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It's That Time of Year

. . . when we start saying things like: 

Yeah, I'm slacking off right now but . . .
. . . I'll get myself back on track after the holidays.
. . . I'll have more time to work out after the holidays.
. . . I'll start a new fitness program after the holidays.
. . . I'll look into joining a gym after the holidays.

About that last one?


Let's talk!

Now I know that joining a gym or fitness center isn't for everyone.  But for a lot of us . . . gyms are instrumental in helping us achieve and maintain our fitness goals. If it weren't for my gym, I'd never work out as hard or as long or as often as I do!  

Gyms are actually a great fitness option.  And maybe you're thinking about it right now.  (You know.  For after the holidays.)  So I thought . . . NOW. . .  might be a good time for a blog post full of tips for finding the RIGHT gym for YOU. 

First, let's talk about the benefits of gyms as a fitness option.

  • There's the accountability factor.  You pay for it, so you might as well use it!  Yep.  Once you go through the trouble and hassle and financial outlay to join a gym, there's some motivation there . . . to get your money's worth.
  • There's the energy factor.  Energy . . . is contagious.  You see other people working hard, YOU can work hard.  Seriously - you can "catch" other people's energy when you're working out at the gym.  (I work out much harder - and do things I don't think I can even do - when I'm at the gym.)
  • There's the equipment factor.  Sure.  You can work out at home.  But you probably don't have the equipment options that you have at a gym.  Treadmills and ellipticals and rowing machines and stair climbers (which are the work of the devil, I swear) and pools and free weights and TRX and spinning bikes and weight racks and racquetball courts (etc).
  • There's the class factor.  Kickboxing and spinning and yoga and Pilates and barre and Zumba and water aerobics and . . . well, yeah.  All those class options.  A fun way to get your workout in, for sure.
  • There's the personal trainer option.  Maybe you don't want one.  But if you do . . . the gym is the place to find them!

Next, let's talk about some of the things to consider when you're looking for a gym.

First and foremost, be clear about what YOU are looking for in a gym.  Because this is a very individual thing!  Are you wanting a place with lots of options so you're never bored?  Are you looking for community and support in your fitness efforts?  Do you want someone to help you tailor a workout just for you?  Do you need a kick in the pants?  Variety?  A pool?  Heavier weights?  Spin bikes?  Figure out what YOU want for yourself before you even start looking at gyms.

Next . . . proximity and convenience.  You want to find a gym that is conveniently located -- either to your home or to your work.  Because if it's too far out of the way, you won't go.  So try to find a gym that's . . . on your way.  Home from work.  Or on your way to work.  Or within a distance from home that you'll get there.  Regularly.  

Now . . . do they have what you want?  Hours that work with your schedule.  Equipment you're interested in using (on the regular).  Classes you want to take at times that work for you.  A nice locker room with a shower.  Options to hire a personal trainer.  Make sure the gym will meet your needs.

Then . . . visit the gym during the time you'll most likely be using it.  Check out the vibe.  What's the culture there?  Is there plenty of room to work out?  Are people waiting to use the equipment you're most interested in?  Are there too many grunting meatheads?  Make sure you can see yourself fitting in - comfortably - at the gym.

Other things to check out . . . Hours. Rules. Cleanliness. Amenities. Class schedules. Class cancellation policies. 

And, of course, there's cost . . . A gym membership is an investment in your fitness, and paying to use a gym is a powerful incentive for lots of people.  Just make sure you understand the fee structure and any contract requirements.  Find out exactly what's included in the fee.  Read the fine print.  And know that a cheaper gym that doesn't have exactly what you want OR is not conveniently located for your life is probably not really cheaper.

Final tips . . . Try it out before you decide.  Most gyms offer test-drive deals (my gym, for example, has a 5-day trial membership for potential members).  There are often membership/sign-up deals in September and January.  On the flip side, gyms are most crowded in the fall and early winter.  The numbers drop significantly by mid-February.  (So if you join in January, keep in mind that the gym will be at peak-crowd just then.  It won't last long.)


I hope this information is helpful for you if you're considering joining a gym in 2020.  

  • If you already belong to a gym, what benefits or tips might you add to my list?  
  • And if you haven't had a good experience at a gym, what barriers did you encounter?

As for me?  Well . . . I'm off to the gym!



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I know I should "gym" but I really have a phobia of them. Perhaps it is a "I have to wear gym clothes where people will see me" phobia... but it is real and daunting. I appreciate your ideas on checking out the vibe though! I need to find the gym with the vibe that says we love all you aging, unique-shaped women... come and celebrate that you with us!


You make some good points Kym. I tried a gym once, but found it wasn't for me. Even at 5:30 in the morning it was mobbed and I could never get on the equipment that I wanted. Plus they had TVs blaring all over the place. The other thing I noticed when I went was that I did not like the distraction of looking at others while I'm working out. When I work out at home it is almost a Zen-like experience and kind of like meditation (with movement). I wouldn't mind finding a gym with a pool though. I do love to swim and that is such good exercise!


I'd like a gym with a private room where no one can see me! Seriously, though, I encourage people to check out the Y. It's the right gym for me because there aren't any "meatheads" and there are tons of options and it's close to home. That said . . . I haven't gone in ages even though I'm paying for it. Sigh.


Everything you say sounds like good advice, but I still end up working out at home. I've only got two semi-close options in MD and NJ, the Y and Planet Fitness, neither of which is ideal in terms of their schedules, crowdedness, and TVs like Vera mentioned. I also enjoy swimming, but both Y pools are booked solid for classes except for three hours during the week. Maybe someday I'll live someplace with an accessible gym, pool, and classes that aren't full.


You provide lots of good points to consider when contemplating a gym membership. I don’t “gym” either tho’ if I were, I’d certainly use your criteria to help me evaluate.



My community center has all of the options you suggest except their workout room has very old (and non-functioning) machines. SO, because the PT said I need certain machines for my knee, I joined a non-judgmental gym that is open 24 hours, not crowded, AND that has a personal trainer ready to help at a moments notice. Plus, it's month to month and very inexpensive. I go early in the day and find it isn't crowded and all the machines I use are available. It's worked out great! Oh, and it's near my home!


Look for one that is clean.

We go to a Planet Fitness --- not much $$$$ and very happily, it is always clean.

We went to one in Orlando that was disgusting.

So yeah .....................CLEAN! LOL AND, with equipment that gets fixed when it breaks (and they all do). I hate seeing out of order signs on equipment for months on end.

Carolyn S Thomas

Awesome post! We looked for a 'good enough' gym to meet our priorities: cost, proximity & 'culture' at this season of our family's life. We opted for a month-to month membership, since we're back East at the lake all summer, anyway. We picked a gym where we'd feel comfortable with our 15-yr old daughter going solo. It's not a popular, fancy gym; it doesn't have as many classes as I'd like. But the upside is that it's rarely crowded. Which means there's ALWAYS a swim lane available, yay!


The good gyms I went to were when I was in college (run by the university) and grad school (about a block from my apartment). Now it's harder for me to get to one, even though there are some relatively close, mainly because of schedule issues. As my daughter gets older and can be more responsible for herself, I'm sure the schedule issues won't be so big, but for now I'm happy with my gym being my bedroom and my neighborhood/walk to work.

kathy b

Fireman just joined our best club around. He will swim some days. He lifts weights some days. And he loves spin classes. A perk is that I can go as a guest 5 times. I am not a gym person at all. I workout at the barn . But, fireman really and truly craves this activity in our long cold Wisconsin winters.

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