Top Ten Things to Consider Before Joining a Gym

Updated on October 25, 2018
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Beverly majored in psychology and health science and has a strong interest in improving the mental, spiritual, and physical lives of others.

Exercise Classes Are a Big Draw at Most Gyms
Exercise Classes Are a Big Draw at Most Gyms

Top Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Even Setting Foot Inside the Gym Door

Many people see the gym as a place to get fit but it is a lot more than that. The atmosphere, the people, the music, the amenities, all factor into your gym experience. If the gym is blasting rap music or country western with themes that make your face blush more than the exercise itself, then you are going to feel uncomfortable even if the gym has everything else you ever wanted.

Those little things can make or break your experience and while you cannot be prepared for everything that comes your way, like the perfume-vat woman who sings out-loud with her ear phones on or the shirtless guy who slings sweat off his brow and into your gaping mouth as you gag and run for the exit, you can be prepared with some questions that might prevent you from joining if you knew the answers in advance.

  1. Membership Costs: How much does it cost and what services are included? Are there different levels of memberships? Can you use the gym locally only or do they have facilities across the country? What if you get sick or injured and can't workout, do you still have to pay the membership fees or will they let you put your account on hold? If you are military and given orders to ship-out, will you still have to pay and how are fees collected and when? Can you pay up-front or do you have to have the money withdrawn from a bank account? Make sure you get a copy of the payment agreement as it will contain important information on fees and services, including the right to charge a hefty cancellation fee and collection fees if payment is missed, even if you are the victim of fraud or have changed banks but forgot to update your information.
  2. Hours of Operation: How early and late are they open? If they are open 24 hours-a-day, do they have security on-hand? Are they in a secure location? Is the parking lot well lighted at night? Are they open on holidays? Do they have shorter or no weekend hours?
  3. What are the rules of use: Is there a dress code? Do they have rules against offensive language, unwanted flirting, unpleasant smells and noises? Are people held accountable for their actions? Is there a time limit on cardio machines? Are people allowed to sit on weight benches while talking on their phones without allowing others access to the equipment, etc. ?
  4. Do they offer personal training or orientation classes to get you started? Is there someone on staff at all hours to show you how to use the equipment or guide you in the proper use of free weights, stretching, nutrition choices? Does it cost extra for these services?
  5. Do they offer classes and are they included in the membership price? How many classes do they have per day? Are the instructors trained and certified to teach the classes? Is there a limit on how many people can take the class at one time? If you have children, are they allowed to take the classes with you? Do they have classes you can take in a time slot you can actually attend and do you need to make a reservation or is it first come/first served?
  6. What amenities are offered in the price? Do they have showers, Jacuzzis, steam room, massage chairs or massage therapy? Is there a swimming pool, tennis courts, spin bikes, indoor running track, basketball courts? What about a youth gym or private workout area for women or newcomers who feel intimidated by the jocks? If you have children, do they have childcare while you workout. Does it cost extra? Can you bring a friend for free or is there a fee? Are you limited on the number of guests you can bring?
  7. What programs are available for seniors, children, special needs? Is the gym set up to accommodate someone in a wheelchair or someone with body movement disorder? Can children participate in using the gym equipment or taking classes? If you have an autistic child, can he or she be accommodated by the staff and still participate in youth programs? Do they have recumbent bikes or hand rails on the treadmill with an emergency cut-off switch? If they have showers or pool areas are they handicapped accessible?
  8. Do they offer discounts to students, military, seniors or low income? Does each person pay the same fee or is there a family rate? What constitutes a family? If you are not married, can you still join as a couple? Is there a special youth membership? Do they accept insurance based programs that reimburse you or allow you to attend a participating gym at no cost and if so, are you limited in what you can do with such a membership?
  9. Do they offer adult sports programs like pickleball, basketball, tennis, volleyball? Do they have youth sports and are these sports included in the membership price or are they extra.
  10. Are you locked into a contract and if so, what are the terms? Will they allow you to try out the gym for free and decide if you like it before making a commitment? Can a friend or family member get a free guest trial as well and do they ever offer specials where they waive the yearly fees or do they have scholarship programs or take outside payments from corporations? What if you do not have a bank account? Can you pay cash up front? What are the cancellation policies?

Check the Gym's Website and Look Up Reviews Online Before Joining

In general, the people who write reviews either do so because they love the place or hate the place so one or two upset customers should not scare you away from a gym, but if you see consistent comments about unclean equipment, rude staff, or annoying members who act like they own the place, then maybe it is better to search elsewhere.

Ideally, a gym will let you check the place out for free, take a class, come at the time you would normally work out to see how crowded it is, or meet and greet childcare workers and view the programs available to youth. If the tour or front desk staff do not offer you a trial period, ask to speak with a manager and express concerns about getting locked into a contract without knowing what you are getting into.

Read the small print on enrollment forms because most require you to sign a waiver saying you will not sue, even if someone else drops a barbell on your foot and that you agree that you will be held responsible for monthly payments and may be charged a fee (sometimes twice or more the cost of your monthly membership) if you renege on the agreement.

It's Always a Good Idea to Go on Social Media and Ask Advice

Go on social media and ask friends to tell you their experiences and if they like the place or not. Make sure the gym fits your needs and has convenient hours. Some gyms also have full-time childcare centers or youth sports programs which share the facilities, so if you plan to come at 6 pm to play basketball and the youth groups are taking up all the courts at that time, you might be rather upset.

If you want to take Yoga and Zumba but they only offer them at noon or an hour before you get off work, then it doesn't do much good to sign up. If all you want to do is walk on the treadmill and elliptical but the cardio machines are located jam-up on the free weights where muscle-bound men and women are sweating and grunting and slamming weights to the ground, you may be distressed if you expected serene quiet!

Check to see if there is a trial period, where if you don't like or don't use the gym, you can cancel the contract early without paying a fee. If you discover you hate the place after a few weeks, but have to pay a penalty and another month or more in fees, it could get ugly, especially if you have waived your rights to contest any legal recourse against the company even if they are found negligent.

While this article is not meant to scare you away from joining a gym, it is a good idea to find out what you are getting yourself into and what your obligations are if you want to get out. Hopefully the ideal gym will fit all your needs and be a part of your life for a very long time.

Questions & Answers

If you are a member of a gym, what led you to join them over all the others? What are your experiences, good or bad? Do you have any tips for newcomers?

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