“Hi. I just graduated from college and moved to New York City and I am overwhelmed by how many choices I have for gyms to join. At school, we had the campus gym and that was it. But here there are so many gyms and most of them aren’t cheap so I don’t want to make the wrong choice. What should I look for in a gym?” —Jessica P., New York, NY
New York City, my home. If you can make it here, you can… make it here. The Big Apple, Gotham, the center of the universe and home to all sorts of gyms; fancy gyms, meathead gyms, powerlifting gyms, CrossFit gyms, cycling gyms, boxing gyms, ballet barre gyms, small gyms, personal training gyms, Pilates gyms, yoga studios, gyms with pools, gyms with daycare, gyms for women, gyms for men, gyms for both, chain gyms, boutique gyms, gyms for dogs, gyms with valet parking, the choices can be overwhelming.
The single most important part of any exercise program is consistency. You are going to want to limit your choices to gyms that make it easy for you to get there frequently and with the least amount of hassle. In order to ensure consistency, the following will be the most important factors to consider in choosing a gym:
Hours and location
Gyms with locations near your apartment and/or job (or a chain with locations close to both) should narrow your search. Beyond location, you also need to consider the other non-fitness realities of your life in choosing a gym that works for you. When are you going to be working out? If it’s during prime hours, when checking out a gym ask about the volume during those times? What is your work schedule like? You are going to need a gym that’s open when you need it to be open.
More than likely, since you mentioned you were in the habit of using your campus gym, the first step is identifying which pieces of equipment you used most frequently and making sure that your new gym bare minimum for the gym has most, if not all, of the pieces you are already familiar with so you can pick up where you left off. For me, I look for clean mats, a wide selection of weights and kettlebells, resistance bands that haven’t lost their resistance and benches that look like they were made in the 21st century are what I look for in the equipment.
Will I feel comfortable working out there?
What is the clientele like? What is the male/ female breakdown? Is this a bodybuilder’s gym? Do the members tend to be professionals? You want to make sure that you choose a gym where you will feel comfortable.
What if I am looking to try something specific?
Maybe you’ve decided that since you’re in a new city you want to totally flip the script and take on a new type of workout entirely. Maybe you have decided that what you really want to do is become an MMA cage fighter (or at least train like one.) My advice if you want to try out a new specific type of activity i.e. boxing or cycling or Zumba (who am I to judge?) you should join a health club that happens to have beginner classes in your activity of interest before joining a gym dedicated to that activity.
Do not sign your life away
Once you have chosen a gym you think will be a good fit (pun intended), see if you can get a trial membership, and always find out up front if they have a cancellation policy and what the details of that policy are. You only have to give two weeks notice to quit a job. You should not be required to give more than 30 days notice to a health club. A gym that makes it damn near impossible to stop paying for the right to not use their facility is automatically suspect.
For those of you just getting started with their exercise program, joining a gym is a great first step. But you have to actually use it. If you need a little help getting started, I can help.
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