Gyms aren’t like McDonald’s, where a Big Mac tastes almost the same in Seattle and New York as it does in London or Beijing. Gyms aren’t created equal, meaning the products, services and coaching they offer vary from state to state, city to city, and box to box.
So how do you know how to find a good gym?
Here are 7 things we think you should look for when selecting the right gym:
One of the biggest differences between gyms is how they bring new athletes into their community. Some throw you right into group classes on Day 1, others put you through two or three group OnRamp sessions and then release you to classes, and others still require you to go through one-on-one personal training before they graduate you to the group atmosphere.
When it comes to fundamentals programs—unless you have had a lot of experience in the sport of gymnastics AND Olympic weightlifting—the MORE one-on-one attention you get before group classes, the better! If you find a gym that makes you do 15 personal training sessions with the same coach, you know you’re going to be taken care of and kept injury-free. Yes it’s more expensive, but it’s your health and you’re worth the investment.
On the other side of the fence, if a gym lets you do a free class with other experienced athletes on your first day, steer clear and keep shopping around!
Lifting weights, gymnastics, rowing etc…is technical, and your strengths and weaknesses are personal to you. Select a gym that teams you up with a personal coach, someone consistently in your corner, who can get to know your specific limitations and work with you for years on improving your health and fitness. A relationship with a personal coach will make all the difference in your long-term development.
Ask around. How long have the gym’s coaches been around? If every coach is in his first year there, chances are the gym’s coach retention isn’t great (unless the gym just opened). Gyms with high coach retention are doing something right (not to mention, you’ll get more experienced advice). If the gym has five coaches who have been there for 5-plus years, you’re in the right place.
Lots of fitness facilities look rough around the edges. BUT, bathrooms and floors, for example, should be clean. If the gym is sloppy and careless with cleaning bathrooms and floors then chances are this sloppiness extends to the rest of the business.
If the only service the gym offers is “group classes,” move along. Find a gym that offers a broad range of services to meet everyone’s needs, such as personal training, nutrition counselling, individual programming, and other classes, such as weightlifting, mobility, or gymnastics classes.
This one is specific to you, but some gyms cater to older folks, while others pride themselves on being competitive in the CrossFit scene, for example. Find out what the average age is of the people at the gym, and choose one where you think you’ll be fit in and feel comfortable. After all, it’s the people who are going to keep you around the gym for years, so choose a place where you think you’ll be able to forge strong connections.
Don’t assume the coaches are educated. Ask, ask, ask about their credentials. Do they have a weekend certification and nothing else, or are they into continued education to constantly improve their knowledge?
On a similar note, ask about the programming. What are the principles behind the training program you’ll be following? You’re there to see results, so you might as well select a gym whose programming has some thought, and some science, behind it.
There are tons of good gyms out there, but you might as well select the best one for your needs and goals so take the time to search around, and be willing to spend a little more money to become as healthy and fit as you’ve always dreamed of.