5 key things to look for when choosing a gym

Choosing a gym can be a daunting experience. The right gym can make sure that you succeed in your fitness and health journey. In this article, we go over the 5 key things to look for when choosing a gym.

Location
You want a gym that is close to you. The first step is to decide when you want to train. Are you more likely to train in the morning before work, or in the evening after work or school? If you're a morning person, you may have more success if your gym is close to your home. However, if you're planning to go to the gym after work/school, it might suit you better to choose a place closer to that location.

If your work involves a lot of travel, a franchise gym may suit you better. Some larger chain gyms offer memberships with access to all their facilities either state or nationwide.

My advice would be to find a location within 10 minutes from your house, work or school. You do not want travel to be your barrier.

Services and facilities
The next step is to determine what are the key services and facilities that are important to you. Gyms have elaborate sales tactics to push every service to you, and a key understanding of what you need versus what you don't need will help you choose a gym.

Some common services and facilities that gyms offer are:

  • 24-hour access
  • Swimming pools and saunas
  • Changing rooms - everything from shampoo and hair dryers to robes and slippers
  • Childcare services
  • Front desk and staff support
  • TV's, music and air conditioning
  • The services and facilities that a gym offers is related to their price. You can find budget gyms with basic facilities and boutique gyms with all the bells and whistles.

Spend some time looking at the equipment at the gym. Is it clean? Is it old? What do they have? Do they have enough for everyone? Do you feel comfortable using the equipment?

Check out the changerooms. What facilities do they have? Does it look clean? The key here is if you feel comfortable using the changerooms.

Finally, listen for the music. Some gyms like to pump the music, others do not. Does it fit your taste? Do you want the music to be pumping? Or are you more likely going to listen to your own music?

Most gyms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy/lease all the latest toys, which is fine, who doesn't like toys. However, many things are unnecessary, so determine what you need. My advice is to keep it simple. Your results are not determined by your gym. Review your Maxs or Maxine workout plans and see if the gym has enough of the equipment that you need to complete your program.

Staff
Different gyms offer different staff services. Some gyms can be mainly staffed by Personal Trainers (PT). Most gyms subcontract their PTs or allow PTs to run their own business at the gym, and some employ the PTs themselves. PT's should have a Certificate IV qualification (or higher) and be registered with an Australian fitness body (Physical Activity Australia or Fitness Australia).

Some gyms have staff that are not PTs. That can include front desk staff, group fitness instructors and gym floor attendants. Group fitness instructors and most gym floor attendants should have at least a Certificate III in Fitness.

Group fitness classes may be an important service for you. Ask what classes they offer (LesMills branded classes are common), review their timetable, and ask what the process is to book a class.

Gym floor attendants can change from gym-to-gym. Some will assist you on the gym floor with exercise demonstrations and some will just "man the desk or reception" and clean up the equipment.

Most gyms will offer a consultation service where you can sit down with a fitness professional. In the consultation, they may discuss your goals, take your measurements, write a program and offer advice.

I'd recommend to book in a consultation and have them review your progress every 12 weeks.

Key questions to ask are:

  • Are there Personal Trainers?
  • Is there gym floor staff?
  • Can you ask for assistance when training?
  • Can I book in a consultation with a trainer?
  • What are the staffing hours? (especially for 24 hour gyms)

Community
Finally, spend some time looking at the people who go to the gym. Are you looking for somewhere that you can be part of a community or a place that you can remain anonymous?

I'd recommend finding a gym that would suit your demographic. If you're young, you may not enjoy training in a gym full of elderly members. If you're a new mum, you may not feel comfortable at a rough and tough gym.

My advice would be to find a gym that you feel comfortable in. You don't want the other members at a gym to be the reason why you don't train there.

Key questions to ask are:

  • What is the member demographic?
  • What are the busiest times?
  • What are some of the gym policies or rules?

Price
How much? That's the big question. Signing up to a gym can involve additional fees and elaborate contracts. Ask as many questions as you can. Most gyms are able to waive fees and offer you discounted prices, so make sure you ask if they can do a better price.

Some gyms offer sign up bonuses, such as merchandise, free passes and sessions with personal trainers. Make sure you ask.

My advice is to ask for a trial pass to make sure that your gym is right for you.

Key questions to ask are:

  • How much?
  • Are there additional fees?
  • What is the contract?
  • What is the fee to break the contract?
  • Is the amount up front or direct debited?
  • Is there a fee for missed payments?
  • Can you waive any of the fees?

Also ask for bonuses

  • Do you have a sign up offer?
  • Is there a welcome pack?
  • Do you offer any trials?