Sunday, December 16, 2018

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Join a Gym or Transfer Your Membership

Recently I made the decision to quit my gym and join a new one. I couldn't be happier with the decision I made and only once I'd committed to it, did I realise how unhappy I was with my previous membership. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, especially for the low price, but it just wasn't right for me, so I wasn't really getting my money's worth. It occurred to me that when shopping for a gym, we should do it the same way we'd shop for anything else... We should make an effort to ensure we'll be happy before we buy and choose the best choice for our needs. I didn't do that in the past when choosing a gym, mostly because I didn't have multiple choices available, but there are so many options for working out these days that there's absolutely no point in paying a membership for a facility you'll never step foot in. These are 10 questions to ask yourself before joining a gym or transferring your membership to a new facility.

1.Will I realistically go?
What is the likelihood you will go? It's important to be realistic about this because if you have too much on your plate or you're not motivated to get to the gym, you'll simply be paying for nothing and feeling disappointed in yourself for never showing up. If you work incredibly long hours, travel a lot or have any circumstances that will make it difficult for you to actually use the gym membership, be honest with yourself about them and it will help you to decide if you can make sacrifices to get there or if it's a waste of your money. You may find that you can make it work if it's important or you might discover that you're actually better off doing something that's more realistically possible for you such as investing in a bike and cycling to work.

It's also helpful to find out what the cancellation policy is so that if you do join with good expectations but it doesn't work out, you can simply withdraw your membership with little or no penalty. For those who travel, it's also useful to find out what the freezing policy is. Some gyms will allow you to pause or freeze your membership for a period of time so that you don't have to pay for it when you're out of town.

2. How many times a week will I go and is the cost per use worth it?
Not all gym memberships are priced the same nor are all budgets the same. First and foremost I would encourage anyone to consider their budget and whether or not the price fits within that. If you can't afford it comfortably, there's probably a less stressful option available to you. Also consider any joining fees you may have to pay, but after that's all sorted it's worth costing out the membership per visit. If you're only going twice a month and it's a £100 per month membership, you're paying £50 per visit. You may think this sounds extreme, but I have heard so many people speak about their memberships in this way because they pay and then don't go. If you're using the gym 20 times per month, that cost is reduced to £5 per visit, so it's much more affordable. If your cost per use is super high, it's probably more worth your while to find a more cost-effective workout option such as a group class.

3. Is the gym conveniently located?
If the facility isn't located close to either your home or your work, it's going to be more difficult to get there on a regular basis, particularly if you don't drive. Of course this is fine if you really want it and you're motivated to make the trip, but if you're not, it's worth considering whether or not you'll get the full enjoyment out of it if it's causing you more stress and requires even more of your precious time. The easier it is to get there, the more likely you will be to go...

4. What is my fitness plan, what are my goals and can this gym provide what I need to achieve them?
This is really important because your fitness plan and goals will dictate what you want and need out of a gym. If you don't know, that's cool, but having some general idea will help you decide on some of the other factors such as how many times a week you want to work out, how you'll spend your time in the gym and whether it's worth it to travel a little further for specific equipment or services.

With regards to equipment, if your plan involves specific equipment you'll need to assess whether or not the gym has it and enough of it. If you are focusing on weight training for example, it's important that the facility offers enough equipment for you to achieve your goals. A crowded gym that only has a few weights or machines will probably cause you more frustration than success, so keep this in mind when making your choice.

5. What additional services or facilities do I require?
Do you need a pool or a personal trainer? Are classes something that you're interested in and if so are they offered, do they require additional spend and are you able to secure a place in the ones you want or are they too crowded? Is it important for you to have a locker, a changing room or a shower and are they up to the preferred standard? Are there enough of them? Does the gym have an app that you can use to book classes and is that of importance to you? These items may not seem to be of the most importance, but if they're included in your fitness plan and they aren't available, you'll struggle to achieve your goals and therefore may end up not trying at all. Likewise, there may be things a new gym option offers that aren't available at your current facility, so it might be the push you need to make a change that will positively impact your fitness journey.

