Are All Fitness Centers Created Equal?

How to choose one that’s right for you

Although I’ve worked in fitness centers for over 30 years, in reality, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive health club or fitness center memberships, or the latest fitness center memberships, or the latest fitness equipment, to increase your level of physical fitness.
On the other hand, many people find it difficult to concentrate; say at home, when there are many other distractions. Also, people sometimes find that making a financial commitment increases their chances of following thru long-term.
Fitness centers are designed, built, and equipped to appeal to a broad range of individuals. After all, member ship sales pay the bills.
However, not all centers operate in the same manner. Many require contracts that are legally binding, and require monthly payments, for the length of the contract. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that scenario, in fact it’s very common. The point is, if you’re going to sign on the dotted line, it’s important, that the health club you’ve chosen is right for you.

People make all kinds of excuses not to work out, with proximity to home or work very high on the list. Research has shown that most people won’t travel more than eight miles or eight minutes to work out. Since an exercise an exercise program requires consistency, a convenient location is a must.

Hours of Operation
If you prefer to exercise at a particular time of day, remember to look closely at the day and hours of operation. Also, visit the club prior to joining at the time of day you’re most likely to attend. Is it crowded then?

Equipment and Amenities
With your personal fitness goals in mind, shop around and compare equipment, locker rooms, classes, etc. How about a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam or sauna? Are these in good working order? Have you any interests there?
There should be a wide array of both cardiovascular and strength equipment, as you’ll want to have the opportunity to change your routine periodically, and use different pieces of equipment. That will help keep you interested and motivated.

Shopping around allows you to compare what you’re getting, to what you’re paying. Newer clubs with newer equipment, a wide variety of amenities, will probably cost more per month, but you never know, so look around. I like clubs that charge an all-inclusive monthly fee, that allows you use of the entire facility. Usually the only additional charge would be for the personal training or massages, which is true everywhere.

How were you treated as you looked around? Did the employees seem attentive to members, helpful and friendly? If you want to learn a new machine or piece of equipment, is someone available to demonstrate? You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking for assistance in your own club.
While we’re on the topic of fitness center’s employees, pay special attention to the exercise specialists education, experience, and professional certification. Knowing why to do a particular exercise is just as important as how to perform it. Also, are they C.P.R. certified, and is an Automatic Defibrillator available, in case of emergency?

Certain fitness centers attract a specific kind of member. Bodybuilders are attracted by lots of free weights, as their main purpose in building large muscles. On the other hand, senior citizens are much more comfortable with selectorized machines, and a good choice of cardiovascular equipment. These clubs will have a totally different feel, as the business adapts to the majority of its members, and the fitness center takes on a personality of its own. Make sure which center you’re most comfortable in, before joining.

There is a wide variation among fitness centers, as far as cleanliness is concerned. My experience has shown that hospital-based fitness facilities are generally the cleanest, which makes sense. Again, you want to be somewhere, that you’re comfortable and safe, and where the owners take pride in their fitness center.
Again, all health/fitness centers are not created equal. Find the one that fits your wants and needs, attend consistently and look and feel better, as you build on your personal fitness program.