Monday, August 10, 2009

What to Look for When Looking for a Gym

I love going to the gym. There, I do cardio, lift weights, and take classes. At night, I usually go with my boyfriend, and we are in our own world when we are there. We listen to our iPods, work whatever body part(s) we are focusing on that night, and talk between sets. For us, the gym is mostly for function. 

For others, they enjoy the rush of people in the cardio room, the weight room, the spin room. When the weather is bad, there's always someone to commiserate with; when it's snowing, it's a place to wear shorts and sweat. When you become a regular at the gym, the other regulars tend to notice if you've been absent for a while. It's a great form of peer support for those who might worry about veering off track.

Today, I am talking with Anthony Shovlowsky, Fitness Director of the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, to find out what a person should look for when joining a gym. So if you don't belong to a gym, or are looking for a new one, let this interview be your guide.

BF: There are lots of gyms all over the place. There are gyms exclusively for women (like Spa Lady) and cheep chain gyms. When I looked at a local $10/month gym, I noticed that it was lacking many of the amenities I've grown accustomed to. What should a person look for when trying to find a gym?

AS: When someone is looking for a workout facility, it is really important to first sit down and think about everything you want. Are you looking for a place to just lift weights, just for cardio, do you need a pool, do you need Group Fitness classes, do you care about amenities like workout towels or shampoo in the showers? You really want to think about this because it all adds value to your membership.

BF: What kind of classes should be a staple at a gym? Do you find that more classes are popular than others?

AS: Most places that offer Group Fitness classes should always offer some kind of yoga, Pilates, a boot camp type class, a dance class, and a strength training class. There is no doubt that these classes are always more popular to members. 

BF: Do you think it is important to offer classes at a gym? Some people think offering a cardio room is enough. 

AS: I love having the option to take a group class because it adds so much more to your routine. It gives you an alternative to just the basic cardio program and it allows you to change it in so many different ways. Adding something like Spinning can really give you a jump start to accomplishing your goals.

BF: What would you tell someone who is looking to join a gym for the first time, but is nervous about her lack of experience, or who feels intimidated by all the muscle heads in the gym?

AS: Take tours of every place you visit. See how other members interact, see how the staff interacts with members. Make sure you feel comfortable when you walk in and you still feel comfortable when you leave. Avoid places that you won't feel comfortable coming to everyday. Also, most places will give you some type of orientation on the equipment. This should be a must!

BF: Can gym members have someone show them how the equipment works and write them a workout place, or do they have to hire a trainer for that?

AS: Most places will offer some type of orientation without a sales pitch. An orientation should be designed to make new members feel comfortable with the equipment, not to try and sell them Personal Training packages. If after the orientation you still do not feel comfortable, or you feel like you want more, then Personal Training should be the next step. 

BF: Having a babysitting option is a very nice, and often important, option for mothers of young children. What kind of hours should a good gym offer, in regards to babysitting?

AS: The more babysitting the better. In most cases, babysitting will not be open every hour the gym is open, but if this is a big concern for you, then the more hours the better. Keep in mind the number of babysitters needed for the amount of children in the room. Make sure they are following guidelines.

BF: What are the general rules for gym etiquette?

AS: There are a few common rules that should be followed when working out. The most important thing is wiping down the equipment after you use it, because germs travel fast. Also, clean up after yourself by putting away the weights you use, magazines you read, or garbage you drop on the floor. Lastly, be courteous to other members around you whether you are working on the same machine or just sharing the same space.

BF: In today's economy, a gym membership seems to be a luxury. Can prospective clients negotiate for a discount, or have a limited membership at a discounted cost?

AS: Some places will negotiate discounts but this tends to annoy other members who had to pay full price. Also, some places do offer limited memberships for summer months, monthly options, or pay as you go type of memberships. The best thing to do is ask the membership department and see what they can do.

BF: A benefit of your gym is that you offer camp for children. Do you offer classes too?

AS: We offer classes to kids of all ages. The Youth Programs director runs programs for kids up to age 11 and I run programs for kids 12 and up. All of our Group Fitness classes are open to kids 15 years and older.

BF: What, ultimately, should be the deciding factor when choosing a gym? Is it the hours, the classes, the cleanliness of the place, the qualifications of the trainers and instructors? There is so much to process!

AS: Yes, you are exactly right. It should be a mix of everything you mentioned. The more you get for the same membership price should make the difference. Don't pay extra for services you should be getting. The place should be clean, the hours should work with your schedule, they should have a qualified staff and a friendly atmosphere. You will be able to tell as soon as you walk in, whether or not the place will fit with your personality. Remember, working out should not be a scary experience, just give it a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

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