about other equipment that is available for your use, including yoga balls, medicine balls, TRX straps, exercise mats, boxing bags, kettle bells, and stackable steps.
- Classes and Personal Training. What schedule of classes are offered at the gym? Are they included in your membership fee, or do they cost extra? Can you attend a sample class for free? Is personal training available, and at what cost?
- Special Areas. Some local gyms feature separate rooms for stretching, classes, or personal training sessions. What about a special area for females? Some women like having a separate room to work out in. Others feel that having a female-specific space in the gym makes it more awkward when they choose to exercise in the larger main area.
- Price. Consider the monthly cost of membership, what the membership does or doesn’t include, and whether or not you must sign a contract. Is there a free or reduced price trial period? Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when deciding between local gyms.
- Vibe. How does being at the gym make you feel? Welcomed or weary? Are people friendly and professional – or staring and awkward? Would you feel comfortable exercising here? Do you hear loud music, weight-lifting yells, or non-stop chattering? Some gyms are more high-energy, while others are chilled out – and the vibe can often vary throughout the day.