What to look for when choosing the right gym for you
Choosing a gym membership is a big decision and there’s a lot that can go into your choice. This can feel daunting and overwhelming and many people unfortunately end up making the wrong choice, which can be a waste of money and doesn’t help you get fitter and healthier.
We don’t want you to make a decision you’ll regret so we’ve put together this guide, which includes some of the things to think about when you’re choosing a gym, what types of membership options are out there, how easy it is to cancel if you change your mind and ultimately, how to get the most from a gym membership.
- Type of gym: Some gyms specialise in a certain type of fitness activity such as CrossFit or martial arts. If you’re really into a certain activity, this could be just what you’re looking for.
- Classes: These can be a fun way to get fitter and some gyms offer a wide range of choices. You’ll often find yoga, Pilates and Zumba but if you compare different gyms, you might be surprised at how unique some of their classes are. If you know that classes are going to be an important factor in your choice of gym, it’s worth seeing what options there are.
- Equipment: You might assume that all gyms are going to have the same type of equipment but that’s not necessarily the case. Most gyms have cardio and strength training equipment so you can expect treadmills, exercise bikes, step machines and weights to be par for the course. Some go a lot further and also have Matrix equipment, for example. If you have specific health and fitness goals in mind, you may need certain types of equipment to make them happen and this may affect your choice of gym.
- Location: Where a gym is based can make a big difference to the amount of use you get out of it. If it’s not in a convenient place for work or home, the distance can quickly become a good excuse not to go regularly! If you live in a metropolitan area, you may well be spoilt for choice with gyms, especially with the big chains, but there may be fewer choices if you live away from a big city. Some chains are only based in certain states, which can also limit your options.
- Opening times: Some gyms are of the 24/7 variety and can be accessed any time of the day or night by their members while others stick to more traditional opening times. If you’d struggle to get to classes or use the equipment outside of office hours, a gym with more flexible opening times is going to be important for you.
- Facilities: What kind of facilities will you want from your gym? Some offer private showers and restrooms and strive to create a really luxurious environment for members. Others offer a big social and leisure element with coffee or juice bars and lounges. There are also creche facilities at some gyms, although you may need to pay extra for accessing them and they may only be available at specific times. If certain things are important to you, this could have a big impact on which gym you choose as not all gyms offer a wide range of facilities.
- Pools: Not all gyms have pool facilities so your choices may be a bit more limited if you also want to factor this into your decision. Some gyms with pool facilities offer aqua-based classes, which is something to think about if you’re not a big fan of swimming.
- Women-only facilities: Some gyms are completely female only while others cater for both genders but have some ladies-only areas. Not all gyms offer this so it’s something you’ll need to look at if women-only facilities are going to be a key factor in your decision.
- Support: Some gyms have personal trainers to guide you with your fitness goals. This is great if you need some practical and moral support while you’re at the gym.
- Cost: And of course, there’s the big question of what all of this costs. Gym memberships can vary a lot in price so it’s definitely worth shopping around, especially if you’re not too restricted by other factors.
Other things to think about:
- How busy does it get at peak times? This is less of a problem with 24-hour gyms as people often choose to work out outside of “peak” hours but for those with more traditional hours, classes can be busy and equipment can be in demand.
- If it’s a 24-hour gym, is there good security when staff aren’t present? Some have 24-hour security but it’s not a given at all 24-hour gyms.
- What are the gym staff like? Ideally, you want them to be friendly and approachable if you need help but not rude, unhelpful or overly pushy.
- What are the other gym goers like?
- What kind of condition is the equipment in?
- Are the shower facilities and changing rooms clean?
Types of gym memberships
A lot of gyms offer long-term memberships of 12 months. This can be more cost effective than buying a 3 month or 6 month membership but you need to be sure that you’ll want to stay with them for this long as you’re locked in for the contract length, even if you’re paying by the month. If you have the budget to pay upfront, it can work out cheaper to do it this way.
There are also casual memberships which involve paying per visit or paying upfront for so many visits. If you’re not sure about signing up for a full membership, this gives you the chance to test them out for a bit.
Some gyms don’t do memberships at all and you just pay on a month-by-month basis. This is perfect if you don’t want to commit in the long term. If you decide to move on, you’ve not been locked into anything.
Are gym memberships worth it?
If you know you’ll be going to the gym regularly, it’s probably going to be worth the costs, especially if you can get a good deal. If you end up not going as much as you think you will, the value for money suddenly goes down.
Work out how much your membership is per week compared to how often you’ll realistically use the gym. If the numbers don’t stack up well, a gym membership might not be worth it for you.
You’re more likely to be happy with your gym membership if you take advantage of free trials to test out particular gyms and see how comfortable you feel there. This means there’s less chance of wasting your membership if you find that you don’t actually like a gym after you sign up with them.
What are the benefits of a 24-hour gym?
Life can get busy sometimes and heading to the gym during traditional opening hours isn’t always going to work for your lifestyle. This is where 24-hour gyms really come into their own as they give you the flexibility to work out when it suits you – even if that’s really early in the morning or very late at night!
24-hour gyms are usually only staffed at certain times of day but give their members a swipe card (or similar) to give them access when there is no staff around.
What are the cancellation policies?
Sometimes, you may need to pay an exit fee to get out of your gym membership mid-contract. Depending on why you’re leaving, you won’t always be hit with penalties. Some gyms will end your contract if you meet certain criteria, including moving to a place that is a certain distance away from their nearest gym/club or not being able to exercise for a while because of injury. It’s worth checking with any gyms you’re thinking of signing up with to see how easy (or otherwise!) it may be to cancel if you become a member. Some gyms also require an in-person visit to cancel membership.
You may also be able to freeze or put a hold on your membership for a certain time frame with some gyms, which is handy if you can’t get there for a while but don’t want to cancel completely.
How to get a good deal on your gym membership
Shopping around is a great move when you’re choosing a gym. You may know exactly which gym you want to join but scoping out what their competitors charge for membership gives you a bit of room for negotiation if your first choice is charging more. If you go down this road, it needs to be a like-for-like comparison, with the same facilities and benefits available at both gyms, or it won’t be an effective bargaining tool. You’re basically asking them whether they’ll cut you a deal on membership if you can show that a competitor charges less for the same thing.
A lot of gyms charge joining fees but these aren’t always set in stone. There are lots of stories of people having these waived so that they sign up. It’s always worth seeing if they’ll do this for you if you stall on signing up initially.
Ask if there is any scope for reducing your membership fee if you won’t use certain benefits such as creche or pool facilities.
Can you transfer your gym membership?
If you’re moving to another city or state, you may be able to transfer your membership to what will become your local gym/club. This is usually very easy with the big gym chains as they’re more likely to have gyms based close to where you’re moving to and you can transfer to another gym in the chain.
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