If you've been thinking about joining a gym or club it’s a good idea to know some key points before you make that commitment. First, think about who you are, what are your expectations, what are your goals, what can you afford to spend on a gym membership every month and how far do you want to travel to get your goals?
Details like these can make or break your healthy lifestyle intentions and gym experience. Doing a little self study and homework before you join can save you a lot of money and make it easier to keep up the good habits you hope to establish. The following describes three most common types of personalities I have come across in the 30 years and a dozen or so clubs I’ve worked for in the fitness industry. Personality type and expectation are the first two points I’d like you to consider. The rest depends on those details, see if you can recognize which type of person you are.
SHY NOT COMPETITIVE TYPE
This person may be sedentary, not used to going to a gym or just got out of shape over the years. Usually wants to lose between 10-30 pounds.
If you are a shy person who has never been a member of a gym but have a strong desire to lose weight and need guidance and accountability, you may want to find a gym that has a weight loss program with one on one training preferably in a private meeting are. Meeting with someone every week can not only help you establish a routine and give you dietary suggestions but will also educate you about equipment, classes and other gym amenities so you won’t feel self conscious about going to the gym.
These types of gyms usually come with large functional training areas and huge group class studios that you probably won’t use but can get inspiration from seeing other people use. You will probably get the most use out of the seated sectional or circuit training equipment. This is usually a good place for newer members, recently injured, sedentary members or new to exercise members to start a resistance training program because the range of motion is controlled and you will be less likely to hurt yourself.
The cost of this type of gym varies greatly from location to location. Be sure that the monthly membership fee is something you can afford. Membership fees have dropped dramatically since the early 2000s simply because there are a lot more franchise gyms providing plenty of competition. I’ve seen gym memberships at private clubs plummet because of this. It used to be that a membership at a health club would be in the $100s now even the private clubs are only about $20-$30/month. This is actually great news if you need the assistance of a personal trainer or nutritionist as your monthly cost of the two combined should be within your reach. You may also be able to lower your gym membership if you explain that you don’t want classes, cardio spin theatre or small group training options. Some gyms provide “off peak” memberships. The “off peak” memberships allow you to use the gym only when it isn’t busy like at 5am or 1pm in the afternoon. Each gym is different so you may want to check on membership options and packages before visiting.
Services like personal training or nutrition counselling may start at $25 for a half hour and level off at $80 for an hour in one area and be 20% higher in another. Also be sure to check the credentials of your trainer. A trainer that has more than one personal training or nutrition certification may have more options for you than someone who only has one. Find a trainer with more than 5 years of experience and who is good with shy people. There is nothing worse than pairing a shy person with an “all or nothing” trainer with attitude.
Trainers are not often educated about personality types but they are taught to understand that they may not be able to speak to the life experiences of the opposite sex or elderly. This is because they are usually in their 20’s and have little life experience themselves. That being said, there are a lot of very patient empathetic trainers that would be a great fit for your personality type you just have to make sure the manager of the personal training department understands that this is what you need.
OUTGOING SOMEWHAT COMPETITIVE
This person probably has had some fitness experience in the past, who is not really interested in free weights or one on one programs and is looking to improve their fitness level maybe lose 5-10 pounds (average goal).
If you are outgoing and have a circle of friends with similar goals as yours, you may benefit from either a small fitness studio or large chain gym. You will enjoy the class atmosphere the camaraderie and get inspired by a new teacher or trainer. Your time spent at the gym will be enhanced by the company you keep while working out. Some gyms offer to find you a “buddy” someone who has similar goals and the same schedule as you so you can be accountable to each other.
Many gyms also offer small group training (training for a limited amount of people usually no more than 15) for an additional fee. The small group training provides a specific community and network to support your goals and the benefit of working with a personal trainer as opposed to a group exercise instructor. The small group will progress together and increase in intensity over time. The drawback is that very often the small group training follows a boot camp style workout. If that isn’t your cup of tea you may want to consider group exercise classes usually for groups of 15-50.
