How do you choose a gym for you?

Woman using equipment in the gym

I belong to one gym, the YMCA. I love my gym membership because it’s citywide meaning I can go to any one of five in the area without any additional cost. Depending on which one I choose, there is a branch a few blocks away from my office or one within a 10-minute drive from my apartment.

There are a lot of gyms to choose from with more than 36,000 gyms across the United States. But what does your ideal gym look like? What kind of equipment does your ideal gym need to have?

What to look for in a gym?

If I were looking for a new home gym, which I am not, here are eight tips in what to look for in a gym.

Location of gym

This is one of the most important factors, for me, when choosing a gym. Is it close to home or close to work? If I have to go out of my way to get there then I’m far more likely to make excuses and not go.

Facility and equipment

Have a look at the equipment, do they have everything that you would want to use? Cardio equipment, yoga supplies, TRX straps or other things you are looking to use.

I would recommend asking for a guest pass and visiting your gym of choice at a time that you are most likely to use it if you became a member. I hate a really busy gym where you leave feeling more stressed than when you arrived. Make sure it suits your needs or you will waste your money.

Size of gym membership

Gyms come in all types of sizes. Membership size doesn’t necessarily dictate number or quality of amenities, though gyms with more members typically have more classes and machines to accommodate demand.

Do you want a large gym? Or a boutique gym? Many boutique gyms are 24 hours via keycard. They are usually staffed during the day. The idea is having a small – not overwhelming – place to work out whenever you want. What about a specialty gym like Crossfit gyms? Decide on what is important to you and pick accordingly.

Variety and frequency of classes

Do you like taking classes at the gym? I can take them or leave them. Usually, it’s the later. But if you take classes, make sure they offer classes you like and on a schedule that coincides when you will be able to go to the gym.

For example, are classes early enough for you to get to them before work and still be at your desk on time? Are the sessions after work early/late enough for you to make it there?

What are gym hours?

Does it open early enough for you during the week and weekend to accommodate your schedule? Do you need a 24-hour gym?

The YMCA works well for me. I don’t need a gym that is open 24 hours a day because I will not go in the middle of the night. Make sure the hours that you hope to workout coincide with their opening hours. I prefer cardio at lunch and lifting in the evening. During some parts of competition prep, I may need to do some cardio before work, but my gym is open by 6 a.m.

Extra perks with gym membership

What kind of extras? I love the sauna. Not all gyms have them but this is now sort of a requirement for me. What about towels? The gym close to the office has towel service, which helps instead of having to lug a wet towel around in my bag.

Personal trainers

Do you need a little extra push or someone to teach you how to use the equipment? A personal trainer can be handy to answer questions about performing a move correctly or how to use a machine. A lot of gyms also include personal training sessions as an incentive to join.

Cost and contracts

Gym costs can be reasonable or out of this world. As I mentioned, the YMCA has a partnership with my employer so we get a discount.

Ask if the gym you are interested in offers a discount if you work/live nearby, or if they are doing any special offers. The YMCA does not require a contract, which I think is helpful. I have belonged to gyms before that once you sign you are committing yourself to at least a year. Good, bad or indifferent, I like the flexibility of not being stuck in a contract.

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3 years ago

Trial and error was the only thing that worked for me. I’m so glad that it only took a few years for me to find the perfect one!

We’ve been thinking about getting a membership at our local YMCA too, for all the reasons you listed above, plus all the cool kid programs they have that our girls could partake in. And also they have a pool, ha ha.

3 years ago

I have enjoyed going to the YMCA a lot, but it is farther for me. I have a gym right across the street from me.

Finding a gym that is a good fit for you can be a real challenge. I’m glad that you’ve found one that works for you and meets your needs.