Price, location, facilities and more – here’s just what to check before you sign on the dotted line for a gym membership.
With those long, warmer summer days behind us, it’s going to become more difficult to exercise outside. Nobody really enjoys running through wet slushy leaves or cycling in driving rain. Even your usual walk around the block becomes less pleasant after dark.
Instead, why not get ahead of the January crowd and go back to the gym?
There are plenty of things to consider if you’re going to get the most out of the money and time you invest here, though.
Pay the right price
As we’ve already said, paying for the gym is an investment in your health. But there’s no need to overpay. Find somewhere at a price that you’ll be able and willing to pay every month. Not too cheap, though – make sure the price pushes you to actually go and work out.
If you’re keen for results, though, or need some guidance, it might be worth investing in a personal trainer, or an organised series of workouts (like a bootcamp programme). Having someone to hold you accountable will take your fitness to another level.
It’s also important to take a close look at your contract (including small print) before you sign. How long is the contract? Are you happy to be tied in for the full year, or yould you prefer a rolling monthly contract or pay as you go? Does your contract automatically renew? Will you be given any warnings or reminders before this happens?
Find out if you can cancel your contract early if your circumstances change. You usually need to give one month’s notice, it’s worth checking. Also see whether you need to pay a penalty for early cancellation.
Thanks to an Office of Fair Trading ruling on gym membership contracts, gym members ought to be able to cancel their contract due to injury, or if they can’t afford to keep paying due to job loss. Some gyms even allow members to cancel if they move house. Talk to a member of staff about this.
Read more expert advice on staying fit and healthy
Pick a sensible location
This is the second most important point for good reason. If your gym is too difficult to reach easily, you simply won’t go. Consider whether it’s easier for your gym to be within walking distance or if you’re happy to drive. Also, is it easier for your gym to be closer to home (perhaps if you only work out at the weekends), your office (if you head there during lunch or straight after work), or elsewhere?
It’s also worth visiting at your prime workout time to make sure that it’s still easy to get to – you aren’t snarled up in traffic – and that you can still access the equipment you regularly use.
Check out all the facilities
What do you need from your gym? Do you exercise better alone, or would you prefer a number of varied classes? Spin is an incredible way to get fit and burn calories, while yoga is brilliant for strength and helps combat anxiety. Are you happy with standard cardio machines, or are you looking for squat racks or other weightlifting equipment? More simply, are the changing rooms kitted out to your requirements – with showers, hairdryers, even shampoo and conditioner and styling tools provided?
Sport centres may allow you to play tennis, badminton, or go swimming as part of your membership, while hotel gyms often have saunas – so keep alternative options in mind.
Make sure it’s clean
Keeping a gym clean requires constant maintenance. It’s not enough to trust in a nightly specialist cleaning crew to go over the equipment. Is a member of staff regularly tidying away rogue dumbbells and giving them a clean? Are gymgoers able to easily grab some sanitiser to wipe off their sweaty equipment? There’s no point joining a gym if you don’t feel comfortable touching anything.
Make sure to check out the bathrooms and shower facilities, too.
Spend some time with staff
Not all staff need to be qualified personal trainers. But a gym where everyone enjoys their job and happily answers your questions is normally a good one. You can get to know staff better by asking for an induction – often you’ll be offered one automatically when (or before) you join.
What do staff consider the gym’s unique selling point? You want to make sure you’re a member of their target demographic, so all their extra services are geared towards what you need.
If you are looking to retain the services of a personal trainer, check reviews on social media and even ask around the gym itself. Make sure they don’t try to bamboozle you with technical terms, and work to your fitness level with any injuries or health issues at front of mind.