Gyms can either make or break your workout experience, so the importance of finding the right fit for you can really be the factor in achieving your goals and staying healthy. Plus, with the added layer of pandemic stress, your normal options may have changed.
Let’s start with the different types of gyms that are out there. We’ve broken it down into five main categories to make your decision making a bit easier.
Average Joe Gyms
These type of big box gyms can be found sprinkled all over the nation - chain gyms, if you will. They are your Gold’s, LA Fitness, Sport & Health, Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Washington Sports Club, local YMCA’s or Recreation Centers, etc. Here you typically have the option of a monthly membership which includes the cost of most group exercise classes and access to the gym floor and locker rooms, where personal training or one-on-one coaching services can be purchased additionally.
24 Hour Gyms
A few companies without time constraints are Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Fitness-for-10, Snap Fitness, and Workout Anytime. With a 24 hour access gym, you have the opportunity to get your workout in at any time of the day. There are usually less frills, but things tend to vary depending on the company and location.
These are your higher end monthly membership gyms that offer that health club vibe. Here you can find your EXOS, Equinox, Lifetime Fitness, etc. These health clubs typically have a fully stacked group exercise schedule included in the membership, and additional a-la-carte services like a spa, personal trainers by the dozens, juice bars, and more.
Let’s categorize these as businesses that offer a specific type of activity. Here we have yoga, spinning, barre, Pilates, dance, Crossfit, boxing, etc. There’s lots of these types of studios all over the place where you can enroll in monthly memberships or bundled sessions depending on what works best for you!
Personal Training Studios
It’s just what it sounds like, a studio gym that provides one-on-one training sessions only. Size and amenities can vary depending on the gym, but what you will always get is that personal attention without the other distractions.
In light of Covid, home gyms (or home workouts) have become a super accessible way to continue exercising. Whether you have lots of equipment or are just following some videos, this can be a great option (if you actually take advantage of it).
Now, there are a few other important components that contribute to every fitness experience that you should consider when making your choice.
I’m talking equipment - cardio machines, weight machines, dumbbells, barbells, squat racks, TRX, stretching mats, group exercise studio. What is it that you want your gym to offer? Do you want brand new, sparkling equipment? Do you want specific, top of the line group fitness classes? Do you need the guidance of an expert? Are you looking for a knowledgeable trainer or group classes? Do you need child care? Knowing whether you want just the basic amenities, or a more luxurious experience can help you limit down which gym may be the best fit.
The social aspect
Let’s not pretend this isn’t a thing. Tons of people fall into new friend groups based off of who they meet when they come in for a sweat sesh. You may also prefer a place that is populated by a higher percentage of same sex members. So, decide if you are a person who enjoys having a social aspect in your workout routine, or if you’re an in-and-out-no-BS kind of person. Knowing this can help you tighten your search parameters.
The convenience factor
Getting to the gym can be challenging enough for some of us, so why not make things easier and set yourself up for success! That might be deciding whether a location close to your workplace or close to your home is going to help sustain frequent visits, or choosing to use part of your home as your dedicated workout space. *One note on home gyms, while they are insanely accessible, we often neglect using them.*
For some of us, cost isn't something to worry about, but for others it can be a huge determining factor. The type of exercise setting and amenities will often determine the cost. You can certainly shop around to find something within your budget, but keep in mind, joining that $10/month gym might not be incentive enough to actually go there. When we make a financial commitment to something, we often are held more accountable.
We can wake up every morning with the best intentions in the world, but sometimes, intentions just aren't enough and we need that added layer of accountability. See what accountability looks like for you, and then see which atmosphere provides that. Sometimes it's a group class (your friends have made it a weekly date), other times it's a personal trainer (you are paying extra for the service and they are counting on you to show up), maybe it's just being able to put a check mark on your calendar; whatever it is should be taken into consideration when making your decision.
Hopefully by now you have been able to conjure up an image of the type of experience you are hoping for. If you’re still a bit unsure, don’t worry, because the next step in your gym search will certainly narrow things down. It’s time to do some recon - check out social media, check out each gym’s website, talk to your friends and then schedule a visit. There is no better way to really see if your future gym is the right fit without visiting a couple first, and when doing so, be sure to visit at the time you would actually be working out! That way you get an idea of what your new normal will be like.
From here, you may be able to cross a few off of your list. With this [hopefully] shorter list, I encourage you to take advantage of a really important perk offered everywhere - a free trial. Almost all gyms/studios offer a free trial of some sort, and you should absolutely give it a try. You may be able to take advantage of a free personal training consultation or one-on-one session and/or unlimited group classes! The more time you spend there, the better idea you will have as to whether it suits you or not.
If you are already a member somewhere and have decided after reading this that maybe it's not really for you, you have permission to change! While you might take a hit in the wallet, if there is another option out there that makes more sense for you, and will keep you engaged more, do that. Just because you signed a contract doesn't mean you have to stick with it forever. Be aware of your options and your obligations and go from there.