In the case of group exercise classes be careful about class offerings. If you are an experienced exerciser and been exercising on and off for years you may find you enjoy free-form types of classes that are choreographed by the instructor. These classes prevent boredom and will keep you thinking about your mind body connection while constantly challenging your body. If you haven’t been exercising for very long you may enjoy the consistency and regularity of a class franchise like Les Mills or Zumba. These franchises usually have the same choreography for 3 months before all their instructors have to update their music and choreography. I’ve taught group fitness classes for years and many of the class franchisees that first came out 10 years ago seem to bore the long term exerciser who has taken them consistently in the past. However, newer exercisers love them! Ask what class formats are offered and be willing to test out a few before joining.
If you want to lose 5,10 or even 15 pounds you might find a facility that provides both classes as well as weight loss or fitness challenges. These challenges offer the support of a group effort without the cost of a one on one trainer. Some gyms offer encouraging weekly emails from a personal trainer or you can join a team and compare your results. Beware however, as most of these programs are built to sell products and more boot camp style small group training. You may even be offered “deals” if you purchase a protein powder or supplement. These deals usually involve getting a monthly supply of products in exchange for a monthly deduction from your checking account. In some cases, if you sign on to this sort of program you may be billed automatically. Remember to read the fine print and make sure the personal trainer or membership coordinator that signs you up understands that is not what you want. Joining these types of programs may also provide you with discounts for other amenities and services like: personal training packages, nutrition counselling, tanning or massage. It’s a good idea to know what you want before you walk in the door.
SOCIAL or CONTEMPLATIVE EXPERIENCED EXERCISER (MORE COMPETITIVE)
This person has been working out at a gym for years and can be competitive with others or hold themselves to their own standard. They usually have a story to tell about how they started by just walking then graduated to classes and eventually hired a personal trainer and now could train other members. Their goal is to maintain their weight and shape or gain muscle mass.
This person is very familiar with costs already but may just need a change of venue, newer equipment, better hours or more options for their workouts. In this case I’m less concerned about a goal, lifestyle choices, accountability, social/emotional support or nutrition. This person is self motivated, knows how to eat well and what exercises they need to improve on or take them to the next level. They know their body well and want to continue their success. For this exerciser I’m more concerned about how to continually keep them stimulated.
This type of person needs a good amount of cardio equipment for variety and a free weight area that is comprehensive enough to include functional training equipment in addition to the standard sectional equipment. This person may be at any level of strength training or weight lifting but will almost always have their own supply of supplements and protein powders with them. They guide themselves doing increased mass, pyramid or supersets. They will watch Youtube videos on lifting and new ways to increase definition. They may higher a trainer or not and have their own version of high intensity interval training and are usually caught encouraging others.
If this describes you, try to find a gym that will give weight lifting talks about method and has a cross disciplinary approach. I love it when a gym has a free weight section but offers workshops on boxing, tai chi or gymnastics. Some gyms provide other classes with different equipment like the Viper, Bosu, slide or TRX. You will love the new use of the muscles you’ve carefully crafted over the years and find yourself entertained at the same time.
Some final thoughts:
Every gym has a contract be sure to read it entirely. Offer to sit in another space while your membership coordinator handles someone else. Very often, gyms will include a “hold harmless” clause (that prevents you from suing them for neglect) or “early cancellation” clause meaning if you have to cancel your membership before a year’s time then you may have to pay a hefty penalty. Opt out of email notifications and check for some of the options (mentioned earlier) that may lower your monthly cost up front.
For every type of person be mindful of the distance you would be willing to travel to support your new fitness habits. Studies show that most members of gyms are successful if their commute to that gym is 15 minutes or less. Try to workout first before you go to work so you know you will get it done.
Your workout will also last longer and be more productive if you have a buddy too. You will not only be held accountable but you will have an endorphin rush that can only come from close personal relationships.
Feel free to email me if you have any questions or need advice on your workout.