How to choose a gym

Determined this will be the year you’ll become more fit? Tips for choosing a gym you can live with. Finding the right indoor fitness facility can be overwhelming. With all the choices available – and all the ways to procrastinate on exercise – it’s no surprise that many people end up choosing a gym that doesn’t work for them. In fact, industry statistics suggest that 50 per cent of individuals who sign up for a gym membership never come back after the first month.

But if you choose the right facility, your a gym can become a source of inspiration and – the other part of genius, they say – perspiration. The trick is to find a gym that matches your personality and fitness goals. Here’s a checklist to consider as you weigh options in your area.

Give it a thorough going-over
Set up a tour – or better yet, set up several tours so that you are certain to visit more than one facility – at the time of day that you’ll normally be exercising. Most gyms will offer a free day pass you can try out the amenities at your leisure.

Check the hours
Make sure the gyms you consider are open at the times you want to exercise. Some are open 24 hours; others may be closed on Sundays or weekends.

Location, location
If you choose a gym that’s far away chances are that it will be harder to get over there – especially once winter comes along. It may be motivating to find a gym that you would normally drive past – perhaps between work and home, or next to a favourite haunt.

Part of the club
Don’t be shy about asking for recommendations from friends or family members. You may even find that you end up with a workout buddy, which can be an ongoing source of inspiration. But failing that, take a look at the other people using the gym when you take your tour. Will you feel comfortable working out in the crowd? Are they intimidatingly toned and fit? It is mostly a younger set? (This last can be motivating or discouraging, depending on your personal preference.) Is the gym co-ed or women only?

Expert advice
Gym staff members should be courteous and knowledgeable, and ready to help with trying machines or answering questions. Ask whether staff is certified, whether professional trainers are available, and what their rates are.

Spic and span
Watch to see whether towels are available to wipe off equipment, and whether patrons and staff use them. Check out the state of sinks, toilets, and change rooms. Take a close look at entryways and hallways. And look for ‘out of order’ signs on equipment – if there are several, this may be a sign that the gym is not being well maintained. Another good question – ask if the gym is air conditioned in the summer.

Ask for the schedule of classes, and also ask how you sign up – some require you to sign up in advance; some are drop-in. Make sure you understand whether or not there is a separate fee. See if you can try a class on a trial basis. Ask about the qualifications of the instructors and if possible speak with an instructor him- or herself.