What to look for in a gym

Selecting a new gym can be a difficult process. There is no "one size fits all" place to work out as not all gyms are the same and this can make it tricky to choose the right one. However, if you're clear about what you need and are prepared to ask a few pertinent questions up front it can make the selection process much easier. Here are a few pointers to help you find a facility that's right for you.

1. What are you aiming to do?

If you want to exercise to improve your general fitness, then you will need to undertake a range of different kinds of physical activity so you may prefer a gym that has a variety of types of equipment. If you are targeting specific areas such as your upper arms or abdomen, you'll need to know which equipment or accessories will help you do that. If you want to train for a specific event, such as a charity run, you may benefit from some personal coaching.

2. Are the staff friendly and qualified?

Before joining any gym, you should expect to have a talk with a member of staff, during which they will normally ask about your medical history and possibly check your blood pressure, as well as talking to you about your health objectives. It's important that they know about any medical or physical conditions you have, together with any medications you're taking and are able to conduct a health and fitness assessment before the exercising starts in earnest.

3. Will you get personal tuition?

If you've never used a gym before, it's vital that you are taught how to use the equipment properly, rather than simply left to manage on your own. Using gym machinery incorrectly can result in an injury and so in a good gym, your use of equipment will form part of a personalised fitness programme. Your trainer should supervise and review this regularly.

4. Is the equipment in good order?

A varied workout will exercise different muscles and good gyms will have a range of equipment that is well-maintained and regularly cleaned. Look for cardiovascular machines, such as treadmills and stationary bikes, resistance training equipment such as weight machines, free weights and exercise accessories such as gym balls, yoga mats and professional skipping ropes. There should also be sufficient space in the gym for stretching exercises before and after your workout and for any exercise classes offered.

5. Are facilities adequate and clean?

Always check that the premises are kept clean - including changing areas, showers and locker rooms. Fresh drinking water should be available and smarter gyms will provide you with towels and hair dryers.

6. Is the gym value for money?

Choosing a gym that's close to where you live or work makes sense for reducing travel time and costs. Fees for membership and types of membership vary, as does the availability of personal trainers and range of classes, so look for bargains such as joining for free, getting discounted personal training or free membership for the first month. It pays to ask around for first hand experiences of using the gym rather than relying on a sales pitch from the staff, and you can even research reviews of many gyms online.

Above all be clear about what you need and want to get out of your time at the gym, and don't be afraid to ask questions. The onus is on them to impress you, rather than the other way round, so make sure they provide you with all the information you need before you make your decision.


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