10 Secrets for Choosing a Health Club

Finding the right spot to go to is half the battle to getting fit. Find out what to look for and what to avoid when you’re choosing a health club.

Working out at health clubPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Never Pay Cover

Health clubs can always waive the “enrollment fee.” That fee is just a way for them to get more money out of you. If you don’t want to pay it, just tell the sales rep you’re going to join somewhere else. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have the fee waived. (Here’s the one exercise that will flatten your stomach in 10 minutes.)

2. Make Sure You Can Cancel

You may even need to write on your contract that “per [salesperson’s name], I can cancel this membership anytime with no fees.” Have the salesperson sign and date it. Even better, have the manager sign and date it in case there’s turnover and your salesperson no longer works there.

3. Monitor the Traffic

Find out when the gym is busiest, and make sure that works with your preferences. For instance, if you prefer to work out during a quiet time but the only time you can get to the gym is after work when the machines are mobbed, this might not be the best gym for you. (Discover how this 71-year-old marathon runner stays fit.)

4. Tag Team the Gym

Ask for a one-week trial and bring a friend. Your friend might be able to spot problems you didn’t see.

5. Get a Good Guide

Insist on a free personal training session if you join. If they already provide one, ask for two. (These exercises can cut your risk of heart disease in half.)

6. Prim and Proper Wins

Ask how often the equipment is serviced and cleaned. Cleaning should be done daily; servicing at least once a month.

7. Inspect the Premises

When you get a tour of the facility, check for torn benches and antiquated-looking cardio equipment, and inspect the cleanliness of the locker area. (Check out the one mistake you’re making that could sabotage your workout.)

8. Know Your Fees

If the sales rep is wooing you with visions of Pilates and yoga classes, ask about additional fees. Many make you pay more for such classes.

9. Monitor the Population

Fitness clubs oversell memberships in the hope that people won’t go. If just 20 per cent of the members showed up at one time, most clubs would not have enough space or equipment to support them. Ask when the busiest times are, and show up then to see if the place is too crowded for your taste. (If your squats don’t follow these steps, you’re doing them wrong.)

10. Go for Genuine

Personal trainers at gyms are on commission plus a small hourly rate. So beware of trainers who hound you to sign up for sessions—they’re most likely under pressure to make a sales goal. Instead, get a sense of the trainer’s genuine passion for fitness. If he or she doesn’t pressure you, that’s a good sign.

Plus: The Only Question You Need to Ask to Find the Best Running Shoes

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada