How To Choose a Gym & Membership That’s Right For You!

Jun 28, 2021

How To Invest Best In Your Health & Wellness

Let’s start off by being very clear, there really is no one right gym or membership type for “everyone.” The best gym and membership for you will depend on your location, goals, preferences, budget, and more. You really need to consider what your fitness journey looks like and what will keep you most invested in fulfilling your goals.

So you’ve finally decided to start a fitness program and are now on the lookout for the perfect gym and membership. Or maybe you’ve been working out at home religiously for the last year of quarantine and now feel that the gym environment would help keep you motivated and offer you the social aspect of working out that you don’t receive while exercising alone at home.

Regardless of your circumstance, there are some key factors you should take into consideration when looking for a new fitness home.

Just like when you might be eager to try a new restaurant, you might ask your friends for recommendations, read a good review, or check out the menu before you spend your money and time there. If you enjoy your first meal, you’ll return again and again, but if your experience is less than great, that first visit will also be your last.

Finding the right gym is a lot like finding a new restaurant. A good gym will fit your own unique personality, and motivate you to come back and exercise on a regular basis. Unlike a restaurant, joining a gym may come with more of a financial commitment, so it’s even more important that you research your options before signing up.

When considering a particular gym, set up a tour and bring a list of questions you want to be answered. Before you even set your appointment, you may want to do some research online and learn more about the gym’s culture, amenities, and possibly even see if they offer a virtual tour of the club to give you more of a sneak peek before your visit (check out the 5 FITNESS PROJECT clubs). Plus, try to set up this tour during the time you usually exercise. More often than not, the staff will give you a free pass so you can try out the equipment, classes, and other amenities firsthand.

Other than a free workout, there are some key criteria to consider before you sign up. Keep these questions in mind as you begin your search.

1. Location, Location, Location

Location is the first consideration for most people when they’re choosing a gym. If it’s not convenient, chances are you won’t go. Find a gym close to home. Most people, despite their best intentions, won’t regularly drive more than 15 minutes. Use Google Maps or another online tool to plot your drive. While you’re scoping out your options, also check for easy parking, another potential deterrent to hitting the gym.

First figure out what times you most enjoy working out, or when exercising fits into your schedule. If you like to work out at lunch or right after work, you may want a gym located near your office. On the other hand, if you like evening workouts or you’re a weekend warrior, find a gym close to home. After all, a good workout is supposed to lower your stress level, not increase it.

2. Concept & Members

Consider the type of gym it is and the type of members the gym attracts. Some gyms attract hardcore bodybuilders, some gyms attract members that may not be heavily invested in real change, and some gyms attract “true” fitness communities. Depending on what you are seeking, all could work for certain individuals, you just need to determine where you feel more comfortable. Everyone responds differently to those around them, and you should keep this in mind before you choose a gym.

You should feel relaxed in your exercise environment, not embarrassed or intimidated. Some gyms even have roots that are tied to the communities they are in and support organizations in the community to benefit both the members in the gym and the people in the community. Check out how FITNESS PROJECT gives back.

3. Staff & Support

The staff members of the gym should be supportive and courteous, ready to answer questions, or even spot you on a machine if needed. They are there to help you make the most of your workouts. Before selecting a gym, ask about the certifications of the staff members. Are they qualified to guide you through your fitness routine? Do they offer a fitness orientation or body assessment? Is there any Introductory Clinic to help you get started? Also, if you need a personal trainer, what are their rates?

Watch out for gyms that sign you up and toss you into the gym floor without teaching you how to use any of the complex equipment, especially the new computerized pieces. Ask a staff member about the equipment, fitness classes, training opportunities, etc. during your tour and ensure they provide you helpful information in making your decision.

4. Cleanliness

This may or may not be obvious on your first trip to the gym, so keep your eyes peeled. Ensure there are sanitation and cleaning stations that are placed around the club and well-stocked. Also, look to see if staff members enforce this standard of hygiene. Peek into the locker rooms and showers, especially if you’ll be using these often. Look at the toilets, sinks, and showers themselves to see that they’re properly maintained.

