You’ve finally decided to commit to a gym membership — good for you! But before you sign that contract, make sure you’ve educated yourself; bad advice and trends run amok at gyms, and you need to be just as wary about the gyms themselves. From keeping an eye out for below average trainers to staff pushing pointless supplement sales, here’s everything you need to know before signing up for a gym.
“Shop” the trainers
Most gyms have “in-house” trainers available for sessions, and whether you intend on paying for a one-on-one or not, it’s important to assess their skills before you sign up. Chances are, those are the staff members that will be assisting you with questions regarding form and equipment use — things you don’t want to be incorrectly informed about.
If you’re actually interested in hiring a personal trainer, be aware that at most franchise gyms, the trainers are enlisted to focus on selling the program, not to help you achieve your goals. Try to avoid these mediocre training sessions at all costs.
Always ask about the trainer’s certifications, and whatever you do, don’t go to a trainer who isn’t certified. Some of the most widely recognized associations and their certifications are the National Academy of Sports Medicine; National Strength and Conditioning Association; the American Council on Exercise; and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Ideally, the trainer (or at the very least, gym manager) should be CPR and first-aid certified. You’ll be putting your money and health in this person’s hands, so don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
Fees and supplement sales
For most gym-goers, cost is one of the most important factors. Gym fees can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Make sure to read contracts thoroughly; the last thing you want is to be locked into a long-term contract or to miss hidden fees. You’ll also want to double-check that you have the right to cancel at any time.
When assessing cost, take into account things like the facilities and classes offered. A fancy juice bar probably sounds nice, but there’s no reason to pay for it if you won’t be using it — and the same goes for group classes.
Be wary of gyms that you see pushing supplement sales to members. Their motives are profit-based, not health-based. An endless cycle of pushing sales is not a healthy exercise environment.
First impressions go a long way: How do the floors look? The locker room? The pool? They should all be clean. With different people coming in and using the equipment on a daily basis, bacteria is bound to find a way in, but the gym staff should be making every effort to minimize the spread of germs.
Athletes at the gym are exposed to a wide range of infectious agents. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, skin infections in athletes are extremely common. This isn’t meant to scare you out of a gym membership, but hopefully it sticks in your mind as you tour gyms.
The staff should be making a constant effort toward cleanliness. There should be sprays or wipes provided to clean the machines after use (if you can get a guest pass, try out the gym and watch how often members use the cleaners), and make sure to ask about the gym’s cleaning practices.
Be prepared for advice overload
As the gym newbie, you’ll find that hard-core gym members are always willing and wanting to doll out their “wisdom.” Unless that person happens to be professional trainer or athlete, take their advice with a grain of salt.
Most advice at gyms is unwarranted and wrong, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t smart people out there working out. If you get some advice that you think could be useful, always run it past a pro before acting on it. You don’t want to end up hurt right after you (finally) joined a gym!