I have been working at gyms for more than 10 years now, so I know a new gym membership can be daunting — all those machines, classes with weird names like “buff yoga,” huge muscle guys wandering around, etc.
These things keep many average people from joining gyms, but they shouldn’t! In fact, joining a gym can be one of the best choices that you can make for your health, so let me say again: Don’t be intimidated! Get into the gym!
Here are some tips to get you into the gym, save some money, and find the best fit for your fitness and health goals.
- Consider your ideal workout schedule. Will you be working out during your lunch break at work? On the weekends, mornings, or night? Figuring out how going to the gym will fit into your lifestyle is key. And the thing that will get you the most for your money is location, location, location. A less-expensive gym membership that is far away might not be worth it if you feel you have to trek too far for a workout. Choose a place that you can get to easily from work or home, whatever time you want.
- Consider cost and location: While a closer, yet slightly more costly, gym is more likely to get you in shape, overall cost is a factor. The good news is some health insurance companies will help pay for gym memberships. You sign up for a gym program and the insurance company will reimburse you for memberships based on how many times you check into the gym. You get a voucher from your insurance company and have the front desk stamps the voucher, and submit it at the end of the month. These programs save health insurance companies money so it is worth it to them. Find out if your health insurance company has a program like this. The healthier an insurer’s exercising customers are, the less they will pay to treat them for sickness.
- Take a walk: A walk in the door is the first step to your good health. It also can tell you a lot about a facility. When you go to the gym look around: Is it clean? Does it smell (the first sign of a good gym is cleanliness)? Do the machines look new or rusty? Do the members look happy? Are the trainers working or just standing around? Is the shower moldy or nice? Do the people coming out of the classes look happy or like they just got ripped off?
- Negotiate with sales staff: The next step is the gym salesperson. Gym membership sales people and trainers almost always work on commission. This can lead to some hustling and dishonesty. It’s your job to negotiate the best price. Go ahead haggle, you can get a better price than first offered. One way to save money is joining in the summer (it’s the slow season for the fitness industry); there are better deals to be had from July to early September. Also ask if the gym offers an “off-peak” membership, as this can save you hundreds a year if you don’t want to work out on weekends.
A word on clean gyms: Gyms can be dangerously filthy.
Always shower after going to the gym. Use towels when you sit on the machines and always wash your hands thoroughly when you leave the gym. Most gym members are not so considerate and do not wipe down the machines after they use them. I know someone who got MRSA, a drug-resistant bacteria infection from, most likely, a top boxing gym. They had to have a part of their thigh removed and almost lost a leg. I worked at a high-end gym once that was almost $100 a month to belong to and never once stepped in the sauna because I knew the staff never cleaned it. There were piles of dust stuck together with sweat stuck under the cardio machines. Bringing your own mat to the gym is a good idea. Use flip flops when using the gym shower. Gym towels are usually safe, as gyms have very powerful, high-heat industrial dryers for their towels. A good gym will have hand sanitizer and gym wipes available for the member to use.
Choosing your trainer
Did you know that trainers at the gym might not be certified? It is a common practice at the gym. Choosing a trainer is like picking a doctor: You need a good one.
The trainers at the gym are under a lot of pressure to make sales. Do not be surprised or offended if trainers approach you at the gym and offer free workouts. You might not always want to go with who the gym staff recommends.
It’s mostly the top-selling trainers that get recommended by the gym staff. The best salesperson might not be the best match for you. Take a look around and see how the different trainers work.
The hot guy with the six-pack abs who always seems busy might not be the right guy for you, but the older-looking trainer working with an overweight person in the corner of the gym might change your life.
I will never forget the time my gym set up a woman who was not only recently post-partum (she had just had a baby), but had a joint disease and over 20 surgeries with a body-builder trainer who was on steroids. She was scared of the guy and approached me about training. I am very small but have trained some 300-pound men, so we were a good trainer/client match. Take your time to choose the right person for you.
When evaluating potential trainers ask if they are certified, how many certifications they have, and how much experience to they have. The more certifications the better (I have nine). Take advantage of starter package deals and free sessions. There are often three sessions at a discounted rate offered with the beginning of your membership. This can help you find the right person. A good trainer should ask this question first: “Do you have any injuries or are you on any medication?” If he or she doesn’t ask this stay away. One time I had a job interview and a sample session with a Pilates instructor I wanted to hire for a gym I was managing and she hurt my back because she did not ask that question.
When getting your first session with your new trainer, you should be interviewed by the trainer to find out what your needs and issues are. The trainer should also listen to you, and not be giving you a big lecture. They should start with a fitness assessment and design your program from there. It they just come up to you and start to work you out it could not be safe.
There are some amazing fitness specialists out there. It is worth it to find the best one for your needs.
In the end your new gym membership will be one of the best things you can do for yourself.