Although I’m a strong advocate of running outdoors, I’m not at all opposed to joining a gym (especially when exercising outside or even in your home just isn’t an option). They’re full of all the equipment you want and need, they’re great places to meet new people, and — let’s face it — Netflix marathons aside, going to the gym gives you a much better reason to wear those sweats.
However, joining a gym can be intimidating — for some (like me), it can even cause panic and anxiety.
Even so, I decided to join a gym this year as part of my physical wellness plan, and my experiences shopping around helped me figure out a few tips for joining a gym that might help you, too.
1. Decide Why You’re Joining a Gym
First, get a game plan. Why do you want to join a gym? Do you want to lose weight? Boost your fitness level? Help enrich your social life? Keep your wellness plan in check even when the weather isn’t cooperating?
All of the above?
Knowing exactly why you want to join a gym will help you better select the gym that’s right for you.
2. Tour a Variety of Gyms
Not every gym will fit your needs. Remember why you decided to join a gym (see above) and then tour several gyms to find the one that best fits the bill.
For example, are you interested in making new friends while you get fit? Consider a gym with specialized classes such as yoga or water aerobics. Do you need someone to help you learn how to properly use the gym equipment and meet your fitness goals? Look for gyms that offer personal trainers or gym assistants.
Also remember, some gyms offer free one-day trials so you can get a feel for their facilities. Be sure to ask about this service.
NOTE: If you can, find a friend or two who already belong to gyms and can give you firsthand opinions. I visited my beau’s gym and he was able to walk me through the entire facility, introduce me to people, and explain the equipment and types of workouts I wasn’t familiar with.
3. Consider the Gym’s Location
Probably, you’re more likely to visit the gym if it’s close to your home; however, don’t let location be your sole deciding factor.
For example, although my city’s YMCA is just a block from my apartment (and a great way to get in a brisk walk), I chose a gym a few miles away. Why? Not only does it provide all the equipment I need, but also it’s a smaller, less intimidating, and more budget-friendly facility with helpful staff.
Basically, it fits all the other criteria I’ve listed here.
However — and especially depending on where you live — location might play a bigger role for you. For example, it might be worth it to save the gas money and join a closer gym than it would to save a few bucks on a membership to a gym farther away. Or, traveling farther away from your home initially might heighten your panic and anxiety.
4. Pay Attention to the Gym’s Staff
Aside from shopping around to keep your options open, this is probably the most important tip, and it was definitely the most impressive in my own experience.
As my beau, sister, and I were touring the gym we ended up choosing, the manager made a point to engage with us. He explained his gym benefits (smaller facility, variety of equipment, numerous clientele fitness and experience levels — all of which were perks for me) and promised to personally assist us whenever we needed it.
How can you pass that up?
5. Evaluate Your Budget
Let’s get practical for a minute: How much can you afford?
Except for your clothes, shoes, and maybe some basic equipment like a yoga mat or running shoes, working out at home is basically free.
Working out at the gym? Well, those memberships ain’t cheap!
Thus, price is another big trigger for panic and anxiety when shopping for a gym. Determine how much you can afford each month or year and shop within your price range. Don’t be bullied into spending more than you reasonably can just because a gym assistant tries to convince you that you won’t find a better facility or services anywhere else.
(This is also another reason why it’s so important to shop around with several gyms.)
NOTE: Because physical fitness is so important for mental health, you might also consider slightly reworking your budget each month to afford the gym you really want to join. Again, only commit to what’s within your budget.
6. Get a Gym Buddy!
My sister and I committed to joining a gym together. We’ve set our gym schedules around our work and personal schedules so we can workout together and motivate each other. This will help with accountability as well as getting to know other members so that, if the time comes when one of us has to workout alone, we won’t feel any panic or anxiety about it.
How about YOU, readers? Do you belong to a gym? What kinds of tips can you offer others considering joining a gym? How did you overcome any panic or anxiety about finally committing to a membership and actually going to the gym? Share with us in the comments below!