In the 1970’s the number of gyms was in short supply, mostly catering to bodybuilders, what with the popularity of Pumping Iron and the golden age with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Aside from places like Gold’s Gym Venice and Muscle Beach, most gyms were dark hole’s in the wall places. Now there are a multitude of options, appealing to the most discerning user.

1. Location – At one point I lived 30 minutes from the nearest gym and I made the trip, for most however, this is a convenient way to talk themselves out of going. When picking a gym, location should be a primary deciding factor. You should also ask when are you going to work out. Before or after work, in the morning, afternoon or evening. You will want to choose a location that is either close to home, work or in between. This will not only cut down on gas consumption, but increase the odds you will maintain a solid routine.

2. Gym culture – You may be asking yourself, “gym culture?” That’s right, most gyms have their own culture, remember above I was talking about the hole in the wall bodybuilding gym, those still exist. A number of gyms or ‘fitness centers’ attempt to cater to the family environment. Typically Bally’s, 24 Hour Fitness, Lifetime and LA Fitness appeal to this demographic with a gentler environment and childcare centers, although there are exceptions inside these establishments that lean toward bodybuilding as well. There are female specific gyms like Curves, senior gyms, kids gyms, personal training studios and the list goes on.

3. Interests – This is based largely on what you like to do. Are you a weightlifter, cardio enthusiast, aerobics, or swimming? By shopping around you will find a gym or health club that meets your needs. If you are not sure what those may be, stick to a general all-purpose location.

4. Traffic – This is another factor that is based on when you decide to work out. For most of us the options are limited based on work schedules. When you are taking a tour be sure to ask when the busier times are (as is expected it will genearlly be between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays).

5. Staff – Whether or not you decide to get a personal trainer, it is one thing you should consider before joining a club. Ask to see the qualifications of the trainers, before and after pictures, and whether or not you can bring your own trainer with you. Also health clubs, as with car salesmen, believe in two things the hard sell and never trust the “be back,” meaning if you don’t sign up when you first walk in you won’t be back after shopping around. If you have seen the movie BoilerRoom you know what I am talking about. This is a direct reflection of the organizations culture and an indication of the customer service you are likely to expect in the future. In a future post, I will highlight some of the tricks the health and fitness industry use to get your signature and credit card.

Tips and Tricks:

One tip I would suggest that I use periodically when choosing a new gym is the guest pass. After taking the tour and listening to the sales speil, I ask the salesman/fitness counselor for a couple days pass to see how I like the gym. Most places don’t like to do this, but if they feel you will eventually sign up they will relent at least a three day trial. Take this opportunity not only to work out, but ask other patrons how they like the club.

One other thing about membership sales. Most likely any club you join will have multiple packages, single-club, all-club, super club premier. When choosing, this is the time to be rational and not practice Sam’s Club bulk-shopping. Why buy the 10 gallon drum of peanut butter if you are allergic, so don’t get nationwide access if you will only use one club.

Thanks for reading and good luck. Feel free to check out the rest of the Healthier You Series.

Next: How to Pick the Right Personal Trainer