If you think physical fitness is crucial to your health, then choosing the right fitness centre should be on the top of your "must do" list.
First Step: What Do You Really Want?
Before going fitness centre shopping, find out what you really need and want. "There is no one ideal piece of exercise equipment, and there is no one ideal exercise club or fitness facility. It really should be tailored to what your needs are," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
| First order of business is finding out which type of workout you want - aerobics, strength or weight training and choose the gym or centre accordingly. If you're into weight training, you may want to go to a place sufficiently equipped for the purpose.
If you're not so sure about your fitness goals then an all-purpose gym would be suitable in exploring your workout needs.
Next Step: Finding The Right One.
The next move is finding out what's out there. You can start by calling local gyms, conducting research on the Internet and asking friends and family. After getting the relevant information, then pick at least three facilities and pay them a visit.
The things to consider are:
- Location - Choose one that's not so far from your daily activities.
Hours - Make sure that the hours synchronize with your available time.
Environment - It is important to make sure the place and equipments are clean.
Equipment - Do they have the machines you want; lots of "out of order" equipment may suggest poor maintenance.
Customer Service - What's true for department stores is true for fitness centres, friendly and helpful staff is always a big thing.
Referrals - Better be safe than sorry. Talk with other members of the fitness centre about their experiences at the facility. Check out the gym's credentials with the right consumer or government agencies before signing any contract.
Make a list of questions to ask the staff on your tour of the facility.
- How old is the exercise equipment?
Old equipment will still do the job...
- How often is the equipment replaced?
- What is the staff turnover rate?
- What type of continuing education is provided for or required of staff?
- What are the busiest times?
- What fitness areas are most crowded? At what times?
- Are class sizes limited?
- Are any additional fees imposed, for example, for towels or the swimming pool?
- Does the facility offer amenities such as free parking or on-site child-care services?
- Is entertainment available, such as televisions or personal music stations?
- How many interactions during a workout can you expect from staff?
- What types of personal consulting services are available? For example, are there personal fitness trainers or nutrition consultants? What qualifications do these staff members have?
- Is the facility equipped to handle emergencies? For example, are staff members trained to give first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)?
- How much does membership cost? What are the opt-out policies?
- What are the billing cycles?
Read The Fine Print
If membership to the fitness facility requires that you sign a contract, review the details carefully. Make sure you understand completely your obligation to the facility, including the length of your agreement, billing procedures and cancellation policies.
Try Before You Buy
Always pay to try out a facility before making any commitment. Although some places offer free trial memberships, most facilities charge a nominal fee - usually around $10 a day - to try out the club. If you know a member of the facility, you might be able to visit using a guest pass.
Visit the gym at the same time of day or night that you typically would be there. For instance, machines that might be accessible at 10 a.m. may be unavailable during the busier, early-evening hours.