- Cost. Gym memberships vary in cost from cheap to astronomical. Beware contracts, especially if you’re not sure you’ll maintain your routine yet. Check your health insurance plan to see if it offers a discount or reimbursement for gym memberships. If you have a friend that’s already loving his gym, see if both of you get a discount if you start working out where he does. And make sure the gyms you’re deciding on offer you a free, no obligation trial period so you can take each one for a test drive.
- Location. It’s rare to find someone who is willing to drive miles out of their way to go to a specific facility (with the exception of Crossfitters - those people will do anything). Determine a realistic travel radius from your home and target the gyms within that distance. Once you determine which of these are in your budget, you’ve got a shorter list to work from. If you’re a commuter, a gym on your route to work makes sense, even if it’s a little farther away.
- Children. If you have kids and need childcare during your workout, visit the kids area and meet the kids area attendant. Ask for a printed sheet of rules so you know what is expected. Remember that if your child enjoys going to the gym, that can be a motivator - if she hates going, it will be a deterrent.
- Hours. Make sure the gym you’re thinking about has hours that work easily for you - if you have to work around the gym’s schedule, you’re less likely to incorporate the habit of working out there. Make sure you observe the gyms during the times you’re most likely to work out so you get a feel for the size of the classes and the wait (if any) for machines.
- Classes. If you want to take Zumba, spinning, or yoga, make sure those classes are offered, and determine whether they are included in the membership or cost extra. Check out the schedule of classes to make sure it will work with your schedule.
- Staff/trainers. Some want the attention of personal trainers. If this is you, ask to meet with one or two, and ask about rates, packages and availability. If you’re a DIYer make sure the staff is CPR and first aid certified, just in case.
Not a good sign. The gym can be much more than a place to exercise: it can be a haven of relaxation, a social meetup hot spot, and even a place to let your kids blow off some steam. If you pick the wrong gym, it can turn into a silent but persistent drain on your bank account. How to pick the right gym? Use the following to screen your choices: