Welcome back to Sticking with Fitness, the article series designed to help you realize your fitness ambitions.
You’ve got your SMART and stretch goals. You’ve got your program. Now, you need somewhere to put them into practice.
Fortunately for you, there are plenty of gyms and fitness centers out there, ready to take your money in exchange for letting you train.
Unfortunately for you, though, not all gyms are created equal. And, choosing the right gym for your needs is crucial to staying the course and achieving your fitness goals.
But how do you know what the right space for you is?
As I see it, there are four main things to consider when it comes to finding a gym. Weigh these up, and you’ll find the right space to put your program into practice.
When you’re looking for a place to put your fitness regime into practice, facilities are a huge consideration.
The reasons why should be pretty self-evident.
If you don’t have the equipment that you need to perform the exercises in your program, then you can’t train. An all-in one health-spa/fitness club, for example, might be short on squat racks and free weights, which isn’t ideal if you’re doing a program like Starting Strength. On the flip side, a dedicated strength and conditioning gym isn’t the place to train if you’re an aspiring marathon runner.
You should never sign up blindly to a gym. Check their website – any serious fitness center should be able to provide a comprehensive list of its equipment. If they don’t, then give them a call. Or, even better yet, go and inspect the facilities in person. See what equipment they have and make sure that it suits your needs.
It’s not just what equipment they have that matters, though. It’s whether or not it works. Pay attention to what sort of condition the equipment is in. If you see a load of broken bars and out-of-order machines strewn about the place, that typically isn’t a good sign. You don’t want to find your program thwarted down the line because the stations you need are always in a state of disrepair.
Facilities are important when it comes to finding the right gym. But, there will always be a trade-off with convenience.
Let me give you an example. When I started weightlifting, I initially went to a dedicated strength and conditioning gym. For what I was doing, it was the perfect venue: great facilities and lots of people who understood the culture and etiquette around weightlifting (more on that in a sec).
Unfortunately, the downside to this gym was that it was a long way from my house. Buses were infrequent, and my journey there took almost an hour. On top of that, it only opened at specific times during the morning and the evening, giving me a limited window to train in. I loved the venue, but getting to it was a nightmare, and the travel time really affected my motivation.
Eventually, I ended up moving to a more general commercial gym. It didn’t have the amazing facilities of the strength and conditioning gym, though it still had what I needed to do my program. And, it was a fifteen-minute walk from my house, which majorly cut down on my travel time, as well as being open 24-hours-a-day.
When it comes to sticking to your training, a convenient facility that’s “good enough” will always be better than an amazing gym that’s a nightmare to get to. Travel time is a major de-motivator, so make things as easy as possible in that regard.
You might find the best equipped, most conveniently located gym in the world. But, if it’s costing you an arm and a leg to go there every month, that’s going to be a major de-motivator.
When factoring in the cost of a gym, there’s one simple
question you’ve got to ask yourself:
“What do I actually need?”
There are plenty of fitness centers out there offering you a “bells-and-whistles” gym experience with personal trainers, state of the art machines and luxurious changing facilities. If you’ve got the cash to burn, and want those extras, that’s all well and good.
But none of those are essential to your training. Depending on the program that you’re following, you probably just need the basics. And, there are numerous cheap and cheerful gyms and fitness centers out there that offer those facilities for a fractional price compared to their luxury counterparts.
Getting fit doesn’t have to break the bank. Pick a gym with a membership that’s well within your budget and you won’t be calling it quits due to financial strain.
Your gym is conveniently located, affordable, and equipped with everything you need. But what are the people like?
This is a question that doesn’t get asked that often. But the truth is, the culture of a gym makes a huge difference to the training environment.
When you’re looking around a prospective fitness center, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do patrons behave respectfully to each other?
- Do users take appropriate care with the equipment?
- How well maintained are the shower and locker facilities?
- Does the gym try to push a personal trainer onto you?
These are details that matter when it comes to your long-term motivation at the gym.
Just to clarify, I’m not expecting you to find some instant sense of unbreakable camaraderie with the people that you’re training alongside. But, you need to be able to work within the culture that your prospective gym fosters. If there’s anything that sticks out like a sore thumb on your initial viewing, then consider carefully whether it’s the right place for you.
You’re fired up, ready to go, and have somewhere to train. But, how do you keep that level of enthusiasm when you’re deep into deadlifts, squats and lunges? Fear not! In the next edition of this series, Maintain Your Motivation, we’ll be talking about how to keep up your drive and make the gym a habit.