Moving to a new town inevitably means finding a new gym. If you’ve had the great fortune, like me, of spending the last six years at a truly kick-ass facility, this is no small undertaking. Since landing in our new town, we’ve checked out three local gyms in person + another two gyms via the internet, and I’m here to share some key takeaways from the process of choosing a new gym for any of you out there who might be in the same boat.
1. Start with your goals in mind: Your first step in finding a new gym has to be figuring out what you need your gym for. This can sound like an easy question. After all, you need your gym for workouts, right? But not all workouts and fitness goals are equal. Depending on your health goals, you may be looking for gyms that feature a ton of cardio equipment or strength-training equipment, with trainers on staff, with lots of classes, with specific programs (spin, HIIT, etc.). What you need from a gym will be the foundation for your search. Consider things like:
–location (if you workout six days a week, you are NOT going to want to drive half an hour to get to the gym)
–cost (i.e. if you have a budget, make sure you stick within it)
–hours (one gym we visited didn’t open until 8am on weekdays, making early morning workouts impossible…not that I love them, but they’re sometimes necessary)
2. Start on the internet and make a shortlist: You can learn a ton by checking out websites. I dismissed a couple gyms outright because it was clear from pictures that they didn’t have the range of equipment I needed, or because of how far they were from my house. Don’t waste your time visiting gyms that will never work for you.
3. Visit your short list in person: I cannot stress this enough. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can take photos of a space that make it look monstrous, state of the art, and ultra posh. I have been amazed at the difference between online photos and reality. Case and point, we went to one gym last week that looked promising online but had the creepiest vibe (not like creepy people, but just a sort of dark/dingy/dated/oddly empty vibe) in person. As soon as I saw it, it was an instant no-go for me. Vibe matters. You will not want to go to a gym that makes you feel crappy or creeped out the second you walk through the door.
All in all we visited three gyms, and it was hugely insightful in terms of vibe, staff friendliness, customer service (many offered us free trials to experience the gym, some didn’t), and how busy the gym is (pro tip: visit gyms at the time you actually plan to work out for the best preview). Do NOT skip this step.
Sidenote: I couldn’t help but think of House Hunters during these gym visits, particularly since we visited three gyms in person. All we did was walk around and weigh the relative pros and cons relative to our goals. My critical and judgmental self was let loose and it was so much fun! And I had to have that moment of realization that no gym was going to have everything I wanted (i.e. the only gym in town getting a turf section for sleds and prowlers was too far away from our house to be a reasonable choice). Tough choices abounded! Now that I think of it, there should be a Gym Hunters show. I’d totally watch that! Who’s with me?
4. Ask a lot of questions about fees: Gym fee structures can vary wildly. Some will charge monthly, some charge bi-monthly, some offer heavy discounts by paying up front, some charge more depending on what services you access (i.e. just gym access or access to classes too), some add on inexplicable enrollment fees (like it really takes any effort to enroll you?), and some even charge you for FOBs or access cards. It’s a total shitshow of fee structures, and you want to be really clear on what your membership will cost you.
The other big piece around fees is not to be afraid to ask for deals or to haggle a bit. You might find some gyms are willing to waive enrollment fees, offer a discounted second membership for your partner or spouse, or adjust the fees if you’re willing to sign an even longer agreement. You may assume that gym fees are set in stone, but a lot of gym staff have more flexibility than you think, particularly in smaller, non-chain gyms. Bring out your best bargain hunting self!
There you have it, all the info you need to make an informed choice to find a gym you love. Happy gym hunting! Seriously, I am so convinced that needs to be a show…