If you have never been to a gym, at first one may seem as good as the next.
If you have been working out for some time, you probably already have a good idea of what to look for.
Here are some of the things that you may want to take into account.
1)Atmosphere – I like to train hard and fast. At gyms where there are a lot of first timers, things can get frustrating. It’s not their fault; it’s just that a lot of people that are new to the iron game are not aware of the unwritten gym protocol. They rest on benches reading between sets and sip coffee while holding up machines with long rest periods. The opposite is true if you’re just starting out. A hardcore gym may make you feel a little intimidated. Find a gym where you feel comfortable (usually you can try a gym for free for a couple workouts). The main thing is that you look forward to going because you like the place and the people.
2)Gear – This doesn’t mean all the new sparkly machines and chrome dumbbells. What you need is a gym that has plenty of cardio machines and enough gear available at the time of day you have chosen to work out. Look to make sure the gear is well maintained. No frayed cables, loose dumbbells or bent bars. The state of the gear in a gym can say a lot about the professionalism of the management and what to expect from customer service.
3)Cost – Most gyms charge an initiation fee and then a set monthly fee for the full term of your membership. Simple is good. Don’t get talked into a gym on your first visit unless you know for sure it’s really what you want and like. Some of the sales people can be real smooth!
4)Location – Make sure the gym is a reasonable distance from your home. If the gym is out of the way, you probably will miss a lot of workouts no matter how nice it is. In the beginning any excuse is a good excuse not to go! It’s best not to allow yourself any wiggle room in the beginning. I would usually take location over atmosphere or gear. If you don’t go, you won’t get fit! Make sure there is enough parking. It’s not a big deal, because even if you have to walk, you are there to exercise after all.
5)Change rooms – This really depends on your level of demands and your lifestyle. To me, all you need is lockers, showers, toilets and that’s about it! The bottom line is clean! Change rooms can be gross and even if you’re hardcore, germs are still bad! You may want towel service or a steam room but these are not necessary and will drive up your monthly fee.
6)Food! – Not a big deal, but a juice bar is great if you’re on the run a lot. Its great to be able to finish you workout, have a shake and carry on with your day. The juice bar is also a great place to chat with friends and catch up on what’s going on. It’s a much better place to have a conversation than on the gym floor while people are waiting to use the equipment!
Hope that helps out. Just remember, the best gym in the world wont help a bit if you never show up!
Ray Burton is a personal trainer in Calgary Alberta. He has trained for Golds Gym, World Health Club and the Canadian Military and is the author of Fat To Fit.