Before you shop around for a fitness club, you should have some idea of what’s attracting you to a gym in the first place. Such a wide variety of fitness facilities exist that a comparison usually, in the end, comes down to what appeals to you personally. Some people are looking to do simple cardiovascular or weight lifting exercise in a more social environment. Some may be lured in by special classes, while others may be most interested in the spa facilities, treatments, or special facilities like climbing walls.
Select a fitness club that’s conveniently located. Even if you have to pay extra for a club that’s closer to your home or located on the way to and from work, the investment will probably pay off in the end as you’ll be much more likely to use the facilities.
Visit the club at about the same time of day you intend to work out and ask for a tour. Don’t let yourself be rushed; take your time to get a feel for the ambiance of the gym. The way a gym looks, feels and sounds at 6 am may be very different from the way the same facility looks, feels and sounds at 2 pm because a different group of people will be working out, and there will probably be different staff on duty too.
Look for signage indicating what hours the club is open and inquire whether any parts of the club -- locker rooms, sauna, pool or basketball court -- are regularly closed or unavailable even if the rest of the facility remains open.
Inspect the locker rooms and gym floor for cleanliness. Look in the showers and check the area around the toilets for signs of soil. Make sure that clean towels, lockers and hot water are all readily available in the locker room. Look for spray bottles of machine sanitizer and towels available throughout the gym floor, and check to make sure that the floors are regularly cleaned. Inspect the weight equipment, too: Hard-working gym equipment may not be pristine, but it should never be excessively dirty, rusted or appear flimsy. While you’re at it, check to see whether there’s enough equipment available for all gym members to use or whether people are queuing up to use certain machines.
Inquire about different membership plans so that you can compare costs. Depending on your needs, you might be able to get a good monthly rate or other discounts by signing up for an extended-period contract, much as you would do with a cell phone company or cable provider. Don’t forget to ask what canceling your membership will involve to save yourself grief down the road.
Ask for a list of group fitness classes and other special programs that may be offered at the gym. Inquire whether the price of these classes is included with the membership or whether you have to pay extra.