Finding a Health Club That’s Right For You

Some people are self proclaimed gym rats.

Others would be happy to never step foot in a gym. Either way, many people see the benefits associated with a fitness club membership. The International Health, Racquet Sports Club Association reports that nationwide 21 million Americans currently belong to health club of some type. This figure is projected to reach 40 million by the year 2010. If you are one of the 19 million who will join a health club in the next four years, there are some simple criteria and steps that will help you make the right choice.

Criteria For Choosing A Health Club

1) Location

– Choose a health club that isn’t too far from home and work so that you don’t have an extra excuse not to go. Think about how far you are comfortable driving for other tasks in your life such as the grocery store or the dry cleaners. Choose a club that is located within your driving comfort area, and you’ll be more likely to add a trip to the gym into your daily or weekly routine.

2) Programs

– Examine your fitness goals and preferences, and choose a club that offers what you desire. If you need to lose weight, choose a club that offers programs on weight loss and nutrition. If you enjoy swimming and tennis but don’t want to perfect your dead-lift technique, a local swim and tennis club or YMCA might be right for you.

3) Staff

– Find out if the club hires professionally certified fitness instructors. Also, if you are interested in nutrition counseling, massage therapy or physical therapy, see if the club offers trained professionals in those fields.

4) Equipment

– Choose a club that has a wide variety of well-maintained equipment. Consistent fitness often relies on variety, and you will want access to several types of machines and workout tools such as mats and fitness balls.

5) Maintenance

-The entire club should be clean and safe. Make several visits to the club to see how well-lit the parking lot is. Examine the locker rooms to make sure they are well staffed and cleaned regularly. The club should provide cleanser and towels in the workout area so that members are encouraged to clean up after their workouts.

6) Contract Terms

– Health Clubs vary greatly in their contract offerings. While some clubs will ask you to sign a contract for a year (or more), many clubs offer month-to-month memberships if you sign up with an automatic monthly payment. Determine what your ideal contract term would be before signing on the dotted line.

7) Child Care

– Many clubs offer free child care. If this is a concern for you, choose a club that hires trained child care professionals, and has a clean, well-maintained child care facility.

8) Hours

– Many clubs are open 24 hours a day, and offer discounted rate for those who will come at off peak hours. Examine your schedule and determine when you are most likely to work out. Visit the club at several different times during the week to determine the busiest hours, and whether there will be a wait for equipment.

Steps To Take To Find A Health Club

1) Research

– Ask your family, friends, and co-workers about their health clubs. Does any club stand out with a good or bad reputation? Also, conduct an internet search on health clubs in your area. Are there any new, innovative clubs? If you prefer a national chain, is there one nearby? If you prefer a small, locally owned club, where might you find one?

2) Prepare A List Of Questions

– When you go to visit the gym for the first time, make sure it is clear that you are interviewing the sales person and not the other way around. The following list was prepared by Mayo Clinic for prospective gym members. Don’t be shy about asking the following questions:

a) How old is the exercise equipment?

b) How often is the equipment replaced?

c) What type of continuing education is provided for or required of staff?

d) What are the busiest times? What fitness areas are most crowded? At what times?

e) Are class sizes limited?

f) Are any additional fees imposed, for example, for towels or the swimming pool?

g) Does the facility offer amenities such as free parking or on-site child-care services?

h) Is entertainment available, such as televisions or personal music stations?

i) How many interactions during a workout can you expect from staff?

j) What types of personal consulting services are available? For example, are there personal fitness trainers or nutrition consultants? What qualifications do these staff members have?

k) Is the facility equipped to handle emergencies? For example, are staff members trained to give first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation? Do they know how to use an automated external defibrillator?

l) How much does membership cost? What are the opt-out policies? What are billing cycles?

3) Get A Temporary Pass

– Most gyms will grant a two week pass upon request. Get as many days as you can for free, and use the gym just as you would if you were a new member. Does the location work with your routine? Are there any pieces of equipment you wish you could use? Are there classes that fit your schedule?

4) Follow Through

– Once you have signed up for your membership, it is your responsibility to get yourself to the gym. Some clubs offer buddy systems, personal trainers or group classes that will keep you motivated to work out. It might be worth an extra initial investment to ensure that you will visit the gym regularly once you are a member.

One reason gym membership has soared in the past few years is that there is a wide variety of fitness clubs. Some clubs are small, neighborhood establishments with a more cozy setting and back-to-basics equipment. Other clubs offer such varied amenities as SPA treatments, gourmet meals, child care, rock climbing, squash and tennis. The sky is the limit with today’s facilities. The hardest part of your new workout many be narrowing down the field and finding the club that’s right for you. Ask the right questions, and you’ll soon find your match.