These are the things to look out for when choosing a gym
There are many factors to consider when enrolling in a new gym. Though seemingly inconsequential, the one you choose can have a major impact on your health habits. Perhaps you’ve learnt this the hard way, picking a place because it is conveniently situated only to find yourself hesitant to actually use it.
Fortunately, because of their surging popularity over the past few decades, we are often spoilt for choice. Membership prices have become quite competitive. Modern gyms are having to cater to a diverse audience, appealing to people according to their preferred workout style, budget and even gender. Big chains particularly have sold their centres as a glamourous experience, utilising ‘fitspiration’ trends on social media in their marketing.
Because of this, there is a newfound complexity to picking a gym. Here are the key things you should be making notes on:
The location: While it might seem sensible to pick the gym closest to where you live, it’s important to factor in how you’ll be using it first. If you plan on exercising after work, then consider a place that is obviously situated on your travel route. A town/city centre gym may more easily entice you to it, but you will inevitably have to contend with a crowd of other gym-goers, possibly of the worst variety. On the other hand, an out of the way gym may be more peaceful but may ultimately feel less safe in the evenings.
The female support Many are self-conscious about exercising in public. This is particularly true for women, who often feel intimidated by the macho-culture dominating the weights section, or worse, the tendency of some men to ogle or harass them. In some sense how safe you feel in a gym should be the deciding factor in whether or not you stick with it. As well as noting the ratio of women to men and the support from staff this can be the culmination of many seemingly trivial things: the layout, partitioning of sections, whether there are woman-only areas. We will hopefully see an increased trend in women-only gyms in the UK, but for now many centres are at least choosing to cater to their female members with single-sex classes and services.
The atmosphere: Obnoxious music blaring through the speaker system has succeeded in pulverising my enthusiasm for more than one gym. You may sympathise, but still have long ago accepted this awful convention as an unavoidable – though bizarre, considering almost everybody seems to listen to their own music anyway – part of the gym experience. However, it’s still worth comparing the noise levels of different gyms, as well as other contributors to its atmosphere: the harshness of the lights, the mirrors and the layout. Not to mention the type of people that go there. These things can have a subconscious effect on its appeal and your motivation to workout.
The hygiene: Gyms are a cesspool of bacteria. Check for cleanliness in changing rooms, in corners, and of the equipment, while noting if staff are bothering to sanitise equipment. Some centres may also have upfront hygiene rules, which can be reassuring. The quality of the changing rooms – the showers particularly, which you should be using immediately after your workout – says a lot about the gym.
The equipment: The apparatus is the bread and butter of every gym. While it’s tempting to pick the one with the most and the flashiest stuff, think about what you actually need to use in line with you fitness goals. Having an excessive and exotic selection of machines at your disposal will inevitably correlate with a higher cost, when a simpler offering may suffice. It is more important that the equipment is well-maintained and not constantly out of order, as well as being accommodating for the number of members in the gym at any one time – nothing is worse than feeling pressured to finish working on a machine so that somebody else can use it.
The staff: Are the staff useful? Do they inspire confidence? While you may not ever need to give them a second thought, the professionalism, friendliness and quantity of the staff are a major indicator of the quality of the gym. They should be there to answer any fitness-related queries you have and give you a good rundown of equipment and facilities, while crucially ensuring a safe and relaxed environment.
The value: Exercise is free. It’s worth noting this when you weigh up your membership in your monthly budget; though we think we are being sold fitness, convenience is the real commodity. Of course more expensive memberships may include the cost of classes and personal trainers, as well higher standard amenities. If these bells and whistles appeal to you, then you should anticipate forking out a bit more.
Whatever type of membership you go for, consider the payment plans and any hidden costs. Gyms with monthly plans and the ability to cancel at any time or freeze the membership are the most consumer friendly, while annual contracts are best avoided for the average gym-enthusiast. You can also expect to pay a one-off fee when you start, so it’s worth factoring in the price of this in your comparisons.
Make the most out of free trials, inductions and testimonials if you’re still unsure. Do not feel pressured to sign up to a gym, as this is far from the only route to fitness. There are plenty of exercises you can do at home, or alternative activities like team sports, swimming, running, cycling, yoga and kickboxing which provide many of the same health benefits while potentially being more enjoyable and fulfilling. Everybody’s health journey is unique, so try to find what’s right for you and don’t be afraid to dip your toes in different methods.