I’m taking another short break in transmission on my quest for happiness (?!) to talk about something which isn’t (however) entirely unrelated.
I already mentioned that I was planning to do something about joining a gym. In my previous life, gymming 4-5 days a week offered me a huge sense of accomplishment and a bizarre feeling of complacency that I took for granted. I had the same feeling yesterday. After going to the gym.
Yes, you read that right… I finally went to a gym after 4 months off.
I attended a morning Body Pump (weights to music) class and for the rest of the day was able to feel quite smug that I’d done my exercise and no longer needed to feel guilty that I didn’t want to go for a walk, or divert my eyes when I saw someone jogging past (lest my guilt overtake me and I wallow in the bottom of a corn chip packet).
However… you may have noticed the rather nebulous statement above, “I was PLANNING to do something about joining a gym.” I didn’t just say, “I joined a gym!” Nothing quite so definitive and decisive. Normally I’d blame my oft-discussed apathy for such a statement, but today I believe the cautious approach is quite justified.
Because, it’s not something you should do lightly.
This morning on my Facebook page I responded to a comment from someone by saying that the gym is (should be) a big part of my life, so an informed decision was VERY important.
You may recall I have actually struggled to do something about a gym since moving to my new beachside locale over two months ago. But, the time has come to bite the bullet. And – because I am
far from an expert very wise and experienced – I thought I’d share some of the factors I’m considering in making this important decision.
Firstly, before starting your research I think it’s important to identify the factors you are looking at when planning to join a gym and I think these can be grouped under four broad categories: Cost; Service; Quality; and Accessibility. (Oh, and there’s a fifth secret category I’ll reveal to you at the end of this
episode blog post!)
1. Cost (and / or value for money)
It’s sad but true that cost is a huge factor in choosing one gym over another. My last gym was VERY reasonably priced and probably spoiled me for what would come next. As I’m not currently working it’s even more of an influence. But, having said that value for money is also something that can never be underrated.
Unless money is really really tight, I’d suggest against cost alone being a deciding factor, because sometimes you ONLY get what you pay for. You pay a pittance and you get a gym with minimal services – which may, however, be all you are after. Many of the 24hr gyms popping up now work on this principle.
Another aspect I am considering however, relates to any sort of timeframe commitment required. I am nervous about contract periods and do not want to be locked into a gym for more than six months for many reasons (in case I move, in case classes change and are no longer relevant, or in case the gym goes bankrupt!). Payment options are also worth contemplating when making a decision. I’d prefer to pay for several months up-front rather than in weekly instalments or direct-debits. I know that wouldn’t suit everyone, but is my own preference!
2. Service (equipment, classes)
big butts classes and I cannot lie. I struggle to self-motivate, but if I have a class to go to then I’ll almost mindlessly get myself ready and there. So, for me the availability of classes is ALL-IMPORTANT. I’m also fussy about classes. Years ago I did step classes and general aerobics, body attack and so forth; but now I’m a lover of dance. I’m not a good dancer but love love love losing myself in the music. If I had my way I’d just do endless faux Zumba (Zumba-fied hip hop) classes by an old fave instructor (Nikki); but that’s not to be, so I make do with normal Zumba. I also like Pump classes (weights) and the occasional interval/circuit-based class (like CrossFit and similar).
Others HATE classes and only want to use the free weights or machines on the gym floor. Others combine this with some cardiovascular exercise using treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines and cross-trainers / ellipticals. Some gyms have a pool and offer water-based activities.
It’s also important to consider what other services your gym has to offer. Child-minding might be a priority. Or you may need to scope out the change room facilities to make sure you’ll feel comfortable showering there before rushing back to work. The availability of lockers may be something else to consider.
3. Quality (staff, instructors and equipment)
At my last gym (run by a local government / Council for its staff) ALL gym employees were exercise physiologists. They were all ridiculously knowledgable and many continuing to improve on their existing knowledge with specialisations or additional education. I must confess that I don’t like the ‘one-on-one’ you generally get for ‘free’ on joining a gym. While I use the cardio-equipment, I never use the gym floor weights / equipment so the ‘free’ program that someone writes for me when I join a gym is kinda pointless.
I was at my last gym for just over a year and didn’t once use my program – but visited 4-5 days most weeks. Having said that – I always received great advice from the staff and felt confident that they knew what they were talking about.
The quality of the class instructors (or affiliated personal trainers) can also be a factor. In the early 2000s I belonged to a gym which introduced dance classes. Many of us regular aerobic-goers rocked up excitedly only to find that the instructor treated us like a group of 5 year olds, making us do steps in small groups or having one row of people dance across the room at a time. Cardiovascularly it was a waste of time and in terms of fun… well, it was humiliating. Fortunately the gym’s managers took the feedback and cancelled the class when the instructor struggled to change their style.
The quality of equipment is also a biggie. It’s encouraging to see decent (and hardy) machines, rather than the flimsy type available from rental companies at discounted prices. ‘OUT OF ORDER’ equipment sitting idle for any length of time is not a good look.
4. Accessibility (proximity and availability)
The proximity of a gym from my workplace or home is another key factor. Years ago I belonged to a gym near my house because the classes I was attending were early morning, after work or on weekends. It meant I never really used the change rooms there (as I wasn’t coming or going from work and was usually at home before or after class). Most recently I belonged to a gym on-site at my workplace. Classes were minimal (no morning classes and only a few post-work classes) but lunchtime classes forced me to take a lunch break each day. The gym was literally in the foyer of the building next to mine – so almost unavoidable.
I know for a fact that – if I have to travel any distance – it’s far easier for apathy to prevail and for me to make excuses.
The opening hours can also be a deciding factor. My last gym didn’t open on weekends. This was not an issue because I’d chosen it for its proximity to work, not home. I was attending every weekday and had no need to go on a weekend. Whereas, if you’re working long hours or shift-work, you may want to join a gym which is open on the weekend, or open late at night.
And finally, as for the fifth factor… well, you probably guessed it; but it’s that vibe you get from the gym. You know the one… when you walk into a place and you either hate it or love it. I’ve written recently here about trusting myself and my instincts and it’s something I DO do, whether I’m house hunting or meeting new people. I rely on my spidey senses.
So… these are all of the factors I’m considering in my ‘which gym to join’ decision. I’ve narrowed it down to two (there aren’t a lot of options in my new hometown). Both have their minuses (namely only one dance class a week at each!), but they also have their pluses (one is lower in cost; and the other is closer to my place).
I’ve gotten a three-day pass for one and hope to do the same with the other so I can attend a couple of classes and get a feel for the level and quality of services offered.
So… wish me luck!
What do you look for in a gym or workout venue?
What have I missed?