So you’re ready to get in shape? Great! The first place you’ll probably look to is a gym. Trying to decide what gym to join can be a very daunting task. Each facility believes that their version of fitness is the best and the gym down the street is the worst. The truth is that you need to find something that works for you. Here are 5 things to consider before you sign up for a membership.
1. Are you working out now?
This is a big question that will really help you decide which direction to turn. If you’re not currently getting the recommended 3 days/week of vigorous activity ask yourself “why?” Is it your schedule? Are you too busy to work out? Have you tried to work out in the past and your schedule just got in the way? Have you had multiple gym memberships that you just didn’t use? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you should look to a gym that has some level of coaching or personal training. Accountability will be key. If you are currently working out with a consistent schedule, move on to #2…
2. Are you bored with your current routine?
Have you ever walked into the gym to see people with headphones in, jogging on the treadmill for 30 minutes only to aimlessly wander around the free weights doing the same thing everyday? Unless you’re a hardcore bodybuilder, this same routine can get very, very boring. If something is boring, you won’t stick to it long-term. Find a routine where you can mix it up everyday. Unless you’re training for a sport or a bodybuilding competition, you should try out all kinds of different workouts with all kinds of different equipment.
3. Are you achieving the results or feelings you want?
Even if you consistently stick to a routine for a year or two, you’ll eventually plateau. This is completely normal. Our bodies are built to adapt to anything we throw at it. Remember that first day in fall when the temperature dips below 50? It feels like an arctic tundra! But soon you adapt and 50 degrees feels warm in January. Similarly, if all you do is cardio you’ll eventually begin to put back on the weight you lost because cardio is your new normal. In the same way, if all you do is lift weights you’ll miss out on all the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. You need to mix it up.
4. Do you plan to actually go to the gym you join?
This may sound like a no-brainer. But this is a sneaky trick that the fitness industry plays on our brain. When you’re first looking at starting a new fitness routine, you’re probably feeling really motivated. You can’t imagine not sticking to this new healthy habit! Most gyms plan on this early motivation and lock you into a long-term contract knowing you won’t be around in 6 weeks. How do you know if the gym you’re considering plans on you actually stepping through the door? Price. Here’s the rule: The cheaper the membership fee the less they plan on you showing up. Gyms with fees north of $150 may sound really expensive to you. But they’re entire business model is built around less members that all show up to receive coaching.
5. Do you have any unique circumstances?
Does the thought of stepping into a gym make you feel very anxious? Do you have any injuries or pain to consider? Do you have a medical need to lose weight? Is mobility and flexibility an important factor for you? Do you feel you’re too old or too out of shape to lose weight?
If you answered “yes” to any of these you should consider finding a gym that has some level of individual customization. This is typically a meeting or introductory program with a coach. Ideally you’re able to maintain a relationship with this coach throughout the duration of your membership. If you fall into this category it will be important that you find a gym that employs professional, full-time coaches. They will have an extensive knowledge of health, fitness, and nutrition to help you along your journey.
Just like hiring a realtor, accountant, or attorney, a coach can help protect your most important asset: your health. The more you can lean on a professional, the better you’ll feel, look, and perform.