Things to look for when deciding on a gym

You’ve decided to get back in shape and join a health club, or perhaps your current one is not doing it for you anymore and it’s time for a change.

“Whatever the case, choosing a new gym is much like deciding on a new car or property. There’s many variables that come into play, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next,” says Pierre Louw, owner of online business My Health and Fitness.

Sounds hectic, right? Fear not! This guide covers everything you need to bear in mind when gym-hunting.

Find out when the gym is at its busiest

The morning people among us like to do their workout session during the early hours, so gyms tend to be fuller at the crack of dawn than one would expect. Similarly, the gym usually fills up after 5 PM, when everyone goes to take out the frustration of a day at the office on the squat racks and treadmills. The working day – roughly from 9 AM to 5 PM – is when gyms tend to be least busy.

However, this is only a rule of thumb.

“Depending on the location of the gym and the clientele, each one of them has a unique daily routine in terms of traffic,” Louw says. “There’s a big difference between a gym that is, say, mostly occupied by fitness models and athletes who attend during all hours of the day, gyms on campuses where students come to exercise in between classes, or gyms in city and town centres where busy professionals crowd in after a busy day.”

Speak to the gym’s trainers and staff to determine when the gym is at capacity so you don’t have to wait in line to use exercise equipment.

Check out the exercise equipment

What you want to look for here is both quantity and quality.

“Ask what the gym’s membership base is, then assess the amount of equipment available,” says Louw. “Look for equipment that gets utilised regularly like squat racks, bench presses, leg extensions machines and treadmills. If there are 10 000 members at the gym but there is only one or two of these pieces of equipment, then you know there’s going to be a long waiting line whenever the gym fills up.

“Similarly, make sure there’s a variety of equipment available so you aren’t left lacking when you want to perform new exercises. It’s also important to check that there are different weight ranges for dumbells and kettlebells. If, say, the dumbbells start from 5 kilograms with no lighter option and the next available dumbbell weighs in at 10 kilograms, beginners are going to have a hard time making gradual progress.”

You should also take a tour of the gym with a staff member or trainer to assess the quality of the gym equipment: when was it purchased? Is it showing any signs of wear? Does it get cleaned regularly every day?

Does the gym offer classes?

“Even if you don’t see the need for gym classes now, you will want something to shake up your gym routine after a while, or you’ll need to attend specialist classes like ab sessions or yoga to improve on different areas,” Pierre says.

Also, find out if these classes are included with your membership fee or come at an additional cost.

Find out about the personal trainers

“Nobody is above a personal trainer,” says Pierre. “Whether you’re only starting out or you are an advanced gym bunny, these guys and girls are qualified to help you identify a training regimen and diet plan that is suited to your unique needs and goals.Also, they know how to perform exercises with good form so you don’t end up hurting yourself.”

Speak to staff to find out how highly qualified the personal trainers are, what their rates are, and whether they’re available.

Read the contract very, very carefully

You wouldn’t sign a contract for a new job or down payment willy nilly, so make sure there are no loopholes or hidden fees in your gym contract. It might seem a tad extreme, but it’s not a bad idea running it past your legal adviser if you don’t understand what it’s telling you.

Look for freebies and perks

Does the dressing room offer hair dryers, power points, a sauna and locks for the lockers? Does the gym have wifi, a smoothie bar, televisions in the cardio area, complimentary towels, safe parking, free fitness assessments, child care areas and an indoor swimming pool?

“These might sound silly to you now, but when you pay a gym good money every month, it’s essential that you get the most out of the overall experience,” says Pierre Louw.

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