How To Work Out Part Two: How to Choose a Gym


How to Find a Good Gym


The success of your workouts can be greatly encouraged by a membership at the "right" gym. By "right" I mean the "right" gym for YOU. The facility that is "right" for you will have what you need to feel happy and comfortable in the space.

If you are very new to exercise you may not be sure exactly what you need to be gym-successful. It's important to find a fitness center you'll be happy with so that a) you'll go and workout; and b) you don't get stuck in a forever membership contract with a gym that really sucks. (Which will keep you from going.)

Over the years I've worked out at great gyms and crummy ones. (That's my gym in the photo above!) Big ones with all the amenities and small ones with hardly any stuff. Through my good and bad experiences, I've cobbled together a list of what I think works.

A "good" gym:

    • Should be close to either your home or your work - but only if you go to that job every day. If the gym is too far away - you will find the smallest reasons not to drive over there. Cat all cozy on your lap? Expecting the new Land's End catalog? Trust me. I speak from experience.
    • Keeps hours that align with your work and family schedule. My current gym closes at 5 p.m. on the weekends - which I hate. I can usually squeeze a workout in around 4 o'clock on the weekends and I'd love to make it a long one, can do.
    • Could childcare be helpful to you? If the gym has child care, make sure you ask about background checks for employees working in the kid area. Ask about their policy for sick kids in child care. Because it would suck to drop your kid off and have them catch a cold from someone else. 
    • A good gym has a clean, well-maintained locker room and fitness floor. I look at elliptical and other cardio machines to see if they've clean sweat drips off the machine housing. I check the locker room and see if people are wearing shower shoes or going foot commando and spreading their warts and athletes foot (can you tell I'm a shower shoe devotee?!) When I do planks on the carpet at my gym I get dirt on my black pants - I do not like this. But as noted below, there is no such thing as a "perfect" gym.
    • A good gym should have enough equipment so that members do not have to wait to use machines. In your trial period, go at random times to see what the crowd looks like. If you live in a big city, you might ask the manager if they have a membership "cap" to limit the number of potential users at any one time.
    • Is priced somewhere between so cheap it's unbearably crowded and ridiculously overpriced for what you get for your money.  I pay $55 a month and I have lots of space and equipment, including the use of two pools. I'm sometimes tempted by those small 24/hr fitness places but I'm really happy to have everything I need to work out and lots of space and sunny windows to brighten my mood.
    • Mood is something important to consider. I once belonged to a gym that was in a basement and it was super depressing to be there. 
    • A good gym will offer you a fitness assessment and training session(s) as part of your membership and orient you to the equipment. My gym has a dedicated person on the floor at all times to answer questions.
    • Employs supportive, growth-oriented staff who encourage you along the way. That encouragement could be big or small. The easiest way to explain what I'm talking about is to ask yourself whether you feel welcome when you walk in there each day. If you don't? Leave.

    I don't believe there is a gym out there that is perfect for everyone, so don't fret about finding perfection. Just find a gym that you are 80 percent sure will work for YOU. A good gym will give you a trial pass so that you can see if it is the right place for you. Use the pass and consider how you feel about all the items mentioned. Oh, and...bring your Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays to refresh stale gym lockers and motivate you for the workouts ahead! (Yay! I worked in the Mood Sprays!)


    Also check out yesterday's post: What to Wear to the Gym.


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