If you’re looking to join a gym, first of all, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step in improving your health and fitness. But how do you know if the facility you choose is right for you?
What you need in a gym varies depending upon your goals, your lifestyle and your personality. A good fitness facility makes you feel welcome when you enter and exhilarated when you leave. Here are eight tips for picking the right fitness center for your unique self.
1. The Cleanliness of the Facility
All gyms have a mild body odor funk — the aroma of chemical cleaners and flowery cover ups proves more disconcerting. However, when you work out, you sweat. With many people, some of whom suffer from various infections.
Take a look at the equipment. Do members wipe up after themselves or do they leave puddles of sweat everywhere? Look up at ceiling corners. Are they covered in cobwebs? Dust everywhere means the ventilation system needs attention. You want your gym to make you feel healthier, not sicker.
2. The Friendliness of Front Desk Staff
Observe how the front desk crew greets you when you walk in the door. Are they smiling and welcoming? Or are they texting away on their cell phones, grudgingly looking up to acknowledge your existence?
Fitness facilities need to provide sound customer service like any other business. Yes, they bank on people working out, anyway, but this doesn’t mean you deserve anything less than respectful treatment from all staff.
3. The Range of Equipment
If you’re looking to blast your quads, squats and lunges will get you there. But what if you prefer machines to free weights, or cardio to heavy lifting?
Make sure the range of equipment a gym offers meets your needs. Some bare-bones facilities offer little more than racks of progressively heavier free weights while others focus more on equipment which helps users protect their form. And there’s nothing worse than trying to squeeze in a lunchtime burn when your favorite elliptical is taken for 20 of your 30 minutes, so look for a facility with ample cardio equipment if that’s your bag.
4. The Group Fitness Classes Available
Are you one who only feels empowered when you’re competing with others, even if only in your own mind? If you adore Zumba, Pound or any other fitness class, make sure the facility you select offers the selection you love. If you’re someone who can’t get enough class variety, stand-alone group fitness studios might suit your tastes better than an all-purpose gym.
5. The Associated Amenities
Do you have bad knees, a back problem or some other physical limitation? Consider looking into gyms which offer specialty assistive facilities such as pools for low-impact exercise and classes catered toward beginners, the disabled population or older exercisers.
Do you love nothing more than a good sweat that doesn’t stem from running 7 mph on the treadmill? Look for facilities with hot and dry saunas and relaxing whirlpool tubs. Such facilities do double duty — if you ever have a difficult a day and working out proves impossible, a dip in the hot tub may revive your spirits (and even change your mind about lifting weights).
6. The Hours of Operation
Few things stress fitness aficionados more than debating whether to pick up the kids from child care at the time or squeeze in a workout but pay the overtime fee. When selecting a gym, choose one with childcare options on site if you’re a parent or with extended hours of operations if you love your current care provider. The same goes if you work irregular hours — a gym which doesn’t open until 5 a.m. won’t help you squeeze in a workout after work if your shift ends at 3 a.m.
7. The Proximity to Home and Work
No matter how fabulous a fitness facility is, you won’t use it much if you have to drive 20-30 minutes to get there. Select a gym either close to your home, work or both.
Breaking a quick sweat on your lunch break, getting in a few reps when traffic cooperates or hitting a happy hour class with the girls? You’ll prefer a gym closer to the office. Telecommute often, have little ones or work only part time? A gym close to home is your best bet.
8. The Overall Vibe
Finally, what kind of vibe do you get when you’re there? Most facilities allow you to try the facility free for a week or two, and many even provide a session or two with a trainer — use this as an evaluation period. Do you feel happy and accomplished after working out? Or does anything about the gym make you nervous or feel off?
Your personal health and safety are paramount. Don’t feel bad about declining a membership after your free trial if the neighborhood gives you screaming horrors, or if the beefy guy using the weight bench at 3 a.m. at a 24-hour facility gave you the creeps. It’s your money — spend it on a workout center that makes you feel nothing but terrific.
Finding the Right Gym for You
Ultimately, the right gym for you may look very different than the right facility for your friend Bob in accounting, and that’s okay. All that matters in the end is getting your body moving and breaking a sweat!