SHOPPING AROUND FOR HEALTH CLUBS
[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Your workout oasis.
You’ve made a commitment to yourself to start or notch up your fitness level, and you’re going to invest some sweat equity at the gym. So where do you start? How do you actually know which health club is right for you?
Before you grab your weight belt and your checkbook, check out this winner’s list to guarantee that you’re choosing the right gym.
Open-door policy. What are the club’s hours of operation? Are they open on the days and hours you have time to work out? Have they kept those hours long enough to suggest they’ll stay that way? If you can’t work out when it fits best into your busy day, chances are you won’t work out at all.
Location, location, location. This isn’t just a matter of convenience. If your club is too far away, it will become one more factor on the wrong side of the decision scale. On those nights after a long day at work when your tiredness is telling you to blow off the workout and go home, you don’t need any extra excuses.
What can you afford? Membership costs vary widely. Take advantage of seasonal specials, family discounts and corporate rates whenever you can. Don’t pay for amenities you won’t use – such as a swimming pool or indoor tennis courts – if your workout doesn’t include that type of activity.
Maintenance and housekeeping. What kind of condition is the weight room in? Does equipment look well-kept? Do you see free weights racked and clean, or general disarray and rundown machines? Housekeeping will also tell you a lot about the place. One sign of a good club is one that is clean and orderly – before, during and after rush times.
Equipment. Top-flight or run-of-the-mill? Does the gym have a wide variety of machines, free weights and cardio equipment? Do you see treadmills, bikes and rowing machines? Is there enough of it to handle the clientele
during rush hours? Intensity is key for a good workout, and you don’t want
to lose the burn waiting in line.
Staff. Is there at least one exercise physiologist on staff, certified by the A.C.S.M., A.C.E, I.S.S.A. or other recognized organization? It is important to have someone on hand who knows how to instruct you properly. Are the staff members certified in CPR? Hopefully you will never need it, but all the untrained muscleheads in the world can’t help you in a crisis.
At your service: Does the club offer instruction or activities you will use for your workout, such as classes for spinning, kickboxing, Pilates or yoga? Does the club offer personal training? Will the staff customize a training program for you when you join? If you don’t look forward to going or don’t feel confident in your workout, you won’t go. Make sure the club you go with has what you want, and know the costs up front.
Perks. Do you want a club that offers massage, a juice bar and spa services? If you go for that kind of stuff, maybe you can find one-stop shopping at your club.
What is the staff like? While they should look reasonably fit, beware of a gym staffed by employees sculpted to perfection who are too busy staring in the mirror to attend to you. Adonises aren’t much use when it comes to providing you with proper training.
Word of mouth. Do you know any of the club’s current members? Do not be afraid to talk to a couple people in the locker room. Ask them what they like (and don’t like) about the club. A little consumer sleuthing can pay off big time if you get the real truth.
Your gym time. Make all your touring visits at the time of day that you will work out. Drive through traffic from work or school or home at that time, and check out how tough it is to get on a treadmill, into a spinning class or through your weight workout without interruption. The same gym that looks highly inviting at 10 a.m. might be an overrun
zoo at 5:30 p.m.
Take a test ride. Do not join a gym until you try it out. Most clubs will let you do so for free for at least one guest workout. Remember, if they can’t help you before you join, how willing will they be to help you once they have your money?
Check off each of these items as you look around, and take plenty of notes. Once you have researched all the health clubs in your area, you will be able to intelligently choose one.
That is the easy part.
Among all the pitfalls on any given day, the hard part is staying with your exercise program once you join. There will always be pitfalls, tired days and excuses not to work out. You just have to make sure you load up that mental scale with as much positive stuff as you can – a great gym, people you like to work out with, nice equipment, no waiting lines, a clean, compatible environment, an easy drive there and a short drive home. Make sure that the gym you choose weighs in on the good side of your personal motivation scale, and you are definitely on your way!
Editor’s Note: Peter Nielsen is a former Mr. Universe, Mr. World and winner of over 50 bodybuilding titles.
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.