The 4 most important factors when choosing a gym

May 27, 2012

This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski.

It’s getting a little late to trim down and get those six-pack abs before beach season, but that should deter anyone from finally joining a gym. The healthy benefits of remaining fit go beyond glimmering abs and bulging biceps. Keep yourself in shape and you can stave off health problems that affect so many people as they age. (As an anecdote, my parents, religious gym-goers, are on no meds as they turn 60 this year. Almost all of their friends are taking something or other for high blood pressure and other ailments.)

Whether you’re a gym neophyte or veteran, there’s no bad time to start looking for a new facility. It seems they’re popping up everywhere, so you should have ample choices. Of course, not every gym will meet your needs. Here are four significant factors to consider when you’re looking for a new workout home.

Gold's Gym

Equipment variety

Personal trainers and fitness magazines frequently tout the concept of periodization. That is, in order to realize the best results you should change what you’re doing every few weeks. Oftentimes people suggest this to mean changing the number of reps and the weight. Sometimes it’s also suggested to mean changing the specific movements. But periodization can be so much more.

Periodization is even more effective when completely switching the style of exercises you perform. Perhaps lifting weights will be effective for a while, but there are other things you can do. Plyometric exercises have become more popular lately. Many gyms have installed what amount to adult jungle gyms, allowing exercisers to perform movements that freeweights, and even cable machines, cannot offer. Some have even installed studios for boxing and martial arts.

The greater variety of equipment, the more you can vary your workouts. That will keep your body from adapting, and will prevent you from becoming bored with the same old routine.

Class space

One way people remain motivated to work out is to attend classes. Nearly every gym offers instructed classes, from yoga to ab routines to full-body workouts. It’s not quite like having a personal trainer, but the guided instruction in a relatively personal setting works for many people.

If a gym does offer classes, and you would like to attend some of these classes, make sure to check out the space they offer. One gym I joined had classes in just one room. Problem was, there were boxing classes, meaning there was a boxing ring. Essentially, all other classes had to be conducted within the ring. That meant no class could have more than seven or eight people. They were not worth attending.

Specialization

Years ago, gyms were essentially the same. There were free weights, some cable machines, cardio equipment, and perhaps a studio for classes. Alternative gyms weren’t much of a choice for the average consumer, because there wasn’t much appeal in them. They’re typically more expensive, and they don’t have the range of equipment of a generic gym. That has changed recently.

Boxing gyms and MMA gyms have cropped up in big numbers in the past few years. Many of them offer a much better experience than a generic gym, because they provide instructors and classes for all. The same goes for CrossFit gyms. These specialty gyms might not look as impressive, in terms of equipment, as a generic gym, but they can get you in shape much faster.

Specialty gyms are still more expensive, though, so it’s all a matter of preference and affordability. But even a bit of specialization in a generic gym — the presence of a martial arts studio, say — can go a long way.

Extras

While the primary focus of a gym is the workout itself, there are other little things that can make a difference. They shouldn’t be a primary reason, but they can play a role when deciding among a few finalists.

  • Towel service. It’s so nice to have someone hand you a towel when you walk into the gym. It also probably means the gym is a bit cleaner than your average one.
  • Wi-Fi. Not every gym gets wireless internet coverage, particularly if it’s in a basement. An available Wi-Fi network means more entertainment options when you’re doing cardio.
  • Post-workout snacks. Maybe they’re a bit overpriced, but the availability of protein bars and shakes at the gym can be a nice treat from time to time. They can also be great if you’re on the run frequently.
  • Sauna. Because sometimes you just need to sweat it out.
  • Private lockers. Most gyms require members to remove their belongings from lockers daily. But some do offer private lockers, where you can keep changes of clothes and some equipment stashed all the time. They’re worth it.

Choosing a new gym might seem like an arduous task, but it really boils down to just a few elements. If you take a look at this checklist and examine every gym this way, you should have no trouble choosing. And from there you can concentrate on getting the most out of your workouts, rather than where you will work out.

photo by: GaryPaulson

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