New Year. New Gym. New you.

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January is the month of New Year’s resolutions, and so often our resolutions involve fitness or health-related goals. Many gyms see a doubling of their membership in the month of January, and many offer discounted prices during this time of year. You might be joining a gym for the first time or you may be looking for a new place to exercise to get re-motivated. How do you know if you’ve found the right gym or personal trainer that is the best fit for your schedule and your preferences?

When you are investing your time and money it is important to ask the right questions to make sure that your investment will help you meet your goals.

5 Questions to Ask Your Potential New Gym

  1. How far away is the gym from my home or place of work? Is this a convenient location for you? If the location of the gym is close to places you regularly go, you will be more likely to make it a habit. If the gym is more than 15 minutes away from your home, you might have a difficult time making it a part of your regular routine.
  2. What are the monthly fees? Are there any hidden fees (e.g. sign-up fee, yearly fee, towel fee, locker fee, or maintenance fee?) When membership fees aren’t clearly communicated, it leaves us frustrated and unlikely to return. By asking all of the questions up front you can know exactly what to expect. Make certain that you see the contract in writing before you agree to the terms.
  3. Are group classes included in the membership fee? Even if group fitness isn’t something that sparks your interest, it can be a wonderful way to mix up your fitness routine. A certified instructor can teach you something new or simply motivate you to try a different exercise style that you might enjoy.
  4. Is there an external defibrillator (AED) on site, and how many members of the staff are certified to use it? In the unlikely event that you experience a cardiac event while you are at the gym, you want to make sure that they have the equipment available that could save your life. At many gyms the staff is not trained to use the equipment that is available. Asking this question may prompt the management to ensure their CPR certifications are up to date, or at least direct you to another location.
  5. What certifications do the personal training staff hold? It might be alarming that many personal training certifications can be obtained through an online or weekend course. My favorite personal training certifications are from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). These organizations are reputable and these certifications are more challenging to obtain.

3 Things to Look for on Your Visit

  1. Go visit the gym at the time of day that you expect to attend. Purposely walk by the equipment that you expect to use and take notice of how many people are waiting to use it. If there is a big line, it might not be the best fit for you.
  2. Check the cleanliness of the flooring, handrails, and equipment. Do you notice any signs of disrepair or anything that needs a deep cleaning? They should have disinfectant available for your hands, and either cleaning cloths available for you to use or a staff member that cleans after each use.
  3. Check the culture. Is the front desk staff friendly and inviting? Does the environment motivate you to move? Are the rooms properly lit? Do you notice any safety concerns? Is wifi, music, or TV available? Does the culture fit with your preferred exercise style? It is perfectly okay to take some time to watch and get a good feel for the environment that will become a part of your regular routine.

Remember that there is no “perfect” gym and no “perfect” exercise routine. Find the location that will help you stay motivated. You may find that you prefer to exercise at home, and that is perfectly okay too! Once you’ve found a place that will help you as your reach for your health and fitness goals, make it a part of your schedule right away.

Ask questions and get involved. Find out where the towels are stored, and if you are expected to clean the equipment when you are finished. Find out about the best instructors and who is the go-to person when you have questions. If you prefer to shower at the gym, find out if towels are provided or if you need to bring yours with you. Find out if the water is safe to drink or if you need to bring it with you.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week for adults. In addition to aerobic exercise, they recommend doing 2 or more days of strength training each week for all of your major muscle groups. That easily translates into 5 days a week of aerobic exercise for 30 or more minutes, and 2 or more days of strength training. That means that you will be spending a good chunk of time each day at the gym and it is so much more enjoyable if you find an environment that encourages you to move and to be your best.

Exercise may help to manage your weight, lower risk for cardiovascular disease, strengthen muscles and bones, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. Any exercise is better than no exercise! Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Feel proud of yourself for making a big step and use your membership!

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