6. What is the vibe like?
Are the other members like-minded? Is the music good and inspiring or distracting? Do you feel inspired to work hard by the people around you in the gym or do you find the environment too intimidating and uncomfortable? These are very personal choices, but I find that they're important for getting the most out of a membership. In my previous gym I was often frustrated by the staff and the other people working out. Many of them were unmotivated and using the facility for reasons entirely different to mine. In the building there was a childcare service and a community swimming pool, so often people were there just for fun or to drop off their children and it was distracting, even though I never realised it until I left. Once I transferred my membership, I found motivation from the people around me... I'm a person who needs an aspirational environment to work out to my full potential, but having tried a few other places on day passes, I also found that I don't like an environment that's too intimidating. Finding the balance between motivating and soul destroying was important to me and luckily I've found that at my new gym. The people there are goal-driven, they put in a lot of hard work and they're serious about making the most of their time. I find it inspires me to work harder and more efficiently without discouraging me. If the vibe isn't right, it could hinder your motivation, so take that into consideration before you join a gym or transfer to a new one.

7. Is the gym oversubscribed during the times you will need it?
It doesn't matter how great a facility is if it's too crowded to be useful and unfortunately this is a common problem. If you live in a city, it's an inconvenient truth that most gyms will be busy during peek times such as weekday evenings, but with that reality check it's important to assess whether you'll be able to get what you need out of it at the times you need to use it. You have your fitness plan and goals in mind, so can you be flexible enough with the equipment you need to use to get the job done? Can you be flexible with the time you attend the gym if it's too busy at your preferred time? If it's simply too oversubscribed, it might be wise to look elsewhere because waiting around to use equipment may be too much of a commitment that will set you back.

8. Will you have access to or resource to acquire necessary gear to achieve your goals?
This point may seem extraneous, but I can't tell you how many people I've heard say that they've joined the gym, but they don't have what they need to go. These days our budgets are stretched to the limit, so if you struggle to pay for the membership itself, will you be able to afford things like suitable running shoes, workout clothing, sports bras or lifting gloves? If these are issues you think you might face, it may be time to consider a cheaper gym option or perhaps a more affordable way of getting fit that doesn't require a gym membership.

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9. Are the opening hours compatible with your schedule?
Though it may seem obvious, this point requires some realism as opposed to hopeful optimism. It's not that I'm not a fan of optimism, but positive thinking won't necessarily get you to the gym when life gets in the way. Sure the membership is only £27 per month so it seems like a good deal, but if you can't get there before it closes after work or it doesn't open early enough for you to go first thing in the morning then you won't use it. While this may seem obvious, it's often the case that we can be a bit unrealistic about the demands on our time, most likely because we all like to think we can do everything. For the sake of saving myself some disappointment, I like to think of things like this in windows of 2 or 3 hours. If I need an hour or so to do my workout, then considering a 2 hour window of time means that if I'm a bit late getting in or my workout takes a little longer than expected, I still have time. If you finish work most days at 7 and the gym closes at 9pm but isn't close to your office, is it realistic that you'll actually get there, change and get in a proper workout? Probably not... In that case, maybe you could look for something closer to your office and hit the gym before work or maybe during your lunch hour. At any rate, if the opening hours aren't suitable to your schedule, it would be better to look elsewhere for a fitness option than to waste your money.

10. Does the gym give you joy?
For me, this is the biggest thing. I used to think that I hated working out because I hated my gyms, but once I visited a nicer facility I realised that I actually love it if I'm in the right environment. It's hard to be inspired to work hard by anything that feels like a punishment, so considering all the above points may help you to decide on a place that gives you joy. If there's any question about it, it's okay to keep looking. For me, things like windows and good light, a helpful, friendly staff, cleanliness, nice restrooms, decor and good music are considerations for whether or not I'll find joy at a gym, but this is personal so you need to choose what gives you joy. If it doesn't give you any joy, I won't be surprised if you don't go every time you're presented with a more enjoyable option which is nothing more than a distraction from your goals so you'll ultimately end up feeling disappointed.

I hope these tips will help you make a good decision whether you're transferring your membership to a new facility or deciding to join a gym for the first time. I wish someone had told me to shop smarter when I first joined a gym, but better late than never and I can't begin to tell you how great it is to actually look forward to getting in a workout in a place I love to go to!

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