When you think about the important health decisions you’re going to make in the future, things such as what to eat, where to get your food, and how much to sleep may come to mind. But we rarely think about our choice in where to exercise. Which is surprising, as this decision can have an enormous effect on just how successful you’ll be in sticking to your active-lifestyle commitments. There are many different places to exercise other than the gym. But if you want to give gym exercise a try, let’s go through the steps to ensure that the one you choose is right for you.
If you live in a small town your choices might be limited, but it’s still a good idea to have a look around. I currently live in a town with a population of 5000 people and we have 3 gyms that are as different from each other as can be.
You’re hopefully going to be spending a few days a week at your gym, so it’s important that it’s not a large commute (you want to set as few barriers to getting your workout in as possible). A good idea is to find a gym that’s on the way to something that you do regularly. For example, if it’s near your work, you can go before or after, and make it a part of your routine.
Type of Gym
There are several different gym types. You’ll probably want to choose one that fits best with your lifestyle, goals, personality, and experience.
Even crossfit gyms have some variation depending mostly on the coaching staff (each class is coached). The training at crossfit gyms generally consists of high-intensity interval training in large groups split between olympic lifting, combination exercises, and cardio equipment. It’s a hard style of training that can lead to injury if done poorly or coached improperly, but if done right can be very rewarding.
These are gyms that range from community centers to Club 16 Fitness and Gold’s Gym. They usually have a lot of amenities, such as pools, basketball courts, saunas, and weight rooms. Often, they offer classes that can be either extra, or included with your membership. I like these gyms because I enjoy going to the pool after and using all of the extras that come with membership. It’s a good idea to make sure that the training staff is attentive before signing up for a membership though, especially if you’re new to resistance training.
These are generally card-lock facilities that can be accessed at any time of day or night, but only with a membership. They’re often unmonitored, and therefore are a better idea to use only after some experience has been gained. The great thing about these gyms is that they’re perfect if you have a job with irregular hours or want a workout when no one else is around (at night). They vary from facility to facility on what extras they offer, so it’s best to meet with the owners or staff before signing up for a membership.
Gyms where large group, small group, or one-on-one training are offered. Generally taking up a smaller area than other gyms, they don’t often carry much cardio equipment. The positive side to these gyms is that you have to be coached when you’re training there, so form tends to develop properly and injury is generally avoided.
With a gym, as with many things, when you sign up for a membership it generally comes along with a contract (it’s usually cheaper for you if done this way).
Most of the time these aren’t major concerns when signing up with a gym, but it’s a good idea to be cautious just in case.
Inspecting a Gym
Before you sign up there will usually be a period of time when you can meet with a gym representative, inspect the facility, and use the gym on a trial or drop-in basis. This gives you a great opportunity to explore everything the gym has to offer. Depending on the type of gym, you’ll expect to see different things as noted above. This is also a good period of time to voice any questions you may have. Do they offer childcare? (Some community centers and large chain gyms will) What hours do they open? Do they close for holidays? What classes and programs do they offer? Are they included with membership or extra?
It’s also important to do a walk-through of the facility. Check the shape that the change room or showers are in. Are any broken? Are the lockers in good condition? How clean is it? It’s these behind-the-scene things that could indicate whether or not the gym puts money into repairs and maintenance.
How about the gym itself? Are the machines and equipment in good shape? Is it clean? Is there a gym attendant present? Is that gym attendant paying attention and helping clients? Or are they lost in a magazine? How does it feel in the gym? Are the other patrons enjoying themselves? Feel free to ask some of the other gym users what they like and dislike about the facility.
I love exercising in the gym, it gives me a place to go that I associate with exercise. So, I have a singular focus when I go there. It gives me the added benefit of not spending the money on weights of my own (they tend to be expensive) and I can catch up with friends of mine who are of a similar mind. The gym lifestyle may not be for everyone, but if it is for you, I hope the above will help you to find a facility that you enjoy, and that helps you to maintain an active lifestyle in the future.
1. A.C. Hilton. How to find the right gym for you. Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/find-the-right-gym_n_6438524 Published January 2015. Accessed March 28, 2019.
2. Staci Ardison. Strength training 101: finding the right gym. Nerd Fitness. https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-finding-the-right-gym/
Published Unknown. Accessed March 28, 2019.
3. Jimmy McCurry. The 5 different types of gyms and how to decide which one is right for you. Progressive Performance. https://www.progressiveperformance.com/news/2017/6/6/the-5-different-types-of-gyms-and-how-to-decide-which-one-is-right-for-you
Published June 2017. Accessed March 29, 2019.
4. Emily Blatchford. Things to look out for when signing a gym contract. Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/06/13/things-to-look-out-for-when-signing-a-gym-contract_a_21392663/ Published June 2016. Accessed March 29, 2019.