How to Select a Gym to Match Your Goals

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So you want to join a new gym. How should you choose amongst the many and varied gyms out there? It can be confusing to prioritise all the different considerations, and very easy to be swayed by a good salesperson when you visit a gym. Arm yourself with this checklist so that you make the best decision for you. And always visit a number of gyms before making your final decision.

Location

You need a gym that’s convenient to get to. If it takes too long to get to, you’re less likely to use it as often as you should (ideally 3 times a week). So consider one within walking distance (cuts out the problems of public transport delays or traffic jams), or if you’re driving there, check ease (and cost) of parking. One near home or work would be ideal, depending on the days and times you wish to train.

Beware, just because a gym is geographically quite near you, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s convenient. I live in London, and one gym I joined was 2 miles down the road, but the public transport to that gym was so slow, it took me longer to reach than the next gym I joined, 3 miles away, but really well connected with a door to door train ride. So make sure you do the journey at the time you plan to use the gym, go get an accurate idea of journey times.

Equipment

The key question you need to ask yourself is, “what are my goals?”. Then choose a gym whose equipment matches your goals. So if you’re after muscle growth, choose a gym with ample free weights (dumbbells and barbells, cable crossovers, benches with both flat and incline options, squat racks). And if yoga and stretching is your thing, you need a gym with a yoga studio and plenty of space for stretching.

Check out the layout of the gym. Does it feel energising to you? Is there space to move around? Is the balance of equipment right for you? Personally I don’t like vast rows of treadmills as far as the eye can see, with little alternative cardio equipment (cross trainers, bikes, rowing machines). And I hate small cramped free-weights areas, I like my free-weights areas to be spacious and a good distance between weights benches to avoid bumping into the person next to you. I’ve been in some gyms in Australia where the free weights areas were awesome. Less so in the UK.

Another thing to consider is the music in the gym. Do you want loud music, or do you prefer to work out in a quiet atmosphere? One gym I used had 2 floors with an open mezzanine, with loud rock music from the upper level clashing with the loud pop music downstairs, which was massively irritating to the ears.

Staff

The first people you’ll probably see are the reception staff. Are they welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable? All these things count for a lot if you’re going to interact with them every time you come to the gym.

Then consider the availability of gym instructors and personal trainers. Are they available, attentive, and approachable? Talk to them and you’ll see.

One thing that put me right off one gym I visited was reception staff eating doughnuts, painting their nails (and that was just the guys), and when I left, I saw one of the gym instructors standing outside smoking a cigarette. Ugh.

In contrast, my current gym has friendly, lively, chatty and knowledgeable staff. It makes such a huge difference to your gym experience. All the personal trainers and gym instructors have their photos on the wall, with a brief biog about them. I chat to them about the latest workout trends, nutrition tips, and they’re all really knowledgeable. So when you visit a gym with a view to joining, try chatting to some of the staff and you’ll get an idea of how friendly and knowledgeable they are.

Showers & Changing Rooms

This is where most gyms let themselves down badly. The changing rooms are often cramped, with small/narrow lockers which are a struggle to get all your stuff into. Once I took a sports …