5 Steps to Choosing a Gym

A new year brings new fitness goals, and maybe this has you looking for a new gym. Here’s a few tips from local fitness professionals on finding your new fitness home.

1. Location, Location, Location.

In order to create a successful workout routine, you need to be sure you actually work out. “You are more likely to use the gym if it’s nearby,” said Heather Billings, owner/operator of 9Round in Kearney, Mo.

When are you most likely to work out? “Know when you’re going to go—during your lunch hour, or before or after work,” offered Nicole Kube, a personal trainer at TheGYMkc with three locations in Kansas City. “Make sure it’s convenient.”

While many people choose a gym that’s close to work, Billings suggested a location closer to home might be a better bet. “What if you decide to work from home?” she asked. “Or what if you can’t take time off for lunch? Will you be able to use it every day?”

Choose a location that sets you up for success and eliminates excuses.

2. Get results.

Look for a gym that has a proven track record of meeting its members’ goals, as well as a culture of encouragement. “Make sure they are getting results for their members,” said Rodney Steven II, owner and president of Genesis Health Clubs, which has 12 locations in the Kansas City area. “Are their personal trainers knowledgeable? Do they have the best group of exercise instructors? It’s important to find a health club that really cares about your results and will fight to help you achieve them.”

Billings added that at her gym, “we’re sticklers for accountability.” If a member doesn’t show up for a while, they can expect to hear from Billings. “If we haven’t seen a member in a week, we call them out,” she said. “It’s important to find a place with that kind of personal service and accountability.”

3. Seek variety.

Suffering from boredom will inevitably sabotage your workout routine. Kube suggests finding a fitness facility that provides opportunities to mix things up. “Pick something you like—but if you don’t like it, try something else,” she said. “Diversify your workout, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”

Steven agreed that the key to meeting long-term fitness goals is to stay motivated and interested. “A treadmill might be enough in the beginning,” he said, “but most people need more than that. You need quality cardio and strength-training equipment, but also make sure you have access to a club that has a swimming pool, basketball, tennis, and a variety of classes. That way you always have something new to try if you get stuck in a rut.”

In short, consider your fitness goals, but leave yourself open to new experiences. “I encourage people to venture outside their comfort zones,” said Billings. “Some people might be intimidated by something new, but then you find out it’s something
you love.”

4. Find community.

A gym or fitness studio is home to a small community of people with similar goals. Each gym will have its own vibe, and a common thread that runs through all members. It’s important to find a gym that fosters that sense of community.

“Going to a gym is a social thing,” said Kube. “You want to feel like part of a family. You’re going to spend a lot of time there, so you should feel comfortable there.”

“Find a gym that feels like home,” echoed Billings. One way she builds community at 9Round is through a members-only Facebook group. “Our Facebook group allows members to interact. They know each other’s names. When other members and instructors know your name, that’s a nice personal touch.”

Getting support from other members will help get you through that door more regularly. “You are much more likely to succeed at a club with like-minded members who give you support,” Steven said. “Look for social events and a real sense of community. It’s hard to fail if you have a club full of friends cheering you on.”

5. Do your research.

There are a lot of options out there: full-service health clubs, niche studios, yoga, pilates, barre, and even rock-climbing gyms. The best way to start narrowing down your choices is to talk to members, trainers, and owners—and, of course, go give it a try for yourself.

“Definitely, try it before you buy it,” said Billings. While you’re there, take a close look at the setup, even the little things.

“Are there decent showers? Is there good equipment? Is there a flexible class schedule and are the classes available at the time when you’ll be able to take them?” asked Kube.

Once you’ve done your research, the right answer should become clear. And in the end, you’re the only person who can decide.

“It’s all so subjective,” said Kube. “Everyone has different goals and needs. It has to work for you.”

About the Author

Kristi Mayo is the editor of REC Midwest. She can be reached at publisher@rec-midwest.com.