So you’ve decided you want to join a gym.  That’s great!  While there are plenty of at home workouts and you don’t necessarily need to be a member of a gym to get amazing results, the gym may be the perfect place for you.  Gyms offer equipment, classes, personal trainers and other amenities that may help you reach your goals.  But if you are looking to join a gym in an area where many options are available, you may have trouble deciding which one to choose.

Here are a few tips to help you weigh your options and choose the right gym for your needs:

1.  Cost.  Membership costs can vary widely from gym to gym.  In my area, monthly memberships range from $9 to $85 a month.  That’s a pretty wide range!  Depending what amenities you are willing to pay for will determine what you get.  I belong to a basic, no-frills gym and pay $9 a month.  They have all the basic equipment and plenty of it and offer several group exercise classes.  Because I only use the gym to supplement my running and at home workouts, this is perfect for me.  More expensive gyms offer towel service and child care.  I’m willing to bring my own towel and don’t need child care so this isn’t important to me.  Some gyms have more amenities such as hot tubs, saunas, pools, basketball courts, or raquetball courts.   While these amenities are really nice, decide if you will really use these.  If not, there is no reason to pay for them.

2.  Contracts.  Be sure to evaluate what you would be committing to.  Many gyms will want you to commit to a year contract for a better price.  Because you never know what life may throw your way, carefully consider if you will really use the gym throughout the year.  If you aren’t sure, a month-to-month arrangement will be a better deal for you.  If you are being pressured to a long-term contract, you may want to consider moving on.  This should be your decision.

3.  Visit the gym during a busy time.  Typically, after work hours are busy at the gym.  By visiting during peak times, you will be able to see the availability of equipment and the type of people that are at the gym.  If no equipment is available, this will likely be an issue you encounter again and again.  You’ll also want to take notice of the people in the gym.  Are they people you would feel comfortable working out with?  I personally prefer to work out with “regular” people – those trying to stay fit or lose weight.  I have no interest in working out with the muscle-y men that are lifting heavy weights and looking at themselves in the mirror.

4.  Accessibility and hours.  Another important item to consider is the hours of operation and how accessible the facility is.  If you want to work out at 3 AM, you will likely want to find a gym near your house that is open 24 hours a day.  If the gym is too far or too inconvenient to get to, you probably won’t go as often as you intend.

In addition to these things to consider, there is one thing you need to avoid when joining a gym.  And that’s a gym that isn’t clean and has poorly maintained equipment.  If equipment is not properly maintained, it could lead to injury.  And while gyms are somewhat dirty by nature because people go there to sweat, the gym should be regularly cleaning the equipment, the floors, and the entire facility.  If the gym is dingy or dirty, it’s a good idea to go elsewhere.

Do you belong to a gym?  What is your most important consideration when choosing a gym?

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