Maybe you are shopping for the right gym right now, or maybe you are looking to switch to a better gym that offers more and is more conducive to your goals. You could even just be perusing options for sometime in the future. Either way, you've got one thing right. Choosing the proper gym for you is a essential part of your success in the gym. From the equipment and gym traffic, to the hot tub and grimy showers, when you sign up for a gym, you want to find a place that has what you are looking for not only in the moment, but with your long term goals in mind. Being part of a gym that you will grow out of or that will not meet your goals and aspirations in the future can limit your growth both mentally and physically.
If your anything like me, accepting limits and settling for the average status quo is not what you are after. You want to be sure that you have access what you need every day of the week whether it is the equipment to bust out a gruelling workout, or a hot tub to rest your weary aches and pains. In this article, I'm going to highlight the top things you should consider when you are looking to find a gym that will be your home away from home for years to come.
Location, Location, Location
This is appropriately the first thing to consider on your check-list.
There may be some great gyms out there, but if they are a 45-60 minute drive away from where you live, you might want to rethink things. Your time is valuable, especially when you are working full-time, and doubly as valuable if you are working full-time and have a family. Here we have to consider what constitutes a worthwhile trip. If you live in a rural area and 45 minutes closest distance away from a gym to you, this is a worthwhile drive. Selecting the gym that is 5 minutes away from your house though because you can walk there though, isn't always the best choice. The value of your trek is determined by a combination of how close the gym is to you, and the value of the gym (equipment, extra facilities, etc.) If you live in a bigger city like me, there are usually plenty of options to choose from, but if you are in a more rural community, your options may thin out a bit. The time that you go to the gym can also factor into this. If you go to work right from the gym, or if you go to the gym right from work, your trip value will be determined how close your gym is from your work, not necessarily as much by your house
If you have to travel a little farther to go to a gym of better quality, it is well worth the trip in my opinion. I personally choose to go to a gym that is 20 minutes from my house, when there are a handful of other gym less than 10 minutes away. You want the best value you can find, which leads me into my next point.
Counting the Costs
In a lot of situations and big decisions, money can be a big factor.
This is no different when trying to decide upon a right gym. One of the first things to consider is your budget. Some gyms can be pricey, and even though they have great equipment, some people just can't afford to pay big bucks each month for a membership. Lets face it, having electricity and running water in your apartment is a little more important than buying a membership at the premium gym in your town. Though you don't want to settle, chose the next best option. If you find yourself having a better job or more money in the future, consider switching then. Yes, lifting in a limiting gym is better than none at all, but make sure you consider all these factors when making your decisions.
Another thing to look for is if the gym's price per month or per year is worth what it has to offer compared to the other gyms in your area. I have seen gyms that don't offer a lot of weightlifting equipment, but a lot of premium cardio equipment and are $40 or $50 a month. This personally does not fit me since I train for both body building and power lifting, and can get my cardio walking hills by my house later that night. Do you value a variety of machines to exercise on? Or are you more of a free weight lifter, and love barbells and dumbbells? If a gym has what you want and need, it may be worth the extra few bucks a month if you can afford it.
Amenities Are Not the Enemies
This goes beyond the weights and cardio areas.
While lots of people usually come to the gym most days to do some for of cardio of weightlifting, there are other amenities that some gyms may offer that can make your experience much more enjoyable. Who doesn't enjoy a high paced game of racquet ball once in a while or a nice dip in the hot tub on a cold winter day. Here are some amenities of extra things to look for when considering a gym.
- group fitness classes
- heavy dumbells
- multiple squat racks and bench presses
- hot tub
- tanning beds
- personal trainer options
- kids programs
- a track
- basketball courts
- racquet balls courts
- adequate locker rooms
These are just a handful of things that can enhance the experience at your gym. On my days off, I love to go for a swim in the pool, or get a group of friends together to play a game of basketball on the gym courts. While lots of these are not always necessary, and a lot of times won't break your experience at the gym, they can be welcome bonuses, especially if gyms that have some of these amenities have comparable prices to gyms that don't.
Though this goes beyond weights and cardio, quality of this equipment is important too. A gym that just got a bunch of new machines, weights, and cardio equipment will likely be better to use than a gym that has not updated in decades. Also consider if they have or don't have some of your favourite machines. I personally like the Nautilus brand hammer strength machines, and this played a role in helping me choose a gym.
Gyms that have lots of amenities will generally have a very active community, which leads me to my last point.
Believe it or not, the gym can be one of the best places to meet people and get to know the members of your community better. It can also be one of the peak social experiences in a working person's day.
Choosing a gym that has a strong and supportive social community can liven up your fitness life. Here you can find people to share ideas with, share experiences with, or even arrange to workout with. Having a positive community and gym staff to work with is not something to be taken for granted.
Having a gym that has people with similar goals to yourself is always a bonus, too. Some gym goers can be intimidated by a community of hardcore power lifters and body builders, so getting a gauge for the atmosphere of each gym will help you determine if it is conducive for your goals or not. More than likely you will find a a mix of people with different mindsets, approaches, and goals, but some gyms have a higher concentration of one type than others. In any case, you want to feel comfortable training in your gym.
Everyone has something to offer, and more often than not, there is always someone who knows more in each gym, so don't be afraid to talk to the other routine gym goers and see if you can pick up a few titbits and tricks!
See What's Out There!
Each gym brings unique amenities, a unique community and staff, and unique opportunities. Doing a little homework when moving to a new area or when a new gym opens up can help open you to some great new experiences. Choosing the right gym will help ensure that you have what you need to best reach your goals and to set new ones.
Making the right choice can truly be the difference between being average and being elite.