I have been enticed by many gyms in my day. I purchased my first gym membership from Bally’s when I was 18 years old. I was very naive and opted for anything they offered me with my membership-except personal training, I couldn’t afford that. The main reason why I chose Bally’s was because it was within walking distance from my apartment and I didn’t have a car at the time.
When I signed my contract, I remember being told that I could cancel at any time (again I remind you that I was very green to this trap!) A year into my membership, my lease was up on my apartment, and my roommate and I chose to go overseas and stay with my parents for a while and travel. I tried to cancel my membership, and not only would not honor it, they ruined my credit by charging my entire membership balance to my brand new credit card without my authorization-(I found out about the charge months later). I don’t even know how they got that information because this was before automatic draft from your account-I was paying monthly at the front desk with my checkbook. I learned from that experience, and I have enjoyed many other gym memberships since then. They never cancelled my membership because they basically got their money. Needless to say, it was a horrible experience.
The point of this post, is to prevent anyone from sharing my experience. This post is not about discrediting the larger gyms, they definitely have their perks. It is about making you aware of what you can expect so that you can make sound choices.
The first thing I suggest is to do some research at home before visiting the gyms. Go online, map out locations that are convenient for you and visit their websites. Most gyms offer the option of printing out a week-long visitors pass. On your initial visit to the gym, I would go during a time that you plan on regularly attending so that you can get an idea of the size of crowd, the atmosphere and if you would honestly feel comforatble. When you arrive with coupon in hand, like clockwork, they will ask you to sign in and wait for a trainer to give you a tour of the facility.
Here are some important tips to remember!
- When the trainer is giving you the tour, look at everything (cleanliness, if the equipment looks dated, was the staff professional?, do they have papertowels and santizing spray for equipment? etc.)
- After the tour, the trainer will want to take you to their desk to discuss membership, tell him no thank you and that you prefer to try the gym out with your coupon for the week and will then discuss membership. (Very important!)
- Sign NOTHING!
- When the week is over, try coupons from other gyms in the area so that you can compare and make a wise decision that works well for you.
The reason why I strongly suggest to not go to the trainer’s desk, is because without you realizing it, their sale pitch started the moment they met you at the entrance. Going to their desk is only to close the deal. While they are giving you a tour, they are going to ask you what seems to be innocent questions. “Do you live around here?” “What is your goal?” “Is this your first gym membership?” “Have you worked with a trainer?” (I think you get the idea.)
The whole purpose of the tour is not to familiarize you with the facility, it is to seduce you with its “club-like” atmosphere. Especially the larger establishments. They will be sure to show you the sauna, the pool, the cycling room, group exercise rooms and juice bar. They will encourage you to tour the restroom, showers, and locker room. Chances are, if you’re a woman, they will not go into great detail about their weights but will be more inclined to show you the elliptical machines, treadmills and bikes (sad but true).
After the tour, if they take you to their desk, they will usually start you off with a question such as “How serious are you about reaching your goal?”, then it will be followed with something like, “Have you ever considered working with a trainer?” Then they will ask if the reason that you never worked with a trainer was due to the cost. Then they will go into different packages that they have to offer. If the price is still too high, they will ask what you could afford. Then its the whole “I really would like to work with you because you seem like you’re so dedicated, blah…blah…blah”. They will also try to razzle dazzle you with technical terms they assume you don’t understand. Don’t buy it, it’s a sales pitch. (Unless, that gym is what you are looking for.)
The truth is that you can get those same results at half the cost and at a no frills gym. Whether your goal is to lose fat, gain weight, or maintain, all you really need from a gym are weights, treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes a locker room and maybe even showers. Here are a list of frills you don’t need to achieve your goal:
- Towel service-you can bring your own
- Juice bar-the smoothie drinks are not free and generally expensive-it will be cheaper for you to buy and make your own
- Pool-unless you really plan on swimming (the pool is NEVER a packed area in the gym)
- You can even do without the classroom aerobics (there are tons of workout videos on YouTube you can do from home)
- Saunas are nice, but not worth paying for an expensive membership
*all of these extras are what significantly increase your monthly membership
I do suggest looking for gyms that are open 24 hours a day. If they are open 24 hours during the week and close early on weekends, that’s ok because the gym is generally empty on weekends. Smaller gyms tend to be more personable, well stocked with the basic essentials needed for working out. They are also more flexible with membership. A lot of them don’t require contracts.
At my current gym, I explained that I didn’t want a contract and all I had to sign was the automatic payment authorization. I was still hesitant, so they added “This is not a contract, cancel at any time” and they signed and dated it along with my signature. Larger gyms often say there is no contract, but will have you sign legal documentation.
Another reason I suggest smaller gyms, especially for beginners, is because you are surrounded by people of similar goals. You don’t feel so intimidated and people try to help you or will ask you questions. They compliment each other on your progress. The membership at a smaller gym is significantally cheaper, and if still want to work with a trainer, you still have the option of hiring an independent one. I personally think a smaller gym is an ideal environment to start your fitness journey.
Lastly, other important factors to consider are your fitness and activity level, what your goals are, and what type of fitness you will enjoy doing. After considering these important key factors, find a gym that best supports your needs. As you progress, if you find yourself “outgrowing” the smaller gym atmosphere, then by all means search for a larger facility to suit your needs.
I hope you have found this post helpful, I welcome and value your comments, suggestions and/or questions.