5. Equipment

Take a good look around. Are there enough of the “popular” machines to go around, or do members have to wait in line to use them? Find out if there is a sign-up sheet or a time limit on cardio equipment. If you run on a treadmill for an hour, then a 30-minute time limit won’t really suit you.

Make sure that there are a wide variety of machines, but don’t be intimidated by new ones. Notice whether or not instructions and pictures are posted on the machines, or if staff is available to help you. Be cautious of too many out-of-order machines; this might be indicative of a poorly maintained gym.

Does the club offer 3D Body Assessments or screenings for members? Ask if the gym offers body fat testing, cardiovascular testing, and strength and flexibility testing. By tracking your results, it is likely this will help keep you motivated.

Lastly, be sure to see if there are areas dedicated to stretching or turf areas for training.

6. Classes & Programs

Ask to see the schedule of fitness classes and training programs offered at the gym. Make sure that the classes you want to take are offered at the times you can attend, and find out if you need to sign up early to reserve a spot. High-energy classes like indoor cycling might interest you, or a calming yoga class might be more up your alley. If group classes are the staple of your exercise program, find out if the gym charges extra for Group, studio classes, or training programs before you join. Decide whether or not these fees are affordable before you join, or you might be paying for a membership that you don’t really use.

To provide an example of how this could look, some membership types provide different offerings as part of each package. Whereas, if you know exactly what you are doing in the gym and like to do your own thing, but possibly each a regular GROUP Fitness class on occasion, a “Basic Membership” might be perfect for you. However, if you are looking to take advantage of a specialized Studio Fitness class or Team Training for community and support to help you achieve your fitness goals, a Gold or Studio Membership might be a better investment.

7. Amenities

Does the club offer other amenities you may desire? For example, does it offer a kid’s area, ladies-only workout space, reciprocation, a sauna, tanning services, a functional training area, personal trainers, WiFi, or a pro shop? Not all clubs offer the same amenities, and there are some clubs that offer different amenities based on your membership type. If you think about it, it is likely that a basic membership wouldn’t offer benefits like reciprocation or a FREE kid’s area; whereas a higher-end membership may offer everything you could need and more.

8. Cost & Fees

Cost may be one of your deciding factors when choosing a gym. Many gyms have a sign-up fee, but these may sometimes be waived during certain promotions or an action. At FITNESS PROJECT, enrollment fees are sometimes waived with a discreet contribution to a local organization that supports special causes in the community.

Take a look at the payment schedule. Do you pay each month, or do you have a time commitment? How do you cancel, if needed? And ultimately, does a gym fit into your budget (and lifestyle)?

When it comes down to joining a fitness center, feel free to be picky! Shop around, talk to friends, and take the tours until you find a place that meets all (or most) of your expectations at a reasonable price. After all, finding the right gym can be the key to a healthy lifestyle!

Look beyond the deals. When you’re weighing the costs of potential gyms, it can pay in the long run to sign up for the more expensive option. Bargain gyms often keep members that stop going because the amount of money they pay is so low they don’t take the time to cancel their memberships. By getting a higher-end membership, you might guilt yourself into going more by spending just a few dollars more — enough where it feels like it’s a real waste if you don’t make it at least a couple of times a week and enjoy the training opportunities.

Invest in your fitness and membership

I suggest springing for a higher-end membership that includes studio classes or a small group training program so that there really is accountability. The reality is, if you can see results, you’re going to stick with it.

Lastly, I also suggest you check out membership options online to better understand what all is included in each membership type so you have a good understanding before you even visit the club. Plus in some cases, online memberships may have fewer fees. To see what I mean, find your nearest FITNESS PROJECT club and click “JOIN NOW” to view memberships options:


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Did You Know?  When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference...especially a nice run (on a treadmill in the club or outside). 

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 • Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being

 • Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety

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 • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

 • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.

 • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

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