Starting a fitness routine is exciting. You join a new gym, find some fun classes and are looking forward to feeling better and getting in shape. Maybe things are humming along for a few months or even a few years, but then you start realizing that maybe your gym isn't a good fit for you. Is it just a lull in your motivation or is there really a problem?
A gym membership is like any other relationship. It's good to re-evaluate from time to time and see if you're getting out what you're putting in. Because you likely want things to work out, it can take longer than it should to realize it's time to move on. So use this list of seven signs to help you decide if you should stay or go.
1. Your Workouts Are Boring
If your workouts are becoming so monotonous you could fall asleep at the treadmill, it's a sign you're not in the right environment. If the classes offered don't change month after month, the available equipment doesn't change and your routine hasn't changed, it's time to shake things up.
Alexis Craig, NASM-certified personal trainer and coach for Gixo, compares this to being stuck in the "hamster wheel of working out," where your workouts are the same from week to week, without variation in weight, incline, speed or format. And Tony Carvajal, certified CrossFit trainer with RSP Nutrition, agrees: "You should be stimulated mentally and physically, and boredom can lead to complacency."
2. You Dread Going
New gym memberships are a lot like dating. At first, you're super excited to go, and then after a while, the newness fades and you begin to see the flaws in the relationship. You begin to realize, it's not you, it's them.
Carvajal says some people think of the gym as a "third space," where they can go that isn't home or work. But he emphasizes that enjoying being at the gym is really important. "You want to spend more time in places that make you feel good, which translates to better overall quality of life. If you are happy and enjoying yourself for at least an hour a day at the gym those hours will add up over time. Since you have the luxury to pick where you work out, you might as well make sure it's a place that makes you feel good."
3. You’re Not Seeing Results
In general, if you join a gym and work out, you should expect to start seeing some results as early as one month into your workout routine, and you should see noticeable results in about three months.
But lack of progress — whatever your goals are — can really impede your enthusiasm for hitting the gym, creating a vicious cycle. Carvajal suggests that perhaps the gym you're at, with the programs they're offering, isn't a good fit for you. "Every person isn't built the same, and they react differently to different styles of training," he says. "If you aren't seeing the results you want, it's time to try something else out."
4. Your Gym’s Culture Isn’t Welcoming
The atmosphere of the gym you've joined is crucial to your success. It makes little difference if the facility has top-of-the-line equipment, the most sought-after trainers or most accommodating hours of operation — if you don't feel comfortable at that gym, it might be time to break up.
And the cause of that discomfort can come from a variety of sources. "The 'already fit' members can sometimes judge other members, creating a toxic environment that you don't want to go back to," Craig says. "Or you can be constantly comparing yourself to others and not taking into account that everyone has different fitness goals and abilities. If it feels more like the cafeteria in 'Mean Girls' or you are spending more time eye-rolling than foam rolling, rethink your membership."
5. The Staff Is Phoning It In
Members of a gym generally have certain expectations of what they're getting for their money. One of those things — in addition to high-quality equipment, clean and safe facilities and a full slate of engaging classes — is well-trained certified personal trainers and coaches who push themselves as hard as they push their clients.
Carvajal says there three red flags to watch out for:
- You never see the trainers working out, and they don't appear to take their own health seriously. "You can't expect a trainer to hold you accountable to try your hardest or help get you to your goals if they aren't taking their own fitness as serious as you are," he says. They don't need to look like The Rock, but they should take pride in their appearance and overall health.
- Coaches don't have the skills and knowledge necessary for helping others achieve their fitness goals. "Don't feel embarrassed asking your trainer what certifications or education they have," says Carvajal. Or ask them why they love their job.
- Your personal trainer or fitness coach doesn't reflect a positive mindset and doesn't motivate you. Carvajal says a trainer or coach should be a natural leader, someone you respect and in some cases, look up to. "If your coach or trainer doesn't take things seriously or always thinks things are a joke, that's a bad sign," he says.
6. The Facility and Equipment Need Serious Improvements
When you sign your gym contract, no only are you committing to that gym, but that gym is committing to you, too, Carvajal says. "As a member, your monthly payment should be going to improvements in the gym. New equipment, new classes, things being maintained and clean — those should always be a standard at any professional training facility," he says. When that doesn't happen, he says it's a sign to take your business to a gym that does invest in its own facility, and therefore its members, too.
If you're not sure if this applies to your gym, take a look around. "If you've been a member at your gym for almost a year and you've noticed there haven't been any cool new TrueForm Runners and Ski Ergs added or the barbells are getting rusted and don't spin, then that's a sign ownership just doesn't care," says Carvajal.
7. Membership Fees Keep Going Up
People with gym memberships pay an average of $58 per month, but roughly two-thirds of them don't even use it, according to data from Statista. And while people do expect to pay a premium for high-quality gym facilities and professionally-led classes, there's a limit as to how much of a membership increase most folks will stand for.
It's one of the reasons Eraldo Maglara, NSCA-certified personal trainer, cites for folks who stop going to their gym. According to Maglara, people are smart enough to see when gyms are pocketing 100 percent of membership fee increases without passing any value onto their members. So if your monthly dues keep going up and that row of elliptical is still not working, you may want to call it quits.