Choosing a gym is a lot like marriage these days: you get caught up by appearances, then you sign a piece of paper that promises “until death do us part, or at least a year or two.” Since most gyms have massive contracts that lock you in for a specified amount of time, and impart hefty penalties should you try to get out early, it’s important to dive beyond the spectacle (Shiny machines! Club music! Overenthusiastic personal trainer!) and look for the qualities that are truly necessary for a good, healthy and safe workout.
Research by CNBC found that the typical person pays between $40 and $50 a month for a gym membership. But don’t forget about the initiation fee, which often ranges in the $100 to $200 range, plus incidental fees such as add-ons for classes or personal training.
Some gyms have a lot of machines. Others put more of an emphasis on free weights. Identify your training style and make sure the gym has the specific equipment you need.
Visit the gym on a day and a time that you would normally work out. Then, come back one or two more days at the same time. Are the machines you would need available, or do you have to wait for 20 minutes before the things you need become free?
4. Operating hours
Some gyms are open for 24 hours. Others are much more restrictive. Make sure the gym is open at the times you’ll need it most, especially on the weekends and during holidays.
Don’t work out in other people’s sweat. Look around the gym and note how clean it is. Do the staff do a good job of picking up trash from the ground? Are there an ample supply of towels and cleaning spray near the workout stations?