It’s a common cliche that we all sign up to expensive new gym memberships in January, only for them to become deserted by February. The cynical amongst us might even suggest that gyms are only interested in extracting money from us, and care little for whether or not we achieve our fitness and wellbeing goals. In fact, isn’t it better for them if we fail and then we keep going back to spend more money?
Whilst there’s always unscrupulous money grabbers, in every industry, the truth is that most people choose to work in health and fitness because they love to support and inspire people to live healthier and happier lives. Yes it’s a business, but it’s also a business striving to make a positive impact in the world.
5 Top Tips
So how do you choose a gym that’s really going to support you and dodge the money grabbers. Here are my 5 top tips:
1) Do your research.
Have you thought about what you need from your gym membership? There’s no point signing up because there’s a great looking pool if you never had any intention of going swimming. If you really want to do classes what are their classes like? Is it possible to have a taster or trial? It sounds obvious but sophisticated marketing at this time of year can often lead us to rush a decision before we’ve really done out homework.
2) If you wouldn’t pay full price then don’t buy at discount.
I think this is important because you need to make a judgement whether this place is really value for money. If you know you’d be prepared to pay top prices then you are genuinely getting a bargain. If you are only buying because “it’s cheap at the moment” then maybe your hearts not really in it.
3) Talk to the staff.
It’s the people that really make the place. Don’t be fobbed off with sales office people on a mission to lure you in. You want to talk to the reception staff and fitness instructers and decide for yourself if they come across as friendly, welcoming and supportive. Trust me, you’re going to need those positive vibes when you’re trying to motivate yourself out the door on a cold wet day.
4) Consider different gym types
There can be huge differences between different gyms and there really is no one size fits all. I know some people who love the budget style gyms, and it works well for them because they are self motivating and are just paying for what they need – the basics. Others prefer more of a luxury spa feel.
For example, I recently visited Supersonic Fitness, a boutique gym in the centre of York, and I was blown away by how much they broke the mold of the traditional chain gyms that I was used to. Before my visit some people commented that it was expensive. The reasons why became apparent as I took my tour and interrogated one of their lovely fitness instructors. With membership capped at much lower levels then traditional gyms, the Supersonic instructors are really able to focus on individual service and attention for their members. There is a real family vibe between the staff. And the relaxation suite with both infra-red and thermal saunas is a little piece of luxury after a long work out.
Supersonic have taken the deliberate decision to focus more holistically on both fitness and wellbeing, and this commitment was certainly backed up by the delicious, nutritious food offered by their cafe. So yes, it is a bit more expensive, but if they fit your needs, and you can afford it, then it could be perfect.
5) Location, Location, Location
Even if you find the greatest gym which fits your needs and your wallet, it isn’t going to work for you if you have to do a 2 hour round trip to make it there. Great locations are: close to work, on your commuting route, or close to home. The last one being especially useful if you want to use it on your days off.
Think about when you most want to use the gym and how traveling there will fit into your day. Many people prefer to go to the gym straight before, or straight after work. Having to to go home first, and then motivate yourself to get out again can be a big challenge, so a gym you can use before or after work takes one more obstacle out of your way. Another good routine is to go to the gym just before shopping. You can then use the inspiration from your workout to help you stick to healthier choices in the supermarket.
When you think you’ve found a gym in a great location, try a travel trial run on the days you think you will use it. It may be that you visit at the weekend, but getting there in the week at rush hour takes 4 times longer. This is something you’ll want to find out before paying up.
So gyms do tend to get a bad rap, but if you can find one that works for you then absolutely go for it. When you find a good fit, a gym can be a great source of support and inspiration, and a little me time space away from the wild outdoor weather. Don’t be put of by the cliches and the cynics. Only you know what is right for you
Dr Diane Brown is a Fitness & Wellbeing Coach, qualified in Sport & Exercise Psychology, Wellbeing Life Coaching and Triathlon Coaching. She has overcome her own health challenges to successfully complete an Ultramarathon (2018) and Ironman UK (2011). Diane’s current mission is to help as many women as possible to create active lifestyles, gain greater wellbeing and enjoy a better quality of life.