How to Shop for A Gym Membership

Consider these important factors before committing to a contract

Whether you’re thinking about starting a new fitness regimen or looking for new types of exercise to try, finding a good gym that will meet all of your needs might feel more challenging than actually mustering up the motivation to work out.  From membership costs to location, there’s a long list of factors to consider when shopping for a fitness facility. However, so long as you clearly outline exactly what you’re looking for, there’s no reason you won’t be able to find the perfect recreational refuge you’ve been dreaming of.

Outline your goals
The first step in planning to shop for a new gym is to outline your fitness goals. Start by writing down two or three easily measurable objectives. Think beyond some of the more obvious ambitions like losing weight. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, like running a mile on the treadmill without stopping or getting to the gym for a 30-minute workout three times every week. This will help you choose a gym that’s convenient and that has all the tools you’ll need to accomplish your goals.

Set a budget
The next step is to determine your price range. Keep in mind that in addition to monthly dues, most gyms charge initiation fees. Some may also require that you sign a one-year contract, meaning that you’ll be charged a cancellation fee if you choose to end your membership within a year of joining. If you’re interested in clubs with extra amenities like saunas and towel services, expect to pay a higher monthly fee. Also, be sure to ask your health insurance provider if they offer gym membership reimbursement. Some carriers will pay for a portion of or the entire membership if you provide documentation proving that you used your gym a certain amount of times per month.

Shop around
Once you’ve determined your goals and your price range you can start to shop around. Consider a location that will be convenient for you. For example, if you find it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise after returning home from work, it might be a good idea to choose a gym closer to your office. That way, you can plan to fit your workout in without the temptation of stopping home for a “quick cat nap” on the couch. When you’ve established a suitable location, start by visiting each gym within the area. If possible, plan your visits during the times when you’ll most likely be using the facility. This will help give you a feel for the atmosphere and a better idea of whether or not you’ll feel comfortable exercising there.

Take notes
While you’re shopping around take lots of notes about each gym. Gym representatives should be eager to give you a tour of every area of the facility, even the locker rooms. Inquire about whether or not they offer babysitting services for gym-goers with children, if they have a pool, what kinds of group fitness classes they offer, and whether or not any of the amenities cost extra.

Try them out
After you’ve visited a few gyms, take advantage of their free trial memberships. Most gyms will allow you to test out their facilities for a week or so before signing up. Don’t make a commitment until you’ve had a chance to test out as many of your options as possible. It’s best to experience each gym first-hand so you can make an accurately informed decision when you’re ready to choose.

Keep an open mind
Shopping for a gym is a little bit like dating, it’s best to give all of your options a fair shot before finding the perfect fit. At first, the process might feel more overwhelming than the thought of finishing that first mile on the treadmill, but as long as you keep an open mind and avoid jumping into any commitments too quickly, you’ll know for sure when you’ve found The One.