So, you want to sign up for a new gym. How to choose among the many and varied gyms? It can be confusing to prioritize for a variety of reasons, and it’s very easy to be influenced by a good salesperson when you hit the gym. Arm yourself with this checklist to make the best decision for you. And always visit multiple gyms before making your final decision.
You want a gym that’s easy to get to. If it takes too long, you’re less likely to use it as often as you should (ideally 3 times a week). So consider that it is within walking distance (eliminates problems with public transport delays or traffic jams), or if you are driving there, check the convenience (and cost) of parking. One near home or work is ideal, depending on what days and times you want to exercise.
Beware: Even if the gym is very close to you, this does not necessarily mean that it is comfortable. I live in Australia and one gym I signed up for was 2 miles down the road, but public transport to that gym was so slow it took me longer to get to the next gym Avia Performance I signed up for. 3 miles from here, but very well connected to it. door-to-door trip. So make sure you are making your trip at a time when you plan to use the gym to get an accurate idea of travel times.
If you need muscle growth, choose a gym with enough free weights (dumbbells and barbells, crossovers, both recline and recline benches, squat racks). And if you enjoy yoga and stretching, you need a gym with a yoga studio and plenty of room to stretch.
Check out the layout of the gym. Does it give you energy? Is there room to move around? Is hardware balance right for you? Personally, I don’t like huge rows of treadmills as far as the eye can see, with a bit of alternative cardiovascular equipment (cross trainers, bicycles, rowing machines). And I hate small, cramped free weights, I like my free weights to be spacious and the bar bench spacing good so I don’t bump into the person next to you. I’ve been to some gyms in Australia where the free weights were amazing. Less in the UK.
Another thing to consider is gym music. Do you want loud music or do you prefer to practice in a relaxed environment? One gym I used had 2 floors with an open mezzanine, where loud rock music on the upper level clashed with loud pop music below, which greatly irritated the ears.
The first people you are likely to see are the front desk staff. Are they welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable? All of these things go a long way if you’re going to interact with them every time you come to the gym.
Then consider having gym instructors and personal trainers. Are they approachable, considerate and approachable? Talk to them and you will see.
One thing that immediately distracted me from one gym I visited was the front desk staff eating donuts, painting their nails (and it was just the guys), and when I was leaving I saw one of the gym instructors standing outside and smoked a cigarette. Ugh.
All personal trainers and gym instructors have photos of themselves on the wall with a biography of them. I chat with them about the latest workout trends, nutritional advice and they are all really knowledgeable. So when you visit a gym to join, try talking to some of the staff and you will see how friendly and knowledgeable they are.
Showers and changing rooms
This is where most gyms fail. Changing rooms are often cramped, with small / narrow lockers that make it difficult to fit all of your belongings. I once took my gym bag to a new gym and found the locker was too small for the bag.
Always ask to be shown the changing area (and showers too, do not hesitate), pay attention to broken lockers, cleanliness. There was a gym in East London that I visited (and didn’t!) Had a dressing room littered with sticky plasters, cotton swabs, empty drink bags, chocolate wrappers.
In contrast, when I spent a year in Australia, I went to the gym with the cleanest and most spacious dressing area imaginable. The lockers were twice as wide to fit in the largest sports bags, and even when you opened the locker, the lights inside it came on.
And always ask for a free trial session so you really get a feel for the dressing and shower space rather than just taking a quick look around. Try it before buying, it gives you a much better chance of spotting problems. One free trial was great until I used the shower at the end. One booth had only ice water, another had only hot water, and the third had no shower gel in the dispenser.
How busy is the gym? Always check in on that day and at a time when you plan to use it regularly. If there are too many people there, you will not get a decent workout, you will wait for the equipment to become available. City gyms in the business district can get so crowded at lunchtime that you may even have to queue up to shower. No thanks.
What are the participants? You want to be around the people you like, or at least not feel uncomfortable with them, right? So if you are a woman and do soft cardio, you may not want to find yourself surrounded by huge, sweaty and noisy bodybuilders who throw weights at you and watch you. Likewise, if you’re a heavy training guy, you may want similar people to train for motivation and energy, rather than street kids on exercise bikes.
Again, you can only guess who the other members are by running a free trial session, so I highly recommend that you do this before subscribing to the dotted line.
Price and contract
Know what you are signing up for, what is included and what is extra (towels, sauna, etc.). What is the cancellation policy, can you freeze your membership if you are sick, how long is the contract (some up to 2 years), does your membership allow you to use other gyms in the network, and what days / times can you use the gym?
Think about what else is important to you. Would you like a snack bar that offers healthy snacks, smoothies and protein shakes after your workout? Want to go for a swim after your workout? Conversely, if you don’t want to swim, joining a gym with a pool can be a waste of money, as it adds significantly to the cost of the membership. Or, you may find that the amenities you value are so good that it’s worth paying extra for things you might not use. You need to weigh your priorities and make the appropriate decision.
One Gym Coburg I went to had a pool, and I didn’t realize until someone later told me that the pool significantly increased membership fees.
So, as you can see, there are many things to consider. The best starting point is to ask what your top fitness goals are, and then choose the gym that will best help you achieve your goals in a clean, friendly, invigorating environment that is easy to get to. In short, choose the gym that’s right for you.