The Gym 101: P7: Finding New Gyms
Finding a new gym, visiting a new gym and going to a gym for the first time can be an intimidating experience for many. It is only with some time served and thought that you know what you want out of a gym and how to walk in with purpose.
Good thing you are reading this. I have been in probably HUNDREDS of gyms and talked to THOUSANDS of gym goers - both happy and unhappy - and I know what you need to consider before choosing a gym.
Before you sign on the dotted line, know that the right gym can not only propel your fitness but also propel your career. The right gym can make you workout feel as fun as going to the bar with your friends or it can make it feel like going to another hour of meaningless, soul-sucking work. The right gym can dent your wallet, but be worth every penny or it can cost the same as a cheap lunch but still be a waste of money.
Location is extremely important and usually the fist thing to look for. Ideally, it will be either by your work or by your home. If you are a weekend warrior, perhaps by your home is good. But if you are a commuter or someone who works out alongside their work routine, near your work is probably ideal (you can skip traffic).
If you find a really special gym that is a bit out of the way, that might be worth the trip, but if you are driving more than 30 or 40 minutes to get a pump in, guess the fist thing that goes on the chopping block when you realize you need more time. Yes, your poor workout.
Like I said, the right gym can dent your wallet, but be worth every penny or it can cost the same as a cheap lunch but still be a waste of money. If you choose a gym because it's 10 bucks a month, you get 10 bucks a month people. This isn't a community rife with opportunity for networking.
Also, many budget gyms are specifically designed to be hard to use - so you don't come back. The equipment is just a bit too close or the flow of the gym is lumpy. despite the new equipment, it's just not pleasant to use. These gyms book at 1000% capacity. because they know people aren't going to come back - but are too lazy to make a phone call about $10 a month.
A good gym will cost about $50/mo minimum. Great ones cost about $80-200. Know your budget and know what you are looking for. If it stings a little bit to pay for the membership, that could be a GOOD thing because it make you get your butt off the couch and go to the gym.
If you are serious about being in great shape, the gym will become your second home and your third destination. You have got to like showing up.
These days, not a lot of us have the regular bar or clubhouse to go to after work. The gym is where we will meet a lot of friends and business contacts. If you are looking to build a network, client base or reputation, the gym can be a powerhouse for that. This is why paying a little more for a membership can be good - you know all those people can afford your services or have contacts to people who do.
But it can also be your friend base. I have moved many times and my social hub was always at and from the gym. A good gym is like a good church in that aspect: full of open, like-minded folks that are helpful and generous to the person the new guy making an effort.
Ask if the gym has get-togethers, events or hangouts. You want a gym that is involved in some good causes or competitions. Are there happy birthday post to the members on FB? is there a community board? Are people hanging out long after the workout is done? These are all good signs.
Community Type - Families, Competitors or Professionals
All three of these groups have different needs when it come to the gym. Most gyms a really good to one or two of these groups but few are good to all three.
If you like some competition, wild equipment and are driven by the desire to get better, your needs will differ greatly from a young professional that is looking to network and not get fat. Young professionals and family oriented people can get by with basic equipment found in most gyms. But if you are single, a young professionals gym or competitors gym might be more friendly to your love life.
The family friendly gym is always tricky. Places like Los Angeles, Berlin and New York are tough places to find a family gym that isn't a YMCA/community center type facility. Mid-sized cities are much better at it. In Las Vegas, Frankfurt, Boise and Salt Lake City nearly every gym I walked into had a children's corner.
Keep in mind that independent gyms are much more family friendly than corporate gyms. They let little kids hangout and participate in classes as long as the parent is near and watching.
But find the right place with the right people. I've been to gyms where it was understood parents stayed late and came early to help watch after the stray kids that were told to stay put while mom and pop were working out. Moms and Dads often came in groups and stayed for two hours, switching off working out and looking after each others kids. There are awesome place like this out there but you have to look for them,
What kind of classes does the gym offer? If you are paying big bucks to be there, you might want a yoga class along with your weightlifting class. Some gym even have WAY COOL classes like aerial yoga and barbell beginners club. What about open lane swimming or a master swim club? Take inventory of what you like and want to learn. See your options of that point of view.
And think outside the box and check out you more niche interests. Most gyms with pools don't have really great availability for open swim or any classes. If something like that is a priority, it might be easier to find a great pool with a decent gym then a great gym with a decent pool. Most rock climbing gyms have a free weight section - but I never seen it the other way around.
Know what you want to be involved in and approach it from there.
What do you need from you gym to meet all of you personal needs? For me a sauna and a shower are a MUST. If I can’t get ready for work or a date at the gym, chances are, they are not getting my money. If you live close to the gym, this might not be a problem - but my gym is largely the center of my world.
Think about what make this the most convenient place: child care, shower, guest passes, hot tub. Keep in mind you will pay for all of it. BUT it is worth the money when you don't have to make phone calls for a babysitter, run home to get ready or sweat out that hangover without the elliptical (yes, I’m guilty).
I can tell you outright that you should never give money to a gym without a squat rack or barbells. That being said, this section will apply to already fit people com competitors.
If you have special needs as a lifter, that's awesome. Peg boards, Dumbbells over 100 pounds, olympic lifting platforms, sleds and tires are just some of the awesome but everyday equipment needed to keep some folks happy. These are sport specific equipment in specialized training centers. In order to get some of these cool toys, you might need to give up on amenities, like a shower or sauna.
You can always donate equipment to the gym or visit another place to get the special sauce. Keep in mind what you need to 90% of your workouts and approach you purchase from there. If one day of your training calls for special equipment, This is just a great excuse to gym hop and check out a new place and make some friends.
I hope you can approach your gym investing with a little more knowledge than before. Choosing a gym is like choosing a friend. Be careful and make sure its worth your time, affection and investment!
Learn all the basics and insider knowledge
Check out The Gym 101 Series
Part 1: Exercise Selection
Part 2: Set and Rep Schemes
Part 3: Training Splits and Organizing Your Week
Part 4: Creating Fun Workouts
Part 5: Training Around Injuries and Imbalances
Part 6: Menstruation and Muscle
Part 7: Finding New Gyms
Part 8: Navigating the Gym
Part 9: Gym Rules
Part 10: Fitness and Pregnancy
Part 11: Postpartum Exercise, Birth to 4 weeks
Part 12: Postpartum Exercise, 4-16 Weeks
Part 13: Recovery