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 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 group fitness classes. Others may be most interested in the spa facilities, treatments, or special facilities like climbing walls.
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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 your route to or from work, the investment will pay off as you’ll be much more likely to use the facilities.
Visit the club during the time of day you intend to work out and ask for a tour so you can experience the gym the way you will. Don’t let yourself be rushed; take the time to get a feel for the ambiance, sounds, and crowd size. Even consider equipment, shower, and parking availability. The gym environment at 6am may be very different from the 2pm or 6pm scenes; they can sometimes look like completely different businesses.
Ask about the club's hours of operation and if any areas of the club—locker rooms, sauna, pool or basketball court—are regularly closed or unavailable even if the rest of the facility remains open. Also ask about holiday availability or other special reasons the club may be unavailable, as well as how they notify members of unexpected closures.
Inspect the locker rooms and gym floor for cleanliness. Look in the showers and check the area around the toilets for signs of neglect. 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 in disrepair.
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. And take advantage of any sign-on bonuses, like complimentary personal training, classes, or discounts.
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.
Assemble your research for a side-by-side comparison of your options. The investment up front of in-person tours and thorough Q&A with staff will ensure you don't have any unwanted surprises later and that you find the club that's truly the right fit for your fitness personality.