Choosing the right gym or facility can be difficult, and frankly quite discouraging. It’s hard enough to start a new routine and create healthy habits for yourself, and then adding the stress of finding a location to sweat your face off- not as easy as it seems. I’m super lucky in that I work at a pretty rad place in the Executive, but let’s face it- everyone has different needs and wants within finding the gym that fits.
You aren’t just paying for a gym membership- you are creating accountability for yourself- and it starts with actually liking the place first. In fact, I listened to a podcast the other day (Planet Money), that said that gyms actually count on you NOT going. Huh? Mainly, it’s a number’s game- and if everyone went at the same time, there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone! Well, if you’re reading this, I don’t think you should be part of that equation. Let’s find a place that you like and get you there! Read on:
Type of facility
When you are looking for a place, there are a few options out there that can suit your needs:
Commercial Gym: This type of place has probably has most of the equipment and space you’ll need, but might not have all of it. They may be franchised or privately owned, and may have coaches available to help you out. In terms of exercise, this is the place to go if you just need to use some equipment to lift, run, bike, etc. It’s pretty much a check in, get your stuff done, and make like a tree and leave kind of place.
Studio/Boutique: This type of place would offer a specific service or have a specialty approach- let’s say a bikram yoga studio or a spinning studio. You would go here for a specific event.
Strength and Conditioning Facility: This is very similar to a commercial gym, rather you might find that they specialize in a specific niche. They may have specialized equipment and space to accommodate a variety of activities. In addition, you’ll find highly trained and passionate coaches and because of this, they are more expensive than commercial gyms.
Health Club: Certainly a much broader scope here. They cater to a lot of families and have many more amenities to offer than just the traditional gym environment. Some have a training staff, spas, tennis and basketball courts, child care, etc. Obviously, each place is different, but if you have multiple interests or needs, this would be something to consider.
With that said, I definitely recognize that sometimes there is a grey area within the type of facility you are at. That’s what makes each place kind of cool in their own way. For simplicity’s sake, I kept it to these four. There are tons of other factors to consider. Would you buy a car without doing a bit of research first on the dealer, price, loan interest rate, or service? I’d hope not.
Priorities and Price-point
People say you can’t put a price on health- but for a lot of people that is a real concern. It’s certainly an investment in yourself, but consider what you need and what you’re willing to spend on it without it stressing you out. You may have other financial goals, and might not want the monthly expense. Totally understandable.
So, figure out what kinds of exercise you want to do. Free weights, kettlebells, machines, space? All important considerations. Do you need all of the bells and whistles that a health club provides? No children? You compete in triathlons so you need a track and a pool? It just becomes about what will provide you the best training tools for what you can afford.
What kind of place do you want to go? Somewhere where people remember your name and a little bit about you? A place that is clean and regularly maintained? Or a place where other people have the same goals, mindset, and attitude as you?
It may seem like I’m the one asking questions here, but these questions are what you should ask yourself. I’ve seen far too many people walk in and out of facilities because it didn’t grab them and hold their attention. Consistency starts with the environment. Story time:
I went home to New York last year during the fall, and a was in the process of training for my marathon. I don’t have a gym back home, and needed somewhere that I could get use a squat rack for a bunch of different lifts. So naturally, I googled myself to Albany Strength, a facility that specializes in powerlifting and olympic lifting. I walked in, on a Saturday at 9am, and there wasn’t many people there. There were a few people warming up, and about 4 open squat racks. Sweet.
The equipment was kind of old; but still functioning fine. It wasn’t the cleanest place. That’s didn’t matter to me, I just needed a place to squat my legs into oblivion. And heck, it was only a 5 dollar guest fee. Now, here’s why it was a really cool, raw, experience.
As I started to train, more and more people started to show up. It was a squat day.
Powerlifters started to get training. As things got going, guys and gals really started to cheer each other on. There was probably 9 or 10 people taking turns squatting. It was fun to watch. So to them, that’s probably just another Saturday. From an outsider’s point of view, I thought, “Wow, it’s pretty cool what they have here.” That’s the kind of encouraging environment that helps foster growth for some people. I’d go back, mainly because of that.
Who are your "people"?
What I mean here, is the “typical member” that would be at the facility. What does the avatar look like? Do you think you’d like hanging out with those people? Is the “Bro Ratio” too high? (FTR: that’s a totally made up term, but if I have to explain it, you’re probably in the right place..) I certainly don’t want to stereotype, but let’s just say there are usually some consistencies.
For example, college gyms have a lot of dudes looking to impress people with biceps and tank tops. Health clubs have a lot of parents who are attempting to restrain their kids. Traditional box gyms have a lot of people on treadmills and doing machine exercises. Yoga studios have a lot of insanely flexible people wearing yoga pants.
Where do you see yourself being most successful, and keeping yourself accountable?
Getting Help When You Need It
Since I am a coach myself, I certainly am an advocate for finding a place that has some great coaches or training staff. They are there when you need a little push in the right direction, and help mold a positive environment around you. You may not be the type of person that needs coaching, but it’s nice to have coaches that are willing to help you out if you have a few questions. (Which I always am)
With that said, weighing training options if you have the means can be helpful going into your membership. Semi-Private and Group training is a great model for this- still a good amount of coaching at a reasonable price-point, especially for people just getting out of college who have those student loan billz and whatnot.
Aside from that, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get yourself assessed by a fitness professional so they can guide you on the right path, even if purchasing a training package is not something you see yourself doing. Too many people waste their precious time doing things that will have limited impact on their success. Get started off right!
Pick one already!
So, okay. I gave you a ton of info, do you have somewhere in mind?
No? Consider these other factors:
Driving time- From home and from work.
Small Group or Fitness Class Schedule
Busy Times/Your Schedule
Do they give you a free T-Shirt? (joking)
What color are their bumper plates? (still joking)
Are their trainers hawt? (completely kidding, but have you seen our staff? #100doublefireemoji)
Do they have free food? (okay, now I’m serious. I love food.)
Stay fast, Stay strong,