There was a time not too long ago when the only “equipment” a serious lifter had were barbells and benches. Often a trip to the gym meant entering a dark, cave-like atmosphere in a less than desirable area of larger cities. By contrast, the gyms of today are usually bright, cheerful, open facilities boasting the latest in equipment and amenities. You can find them in the most upscale neighborhoods and double as popular meeting and greeting places. So, as we head into the new year, you will start to see all the "new year, new you" sales promotions and gimmicks. Within those gyms, you have personal trainers ready to fire their best sales pitch at you. I'm all for you starting your new fitness journey at your new gym. Just don't go into it blindly with without a couple bullets in your gun as well.
Where do you begin? Fortunately, there are more choices available today than in any other time in history. The fitness craze has opened many doors of opportunity and alternatives for the average person seeking a healthier lifestyle. This is a serendipity for the serious lifter. The “corner gym” is fast becoming as popular as the “corner pub."
Most gyms now offer a variety of membership packages and many will offer a brief trial period allowing you to “test” the facility to determine if it meets your needs. When you do make a decision to join a fitness facility, there are a number of points to consider. Choosing a quality fitness facility or health club requires caution. The following guidelines can help:
- Shop around. Ask friends, coworkers, and your physician for recommendations.
- Call several clubs to find ones that match your interests and budget.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for reliability reports on clubs you are considering.
- Visit the club at the time of day you will use it.
- Talk to members and staff.
- Are the hours and location convenient?
- Does the club have facilities and services that suit your needs?
- Are the equipment, exercise areas, and locker rooms clean and well-maintained?
- Is the facility overcrowded?
- Does the club limit new membership to prevent future crowding?
- Is the atmosphere friendly?
- What are the qualifications of the staff?
- Do they have appropriate education and training?
- Do they take an interest in and assist with individual goals and progress?
- Carefully consider the contract. Take a copy home to read thoroughly before signing. Stay away from clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot!
- Does the contract list all services and facilities? All oral promises should be written down.
- What is the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
- Do some services cost extra?
- How long is a membership term? A short-term membership is usually best in case you find yourself unmotivated or the club closes.
- Does the contract allow for a try-out period? Will the trial fee be applicable to longer-term membership?
- What are your cancellation and refund rights if you move, become disabled, or the club closes?
- Does a three-day cancellation policy apply if you change your mind shortly after signing up?
- Make sure the club has met state bonding and licensing requirements.
- Finally, never sign up with a club that has not yet opened despite any special discounts. And beware if the club asks for your credit card number or deposit check before you have read the contract.