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How to choose the right fitness club for you

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | January 18, 2020 | 8 min read | Health & Wellness

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Finding the right health club can be confusing. With endless TV commercials, billboards, and social media ads, and new clubs popping up everywhere, how do you choose the one that’s right for you?

Before you sign on the dotted line, take a moment to review these helpful tips.

Decide on your must-haves.
What do you want from your gym? Are classes the most important? Are you looking for top-of-the-line machines? Do you want there to be a pool and hot tub? Think about what you want, and what you don’t — so that you aren’t paying for amenities you don’t need.

Club size is a consideration as well. Do you like a big gym buzzing with activity, or is a small, quieter studio more your taste?

Location matters.
Find a club that’s close to home or work. Lack of time is the number one reason people give for skipping the gym. Joining a club that isn’t convenient will make you more likely to find an excuse to stop going. Ease of parking is another factor to consider.

If you travel frequently, you might want to consider joining one that has a reciprocity agreement with clubs in other cities.

Is it open when you need it to be?
See if the gym is open in the early morning, late night or Sundays if that’s when you prefer to work out. An increasing number of gyms have 24/7 access, but don’t assume that all do.

Do your research.
Review the club’s website and social media accounts. What kind of reputation does the club have? Check online reviews and with the Better Business Bureau. Ask friends for their experiences and recommendations.

Shop around and compare.
Visit different clubs in your area. The best value may not always be the least expensive club.

Request a tour.
Evaluate the cleanliness and safety of the facility, including the locker room and shower area. This is also the time to ask questions of the staff member assisting you. Make a list of your questions and bring it with you so you’ll remember to ask.

Look at the machines and equipment.
What is the age of the equipment? Is it in good condition? How about availability — do they have enough of the popular equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals and free weights so that you won’t have to wait in line? Does everything appear clean and in working order?

How’s the vibe?
Do you feel comfortable there? Get a feel for the environment and the culture of the community. Determine if the club is a place where you would enjoy spending time.

Meet the staff.
Is the staff qualified, and are there credentialed personal trainers and group fitness instructors? Are staff supportive, and seem to enjoy working there?

Is there instruction?
Are new members provided with a club orientation? Is instruction provided on how to use the equipment, or is there a fee for this?

Review the class schedule.
If you enjoy classes, make sure the club offers the variety you like and that they are offered at a time of day you can go. See what’s scheduled during the hours you can get to the gym. Also, check availability — some clubs require that you register ahead of time for classes, which means that the class you want might be full.

What amenities are offered?
Does the club provide towels, hairdryers, wi-fi or other convenient extras? If a parent, is childcare available and what is the fee?

Ask about a trial membership.
See if the club offers free visits so you can try it out first. Take some classes, if possible. Visit at the time of day you would normally be working out, so you can gauge the crowd size and availability of the equipment you like to use. A trial period also gives you a chance to talk with other members about their experiences.

See if there’s a deal.
Before you join a club, be sure to check Blue365 for deals on gym memberships. This program is a valuable benefit available to all Blue Cross NC members, but to participate you need to enroll in Blue365 on the website. Joining is easy, and there is no charge to do so.

READ: Lose weight and get fit for less with Blue365

Take advantage of introductory offers or coupons for new members. Also, if you have a flexible schedule, some gyms offer a discounted membership for non-peak hours.

Read the contract.
Is there an initiation fee? How is payment handled? Is the contract automatically renewed? Do they charge more for certain classes or for the use of special equipment?

Ask about the policy on temporarily freezing a membership or changing to a different plan if your circumstances change. Find out what you need to do should you wish to cancel, and if there is a penalty fee for canceling before the contract term is up. If you have second thoughts after joining, under North Carolina law you have a three-day right to cancel the contract.

“Get all promises in writing, and make sure the health club gives you an exact copy of the contract immediately after you sign it,” recommends the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. “Consider a short-term contract rather than signing a two or three-year contract and getting stuck with a membership you don’t use. Under North Carolina law, the contract cannot be longer than three years.”

Get the most from your membership

If you’re new to the gym, one of your first moves should be to meet with a certified trainer to learn to use the equipment properly so that you can get the most from your workouts and — most importantly — avoid injury.

Set yourself up on a schedule of days and times that you will go work out. Take advantage of all that your club offers. And don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it. The staff is there to help.