That phrase alone, creates different thoughts and emotions for everyone. For some, its the reminder of "Oh yeah, that was my New Year's resolution. I really need to get in shape". For others, thoughts of a "pick up joint" or a dark, smelly, cave like building for meat head body builders to grunt and throw weight around, comes to mind. For another group, there is a level of excitement that comes with this thought because they love the gym environment. Still others get nervous because of the anticipation of the high pressure sell.
The process of joining a gym or fitness center can be daunting. But it can be done relatively easy and stress free if you remember that YOU have the advantage because its YOUR business they want. Here are some things to consider when picking a gym or fitness center.
1. Proximity to your home: If it's within a few miles, your much more likely to go on a regular basis.
2. Reputation: What do people who are or were members say about customer service, pressure to buy extra products or services, cleanliness, helpfulness of the staff, maintenance of equipment, or just overall "vibe" of the place.
3. Can you do a trial period? If they say "no", go somewhere else. You have to try it out to see if it's a place you'll like coming to for years and works with your schedule. Plus, what are they afraid of?
4. What are the hours? Some places are going to a 24 hour/day schedule either everyday or during the week. If you're going to use it, it has to be open when you need it.
5. Childcare: Do they have it? Does it cost? What are the childcare hours? If you have young kids and like to workout at 1 pm but their childcare center is closed, that forces you to change your schedule.
6. Fees and payment options: Places like Gold's, Club Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness will charge in the $20-$35/month range depending on deals they have going or if it's month to month or a year contract. The more of a commitment you make, the better the rate. But other clubs like Wellbridge or Lifetime Fitness will be considerably higher. Most clubs offer a pre-pay option as well that is usually a lower cost in the end. If there is an enrollment fee ask them if they have deals coming up where it gets waived and if not, if you can roll it into the monthly fee.
7. Amenities: Does it have things you want like a pool, a variety of exercise classes, massage therapists on site, or specific types of equipment you like to use. Some places base their cost on these things but if you don't want them, then a cheaper place without most or all of them may be fine for you.
8. Closing the Deal: If you're not sure or uncomfortable in any way when you're talking to the sales person, tell them you will think it about it and/or need to talk to your spouse before making a decision. If they continue to pressure you to close right then, that could be another indication of a place you may not want to be.
9. The Contract-READ IT: See what it says about cancellation fees, stipulations regarding getting out of the contract if necessary; like if you move or become ill. Freezing the membership is something to consider if you have a job the requires you to be out of town a lot. Many of the chains offer access to their clubs nation wide so freezing may not necessary in those cases but it may be in times of injury or illness.
10. Shop Around: Apply all of these tips to each place you visit. The more locations you visit, the more of a composite picture you'll get of what you want. Sometimes, you can play the different places against each other. "This gym will give me this break, will you?"
In the end, this is a place you have to want to spend your time and money on. If you don' t like it, then each time you see that automatic withdrawal on your bank statement, you'll cringe because you're paying for something you don't like and/or not using. And who know's, you may be become so educated on this process, that you will be selling the gyms on why THEY NEED YOU at their facility.
About Dave Schall: Dave is in his 7th year as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Westminster Christian Academy. He is a former Division I and Professional Soccer player and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education/Health and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology/Physical Education. Coach Schall earned a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist credential in 2000. Dave is also a former gym employee and owner. He has been married to Stephanie for 8 years and has a 5-year old daughter Madeline and a 3-year old son Colton.