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Elizabeth Street


New Year, New Gym! How to Figure Out Which One is Right for You

Dec 18, 2013

New Year, New Gym! How to Figure Out Which One is Right for You

Choosing a gym to join is a very personal choice. Since you're basically agreeing to be your sweatiest self around a bunch of strangers, it's important that you find a facility where you'll be comfortable exercising with others.

First, consider if you're OK with a co-ed environment. There's something to be said for single sex gyms. Chances are there's an arena near you for women only to get their fitness groove on. That's not the only thing to think about though, of course. We know it can be a tough decision, especially because you have to pay to work out. And while you might be able to finagle your way out of the initiation fee, you'll have to go to great lengths to get out of your monthly membership dues. Still need help deciding what kind of facility you should use to help get your body into its most optimal condition? Take the quick quiz below.

1.) I'm joining a gym because:
a) I want to find a community of like-minded people who are as health-conscious as I am.
d) It's too cold to run/bike outside.
c) I want to lose weight/get in better shape.

2.) Here's what I plan on doing at the gym:
a) Yoga, Pilates. Spinning and other cardio-intense classes. Weight lifting, mat work--you name it!
b) The stairmaster. Treadmill. Stationary bike.
c) Pumping iron, man!

3.) I care about the locker facilities:
a) A lot. I want it all: sauna, hot tub, steam room, tons of products, including Q-tips.
b) A little. A hairdryer would be nice. And maybe free towels.
c) Not at all. I'm hanging up my coat and working out.

4.) I plan on spending X many hours a week at the gym:
a) 11-15
b) 6-10
c) less than 6

5.) I care about how I look when I'm working out:
a) Quite a bit. I love wearing all of the latest fitness clothing and I admit to wearing makeup to the gym.
b) Somewhat. I won't be wearing any makeup, but I don't want to look unkempt either.
c) Not in the least. I don't have time to consider my appearance when all I've got is 40 minutes to jog on the treadmill.

Answered a to three or more questions? Consider investing in a more upscale gym, maybe one of the newer facilities in your area. Make sure there is a range of fitness classes that suit your schedule, and definitely check out the locker room before you sign any contracts. Since you'll be spending a decent number of hours working out each week, you might be able to justify the cost of springing for a more expensive gym membership. In addition to the actual exercise spaces, many of the newer facilities now include a juice bar or cafe. After you burn 500+ calories in a high-intensity cardio class with your new best friend, you two can head down to the first floor to recover with green juice.

Answered b to three or more questions? You don't need all of the glitz and glamour attached to a super high-end facility. Consider one of the smaller, boutique-like gyms, such as Crossfit, to whip your body into shape. If you're just joining for a few months--say, to get through the miserable chill of winter when running outside is only for the crazy few--don't sign a year-long contract. Perhaps you can find a center that is offering a special three-month introductory package. If you know you'll mainly be relying on the cardiovascular machines, check that the treadmills and bicycles are in good working condition. 

Answered c to three or more questions? There's absolutely no need to splurge on a pricey gym membership. You need the bare bones here: functioning machines, weights, an area for getting down and practicing sit-ups and push-ups, a water fountain. Maybe the locker room is in need of an upgrade (and the price of your membership reflects it), but no matter. With limited time to work out and the unlikelihood that you'll ever be utilizing the showers, you don't need all the extra amenities that contribute to the higher price tag at other gyms. And if you don't think that you'll be taking advantage of a gym's fitness classes, see if there's a membership option that doesn't include the classes.

The bottom line, of course, is that you should visit a few gyms in your area before you decide to join. Ask for a guest pass--some places will offer you a free week--and get acquainted with the equipment. Take your time figuring it out. Don't waste too much time though; January 1st is around the corner.

For inspiration on your impending gym membership, see the slideshow above for an array of fitness apps that will come in handy once you get on the treadmill/stairmaster/eliptical machine.

By Stacey Gawronski

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