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Tips for Choosing a Gym and Getting the Most Out of Your Membership

By Lisa Spodak (ResultsNotTypical@worldnow.com)
Provided by WorldNow

Week 17 Weigh In:

Change this week:  –1.5 lbs.
Change overall:  –43 lbs.

On Monday, when my dinner plans with a friend fell through, I found myself spending an extra couple of hours at the gym.  And then last night, I left a rowdy group of my friends to get in a session on the treadmill.  Tonight I have an appointment with my trainer.  And Saturday, I’m taking an urban rebounding (mini-trampolines!) class and an abs class with a friend.

I’m honestly shocked to realize that I have turned into one of those people who go to the gym 3-4 days a week.  I should also confess that right now I actually have memberships at three different gyms!

How did this happen??

Going to the gym has not been easy for me.  With still around 100 pounds to lose, I’m not in great shape.  I don’t feel comfortable in gym clothes and the towels in the locker room seem more like washcloths.  I’m very self-conscious,easily intimidated and until about a month ago, I hadn’t been to a group class in ten years.

I think the key to making the gym become part of your life is finding a gym where you are truly comfortable.  Or at least where you can see yourself becoming comfortable.  That’s why I have the multiple memberships right now – I’m trying out a few different places to see which one best suits me.  (And, surprisingly, the one I thought would be the “winner” is not.)

Here are some things to consider when you’re looking for a gym:

  • Convenience. There are probably lots of reasons you aren’t already going to the gym. Don’t give yourself one more reason not to by choosing a gym that’s inconvenient! Find a spot that’s close to home or work or somewhere else you already go regularly. I love the gym that’s close to where my friends hang out on Tuesday nights because I can see them for a bit and then go work out. Make sure you also check their hours to see if they work with your schedule.  Also, peruse the class schedule if classes are something that interest you.
  • Condition. Make sure you take a tour of the gym and get a closer look. Are the machines in good shape? Do the treadmills look clean? Do the sets of free weights look complete or are there a bunch missing? Are the towels clean and soft? One of the things that impressed me about one of my gyms is that no matter when I go, there is always someone in the locker room cleaning. Speaking of which…
  • Locker facilities. If you’ll be changing at the gym and you’re at all self-conscious, make sure you’ll feel okay in their facilities. My favorite gym has showers that have enough space for me to dry-off and change in privacy. Find out if there is a sauna and/or steam room and also check them for cleanliness.
  • Amenities. If you know you can’t be bothered to remember to take gym clothes to work, find out if you can rent a locker at the gym and keep your stuff there. This can also help with the self-consciousness — for the first three months at my gym, I kept a large bath sheet in my locker so I didn’t even have to think about using those small standard-issue towels! If you have kids, inquire about child-care. Is there ample parking? How about bottles of water or headphones in case you’ve forgotten yours?
  • The workout experience. Most gyms will let you work out at least once for free if you’re considering a membership. Make sure you choose a day and time that would be typical of when you’d go and see how crowded it is. Would you be comfortable? Would you have to wait for the equipment you typically use? See if you can participate in a class. Would it keep you challenged and engaged? Do you like the teacher?
  • Cost. In a perfect world, cost wouldn’t be an issue. But, of course, it is. Make sure the costs are clear and read any contracts carefully for hidden increases. Check out how you can get out of the contract if necessary and don’t feel pressured to sign anything without a chance to read it through at your convenience and to your satisfaction.

Of course, joining a gym is only the first step.  I can’t even count how many months I’ve paid for gym memberships that went unused.  Here are some tips to make the most of your gym membership:

  • Go. The only way to make the gym a habit is to go. Start off slowly. Even if you only go for 10 or 15 minutes the first bunch of times, go. Even if you walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes and do 10 crunches, go. Once you get in the habit, you can work on what you’re actually doing there.
  • Let the staff help you. The people working at the gym aren’t there just to look good — they’re there to help you! If you’re stumped by one of the machines, ask someone to demonstrate it for you. If you’re intimidated by a class, talk to the teacher before hand — I always introduce myself and ask if there’s anything I should know about the class. Afterwards, I thank the instructor and follow-up on anything that was particularly difficult or confusing.
  • Try new things. I usually spend most of my time on the treadmill, but, my trainer has been telling me how weight training will help with my weight loss goals. So now every time I go to the gym, I make sure I do at least a few sets on the leg press machine. A mini-trampoline class seemed like a new kind of fun, so I checked it out — even though I just kind of bounce up and down while the rest of the class does more complicated routines, I’m still getting something out of it and every week I do a little bit more.
  • Meet with a trainer. Most gyms will include a session with a trainer as part of your ‘orientation.’ Make sure to take advantage of that! A trainer can give you tips on what types of exercises will help you with your goals. They can also demystify the gym a bit for you so that you’ll feel more comfortable about venturing out on your own.

I’m still not 100% comfortable at the gym and forcing myself to go to a place where I feel out of my element will still be a challenge for awhile.  But when I look back at where I was in February, I feel a sense of accomplishment from pushing myself and doing something that challenges me on a lot of different levels.  And if I’m actually growing to sort of love it a little… all the better!


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