A blog by runners. For runners.

What to look for in a gym membership

how-to-pick-a-gym-membershipFor years, I didn’t belong to a gym – and I’m sure many other runners scoff at the idea of joining a health club, too. Now that I’ve been to the other side, I love my Y membership

Deciding whether or not to join a gym is a tough call, though. Many memberships are pricey and require you to sign long-term contracts. So, it’s important to really like the gym you join before you make the commitment. Here are some factors to consider before signing the dotted line:

  • Location, location, location. The number one rule in real estate also applies to gym memberships. If the gym isn’t convenient to where you work or live, you probably won’t go regularly.
  • Ask your employer or health insurance company about discounts. Some companies and health plans offer discounted monthly membership rates for selected gyms. This could save you big bucks.
  • Make sure the equipment is up to your standards. If you want a gym for treadmill access, make sure there are plenty of treadmills available. Notice if there is a place to plug in your Ipod, a TV on each treadmill, and if the equipment clean and up-to-date.
  • What other perks will you need? Some gyms are bare bones and just come with weight machines, while others offer a full-service spa, personal training, and a smoothie bar. Check that the gym meets all of your requirements – is there an indoor and/or outdoor pool and childcare services? — and ask if you need to pay extra for certain perks, like Crossfit-type classes.
  • Check the hours. Make sure the gym is open during the hours that you’ll exercise and ask if any services have different hours. For example, the pool and childcare center at my gym are only open during a short window each day.
  • Test it out. Ask if you can try the gym before you buy it. Many gyms allow free or discounted week-long trial memberships so you can ensure you like the gym before you commit. You’ll also be able to see if you enjoy certain classes, too.
  • Visit the gym at times when you plan to work out. Take in the atmosphere and notice how crowded the gym is. Is there a line for the treadmill? A sign-up sheet or early registration for popular classes? Do swimming lessons taking up most lanes in the pool?
  • Chat with the staff. Is the floor staff friendly, knowledgeable, and certified? Ask if they’re willing to help you when you’re trying a new piece of equipment or if they’ll correct your form.
  • Compare prices and contracts. Note that the most expensive club isn’t necessarily the best gym for you, and many prices aren’t set in stone. Ask if certain options could be excluded from your membership to lower the fee, or if the gym would consider a month-to-month membership instead of a year-long contract. Ask if there is a joining fee on top of the monthly membership – many health clubs are willing to waive or reduce joining fees. Also understand what will happen if you need to end your contract early if you move or are unhappy with services.

Do you belong to a gym? What factors are most important to you?

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