How to Select a Gym to Match Your Goals

So you want to join a new gym. How should you choose amongst the many and varied gyms out there? It can be confusing to prioritise all the different considerations, and very easy to be swayed by a good salesperson when you visit a gym. Arm yourself with this checklist so that you make the best decision for you. And always visit a number of gyms before making your final decision.

Location

You need a gym that’s convenient to get to. If it takes too long to get to, you’re less likely to use it as often as you should (ideally 3 times a week). So consider one within walking distance (cuts out the problems of public transport delays or traffic jams), or if you’re driving there, check ease (and cost) of parking. One near home or work would be ideal, depending on the days and times you wish to train.

Beware, just because a gym is geographically quite near you, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s convenient. I live in London, and one gym I joined was 2 miles down the road, but the public transport to that gym was so slow, it took me longer to reach than the next gym I joined, 3 miles away, but really well connected with a door to door train ride. So make sure you do the journey at the time you plan to use the gym, go get an accurate idea of journey times.

Equipment

The key question you need to ask yourself is, “what are my goals?”. Then choose a gym whose equipment matches your goals. So if you’re after muscle growth, choose a gym with ample free weights (dumbbells and barbells, cable crossovers, benches with both flat and incline options, squat racks). And if yoga and stretching is your thing, you need a gym with a yoga studio and plenty of space for stretching.

Check out the layout of the gym. Does it feel energising to you? Is there space to move around? Is the balance of equipment right for you? Personally I don’t like vast rows of treadmills as far as the eye can see, with little alternative cardio equipment (cross trainers, bikes, rowing machines). And I hate small cramped free-weights areas, I like my free-weights areas to be spacious and a good distance between weights benches to avoid bumping into the person next to you. I’ve been in some gyms in Australia where the free weights areas were awesome. Less so in the UK.

Another thing to consider is the music in the gym. Do you want loud music, or do you prefer to work out in a quiet atmosphere? One gym I used had 2 floors with an open mezzanine, with loud rock music from the upper level clashing with the loud pop music downstairs, which was massively irritating to the ears.

Staff

The first people you’ll probably see are the reception staff. Are they welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable? All these things count for a lot if you’re going to interact with them every time you come to the gym.

Then consider the availability of gym instructors and personal trainers. Are they available, attentive, and approachable? Talk to them and you’ll see.

One thing that put me right off one gym I visited was reception staff eating doughnuts, painting their nails (and that was just the guys), and when I left, I saw one of the gym instructors standing outside smoking a cigarette. Ugh.

In contrast, my current gym has friendly, lively, chatty and knowledgeable staff. It makes such a huge difference to your gym experience. All the personal trainers and gym instructors have their photos on the wall, with a brief biog about them. I chat to them about the latest workout trends, nutrition tips, and they’re all really knowledgeable. So when you visit a gym with a view to joining, try chatting to some of the staff and you’ll get an idea of how friendly and knowledgeable they are.

Showers & Changing Rooms

This is where most gyms let themselves down badly. The changing rooms are often cramped, with small/narrow lockers which are a struggle to get all your stuff into. Once I took a sports bag to a new gym only to discover that locker was too small for the bag to fit into.

Always ask to see the changing area (and showers too, don’t be shy), and look out for broken lockers, cleanliness. One gym in East London I checked out (and didn’t join!) had a changing area littered with sticking plasters, cotton buds, empty drinks cartons, chocolate wrappers.

In contrast, when I spent a year in Australia, I joined a gym with the cleanest and most spaceous changing area imaginable. The lockers were double width to fit the largest of sports bags, and a light even came on inside the locker when you opened it.

And always ask for a free trial session, so you actually experience the changing area and showers rather than just a quick glance around. Try before you buy, this gives you a much better chance of spotting problems. One free trial I had was great, until I used the showers at the end. One cubicle had only freezing water, another had only scalding water, and the third had no shower gel in the dispenser.

Other Members

How busy is the gym? Always visit on a day and at a time you’re planning to use it regularly. If it’s too crowded, you’re not going to get a decent workout, you’ll be waiting around for equipment to become available. City gyms in a business district can get so crowded at lunchtime, you’ll even be standing in a long queue to get a shower. No thanks.

And what are the members like? You want to be around the kind of people you like, or at least not feel uncomfortable amongst, right? So if you’re female and into gentle cardio, you might not want to be among huge sweaty noisy bodybuilders crashing weights about and eyeing you up. Likewise if you’re a guy into heavy weight training, you might want similar people to train around for the motivation and energy, rather than waif-like people on exercise bikes.

Again, you can only gague what the other members are like by having a free trial session, so I strongly recommend you do this before signing on the dotted line.

Cost and Contract

Know what you’re signing up for, what’s included and what costs extra (towels, sauna etc). What’s the cancellation policy, can you freeze your membership if you’re ill, what’s the term of the contract (some are as much as 2 years), does your membership allow you to use other gyms in the chain, and what days/times can you use the gym?

Additional Facilities

Consider what else is important to you. Would you value a snack bar which offered healthy snacks, smoothies, protein shakes after your workout? Do you want a swim after your workout? And conversely, if you don’t want to swim, it might be a waste of money joining a gym with a pool, as this bumps up the cost of membership considerably. Or you might find that the facilities you do value are so good that it’s worth paying the extra for things you might not use. You need to weigh up your priorities and decide accordingly.

One gym I joined had a pool, and I didn’t realise until som

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How to Select a Gym to Match Your Goals

The Truth About Gym Memberships and How to Make the Gym Workout for You

The reason why so many of us have or once had a gym membership, or know someone with a membership, is because it has been successfully marketed as the gateway to weight loss.

With the population of overweight people growing faster than ever before, this is no surprise. In fact, it is not unheard of for UK doctors to prescribe gym memberships for patients suffering from obesity, depression or high blood pressure, at a rate subsidised by the NHS. Clearly gyms are playing an increasing role in the health of our society, or so it seems.

The truth about gym memberships:

According to TGI statistics, there are at least 4.5 million UK adult gym members and a third of them are under 25; also those aged over 65 have risen by at least 70% since 2000. Interestingly, only 27% of gym members go to the gym regularly. As a matter of fact, a BMBR study revealed that 67% of gym members in England don’t use it at all.

An investigation conducted at the University of California found out that most of us don’t use our gym memberships because we start out over-confident. We think we’ll attend the gym more often than not and then congratulate ourselves when we buy an expensive gym membership that financially rewards regular attendees. If this research is anywhere near accurate, then it certainly doesn’t say much for our sense judgement.

In essence, the reason why we have so much trouble visiting our gym is not due to the rising cost of membership or rising unemployment, but more to do with a loss of confidence, unmet expectations and perhaps over familiarity.

How to make the gym workout for you

Maintaining good health and a great shape requires healthy eating and exercise. But how exactly can we make the most of the gym, without losing confidence and handing over our hard-earned money recklessly to gym owners. Here are a few fun tips to help make the gym work out for you:

(1) Under commit- when signing up don’t make any assumptions that you’ll be at the gym 3-4 days a week. This is simply not true for at least 90% of the population. Commit yourself to something you feel is way too easy; let’s say 1-2 days a fortnight. You will probably attend more often (over deliver) and this will boost your confidence levels

(2) Pick your gym wisely- most great gyms have a feel good factor about them. They have a vibrant ambience, great customer service, personal trainers or coaches on hand to assist and help hold you to account. They also offer a variety of equipment and activities to keep members interested, committed, challenged and entertained.

(3) Make friends- if you don’t have friends to accompany you to the gym, you better make some new friends at the gym. Sometimes the gym workout might not excite you, but the thought of catching up with a friend or potential other (who’s usually at the gym on certain days) certainly will. The gym can be the perfect excuse to hangout and have fun with mates.

(4) Get affordable price plans – it may sound impressive to your work colleagues that you are a member of an exclusive gym, but you’ve still got to remember it’s you paying for this membership- not your impressed colleagues. If you choose an affordable price plan, you won’t have to shy away after the first 3 months.

(5) Dress with confidence -when sweating it out on the treadmill or in your fitness class, there is nothing that gives you greater self-confidence when you feel comfortable and look good in your gym wear. It can sometimes be daunting to be amongst other gym users when you don’t feel good in your own skin, or clothing for that matter.

(6) Try something different- it’s pretty tempting to stick to what you know, especially when you have no clue how 90% the gym equipment works. The only problem is that it will only be a few weeks before you get bored and decide to quit on the gym. In a good gym, you will usually have staff around who can spare a moment or two to show you how to use some of the other gym facilities.

(7) Learn to do it right – we so easily to get frustrated and start blaming ourselves or the gym for all sorts of inadequacies, when really all we need to do is to learn to use the gym equipment the right way; and learn the correct techniques for working out. So save yourself the pain and misery of injuries, embarrassment and frustration; and get an expert to teach you how to do it right.

(8) Entertain yourself- it’s no use complaining that the music in the gym is too quiet or obnoxious, or even that the TV screens are too small. It’s pretty handy to have on you your favourite workout music that will definitely get you in the mood. So, bring along your iPod or iPhone; and there’s no reason why you can’t read your favourite magazine in the sauna.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Truth About Gym Memberships and How to Make the Gym Workout for You