When you move, one of the most important things you need to do after getting your drivers license and a library card, is finding the right gym for you. Here are some of the most important things you can look for when it comes to finding a new gym.
So let’s suppose that you finally escaped from the hell hole that you have been living in for years. You’re in a new city and you want to keep up with or maybe even start your fitness journey. The first thing you should do when you move is getting the address on your driver’s license changed. After that, of course, you need to get your library card since libraries are kick ass sources of information as well as a free office space for your freelance web designer needs. Next, you’ll want to find your gym.
But Scott (you say) finding a good gym is as hard and as important as finding a new spouse. I’ll reply it is, but it’s maybe somewhat easier than finding a spouse, especially if you’re vegan. So, what does one need to find their perfect gym?
Being OCD and an engineer, I like lists. So let's look.
- Must Haves
- Social Media
- Test Drive
If you are in an established routine, you probably have seriously make or break things. There’s a good chance you don’t realize what they are until it’s too late. True story, the really nice YMCA I worked out at had towel service so I never had to worry about bringing a towel of any kind. I didn’t realize how much I love this until I worked out in a gym that didn’t have it. I should have thought about it more.
How do I know what my must-haves are? CREATE. A. LIST. BECKY.
Seriously, write down what you do at your gym. Every machine you use, every little things like towels or disinfectant, heck, even that you grab a smoothie next door after working out. Rank things in matter of importance. In practice, you shouldn’t spend more than maybe 10 minutes on this.
Social media is your friend. This is especially true if you are into a niche fitness like strongman, crossfit, BodyPump, or parkour. Facebook is bound to have groups dedicated to your sport of choice. Ask about people in that town. I did, and that is how I got some really strong leads on my new gym. Also, if you know people in the town you are moving to, ask them if they have a preference.
This is also helpful when someone is screwed over by a gym. They love nothing more than telling people about their horrible experience. This actually helped me dodge a bullet when I moved. Also, you can check out Google and Yelp reviews but they can be gamed. So, read those with a grain of salt.
The more niche your exercise is, the less choice you have. If you’re looking for say strongman, then your choices will be limited. If you’re looking for a place with a bunch of treadmills and you don’t care about freeweights, then chances are you are VERY close to a gym that fits your needs right now.
Seriously though, the gym industry, for the most part, counts on you not showing up. They also know that the closeness of the gym to you is one of the most key things. If you like working out during your lunch break (usually), but occasionally work at after work, is a gym close to your office and on the way home? Does your membership include privileges at other gyms if it’s a chain?
Hopefully, you know when you like to work out. Most people do it after work, some do it before work, some people work shift work and work out during the day, some only work out on the weekends. This really does help you make sure that the gym that has your must-haves and is close, is open when you want them to be. When I moved, I found a sweet gym near me that had everything I need but wasn’t open until well after I usually work out. Ugh.
You’ll see just how crowded it is at the times you like during the next step, the test drive.
Nearly every gym in the world allows test drives. Usually, that’s a week of free membership which is more than enough to tell what you need.
Culture: If you aren’t comfortable in the gym, you won’t go. So, is it a lunkhead friendly gym or is it a gym that everyone is into crossfit or some such activity? Does this match with you and your goals? Are they playing throbbing thrash metal or are they playing Fox News at the gym? Is everyone half your age or twice it? These things are important.
Equipment: You need to make sure they have the equipment you use. If you do all free weights or do all machines or maybe love plyo boxes, does the gym have these? If not, you’ll maybe find substitutions in your routine but you probably won’t be happy. When you aren’t happy, you’ll quit going or have to start all over again.
Cleanliness: I’ve worked out in some truly rank gyms. Gyms that stunk of sweat and discarded vials of horse tranquilizer kinds of funk. Oddly, that didn’t bother me since it fit my mentality culture wise and I wasn’t concerned with how it smelled. My current gym is IMMACULATE. Like weirdly so. 20% of the machines have bottles of disinfectant on them and boy do people use them. It’s a cleanliness culture there. There won’t be any freak outbreaks of pinkeye like what happened in my old gym here.
Say you found your ideal gym. The worst/last part of the finding a gym process is where you join. Most gyms have famously ugly contracts. This has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere so I won’t mention it.
The one thing I want to leave you with as far as the contract goes is pretty much every aspect of the gym contract is negotiable. Some gyms are way more flexible than others, that goes without saying. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask. At my current gym, after asking about a ton of different discounts we found one that my wife qualified for since she’s a teacher. They ended up waving our sing up fee and gave us a 60% cut on membership.
For what it’s worth, I’ve never paid a gym initiation fee, ever. They’re bullshit fees and I make it clear I’ll walk if they won’t wave the fee. In two cases, I did indeed walk and not return. However, I found the next gym (in the same chain) was willing to waive the fee. The best part was, it allowed me to work out at the gym that refused to waive my fee. I always waived at the membership guy on the way in.
This is also a really good time to pull out the list of must-haves that you created earlier. Is everything you find important included in your basic membership? Do you have to pay extra for classes that you really like? Or maybe the use of the sauna costs extra (seriously, I’ve seen this crap).
WRAPPING IT UP
So, this guide was just something I put together for myself when I moved recently to San Antonio. It’s far from comprehensive but I think it’s a pretty good guide for finding the gym that is right for you.
And in case you want to ask is my new gym perfect? No. It’s short some machines I really want to use but the location, culture, and timing totally overrode the lack of a couple of machines I like to use.
Either way, it’s my excuse to go back to all free weights.