If your New Year's resolution is to get fit, chances are you might be shopping around for a gym or fitness center, which is not as easy as it sounds. Here's criteria you should try to check off before signing up for any gym membership.
- Location, location, location: Don't kid yourself into believing that you'll drive halfway across town to go work out. If a gym is closer to where you live (or work), you'll be more inclined to visit. Also, check to see if there's cost-effective parking, nearby public transportation, or if you can't walk to it. Also make sure it's in a safe neighborhood in case you want to pop in later in the evening.
- Ask for second opinions: Get on Yelp, and ask your friends, family members, co-workers, husband's cousin's girlfriend — anyone! — what the best gym is in your neighborhood. Tell them what you're ideally looking for and see if your research, plus your mini-interviews, point to one locale.
Here are some more tips.
- Price: When it comes down to it, if the price isn't right, don't do it. If the gym offers really nice machines (and lots of 'em), they have very experienced teachers, with a wide variety of classes, then a higher monthly fee is something to take into consideration, but don't go broke because of it. (Keep in mind that you can negotiate the rate of a gym membership.) If you are OK with paying more, here are reasons to invest in a fancy gym.
- Take the gym for a test drive: Does the gym offer a trial membership? If you can try out the goods before you commit, then you'll have a better idea if the gym is right for you. Questions to ask yourself while there: are the machines always full? Are the locker rooms clean? Do they offer a steam room or sauna? Is the staff cool and willing to help you with any questions you may have? Here are important things to look for when evaluating a new gym.
- General fitness center vs. workout-specific gym: If you love yoga and can't see yourself using a treadmill, elliptical or rowing machine, then you may want to consider putting your funds into classes at a local yoga studio (or boxing studio, whatever your fancy). It may be cheaper to sign up for a six-month or annual plan at a yoga studio than pay a monthly fee at a gym. Not sure? Here are things to consider when deciding whether to choose a gym or yoga studio.
- Flexibility: Before you sign up for a membership, check to see if you are locked into a crazy plan that you'll never be able to get out of in case a medical emergency pops up, or you need to move. Ask what their refund policy is and if they have a reciprocity agreement with other clubs.