Top five things to think about before joining a gym from someone who’s managed a gym, worked as a personal trainer, a membership consultant and has joined a gym several times in various countries.
1/ Reason for joining
Top reasons that people join gyms include: weight loss, doctor’s orders, variety, stress, motivation, and social interaction. Decide why you want to join a gym and you won’t fall prey to the Membership Consultants. Their aims are to meet membership targets to increase their commissions.
2/ Stage in life and personal characteristics
On average across gyms, less than 50% of all gym members use their gym regularly, and that’s a conservative estimate. This is their “retention rate and a low rate provides incentive for gyms to push sales.
You will be less likely to be a target for the sales pitch if you are realistic about what motivates you, your personality, your likes and dislikes, your weaknesses, strengths, commitment level and financial situation.
3/ Trial run
Ask for a guest or complimentary pass to check whether the gym is right for you, for more than a week or a month. This may be free or available for a small cost and may last up to a month. It may not always be offered immediately as the gym will get their commission faster if you sign up for a one to two year membership.
The pass will help you figure out: how convenient the gym is for you, how often you can get there, how you’ll get there, when you’ll go, how long you’ll spend, what you’ll do, and maybe even who you’ll go with.
4/ Environment and services
While you’re using your guest pass, keep the following aspects in mind:
Type of gym: is it large or small, co-ed or single sex, young crowd or older crowd?
Equipment: do the machines work? are the facilities clean? are staff professional and approachable?
Operating hours: does it suit your lifestyle?
Traffic (human traffic): what times are the busiest and can you easily work out?
Children: be wary about signing a membership with small children distracting you and if the gym has a child care centre, try it out on a Guest Pass before you commit to a longer term contract.
Services: does the gym offer the activities you need on top of the usual weights and cardio equipment? You may prefer specific classes, pool, sauna, personal trainers or childcare.
First time costs
Joining fee usually under $200 (Tip: gyms can often waive this fee) + Fee for the first month (from $10 to $150 a month).
Contracts range from 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 year contracts, with month-by-month fees a possible option. Prices may depend on the equipment and services you require. A small boutique gym is likely to cost more than a large gym with numerous locations.
Discounts may be available for making upfront payments. Seasonal deals range from: buying one membership, geting one free to getting $X off a month if you refer a friend.
Other cost considerations
How much can you afford to pay a month? Are you comfortable for the gym to direct debit from your account? What sort of membership will suit you? How long will you be near your gym (or what other locations would you use if you moved)? What will happen if you break the contract? What is the minimum amount of times a week you need to go to the gym to make it worthwhile?
Before joining a gym, be sure to think carefully about your motivations and lifestyle, as well as the gym environment, services and costs. A little time thinking will save you a lot of time, money and regret in the long run.