So, you’re twenty something days into your resolution and you have started thinking about finding a gym. That’s great, but where do you go? The sheer number of available programs can seem pretty daunting, especially to someone who has never had a gym membership (or never used one). Well, as it turns out, I have some experience in that area and am willing to take you through the tips that I think will help you to choose the right gym.
Keep in mind, I am your average lazy person. I want to make things work with as little disruption to my life as possible. If you think that you'll drive thirty minutes out of your way five times a week to get buffed up for bikini season, feel free to disregard everything I am about to say. However, chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're not that guy. You've probably already tried and failed before and that's okay. I'm here to help narrow the margin for failure by making this process easier by getting you to ask yourself the following questions...
1. How much do you have to spend each month on fitness?
The average fitness professional will answer this question with “How much is your health worth?” Well, I get what they are saying, but I have a budget to keep. My rule of how much I can spend on a gym membership is simple.
Your gym membership should cost no more than your average nice night out.
Now, this doesn’t count special occasions like anniversaries and such where you’re sure to spend more than usual. This is your fun night out with friends or a small scale date night. For me, that’s something to the effect of dinner and a movie which is somewhere in the $30-$40 range. I live on a small budget, so anything I add to that budget usually means sacrificing something else. I can sacrifice one night out a month for a month’s worth of health.
Whether you use my model or your own, make sure that what you are paying is worth it to you. If having a gym membership means you can no longer afford to do the things you love, you’ll come to resent the gym and that’s a recipe for failure.
Now that you know what you’re willing to spend…
2. Proximity. Where is this place and how do you get there?
If you are like me, other than price, your location in proximity to the gym is the most important aspect of being successful. It is more important than what the gym has, what classes it offers, how trendy it is. Your gym should be really easy to get to because, if it’s not, you’re going to find excuses.
Your gym should either be on the way to your most visited location or ridiculously close to your house. For me, anything that is more than a ten minute drive from my house means that I have to consider the price of gas to get there and the time commitment of driving back and forth. Some of you are probably saying that that just shows how lazy I am. Well, maybe. I am not writing a gym finding guide for the non-lazy person. But, before you get all judgy, I’d like to ask you a question:
When was the last time you decided to push going to grocery store to “tomorrow” because you didn't feel like driving out?
The average person can get to their grocery store in well under ten minutes. I can find plenty of excuses not to exercise without adding distance to the gym to the list.
I chose a gym that was five minutes from my house instead of the one that has a ton of classes. I get to my Gold’s Gym 3-6 times a week without stretching myself. The shorter distance means that I can talk myself into working out at the last minute even if I’m already in my pajamas.
3. Do you know what you like to do?
This might seem like a silly question, but it makes sense. So many people join gyms before finding out whether they even like the activities that gym offers. I had a friend sign up for a membership at a yoga studio because yoga was supposed to be such a good workout. She promptly discovered that she hated yoga. She hated the quiet. She hated picturing her feet becoming roots into the floor and her body twisting out impurities. But, most of all, she hated paying $50 a month for something she wasn’t going to use.
Choosing a gym isn’t the first step in your exercise health. You have to rock a little Socrates and know thyself. Most gyms require at least a year commitment, so figure out what you like first. Sites like Living Social often offer packages that give you several classes and sometimes even personal training for a pittance; so, you can try lots of new things to figure out if you like bootcamp or boxing, Zumba or zombie runs. Also, remember that you can usually try out a gym for a week or two for free to figure out if you like the people who work there, the classes, etc. So, don’t feel pressured into making a commitment until you’re sure you like the place.