A Beginner’s Guide to Joining a Gym

Sign up for a gym membership you won’t regret.

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Joining The Gym For The First Time

When it comes to signing up for a gym membership, every season has its advantages. Many people redirect their exercise routines outdoors in summer, which makes it a good time to join a gym if you prefer to get started without the crowds of New Year.

“Joining in the summer can be less intimidating for some people,” says Craig Saikaly, vice-president of operations at GoodLife Fitness for the Atlantic Region in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

While some fitness clubs roll out discounts or joining incentives at key times, such as in the fall or New Year, others offer consistent prices year round.

Bottom line: Don’t wait to join a gym if it’s what you need now. Getting started at any time of year will get you closer to your health and fitness goals faster.

1) Try Before You Buy

Most fitness clubs allow prospective members to test out the gym first with a free guest pass. Whenever possible, use it. “You never want to enter into a decision like this if you’re not sure,” says Saikaly.

On the other hand, testing out a gym you enjoy can help you feel more confident about signing on the dotted line for a membership. And the sooner you do that, the sooner you can get started with your fitness plan.

Depending on the fitness club, you might be required to make an appointment with a staff member for a tour of the facility. This person should be able to answer all your questions about what the gym has to offer.

2) Location, Location, Location

Location is one major consideration when joining a gym: you want the gym to be close enough so you can get there quickly by driving, cycling or walking. And would you benefit from more than one location within the same gym chain? ” If you live in one end of a city and work in another, having access to multiple locations can be very convenient,” says Saiklay.

You might find that you don’t feel comfortable in the environment, or the location takes longer to commute to than you’d planned on. “The average person doesn’t want to drive more than eight minutes to the club,” says Saikaly.

What to look for inside the gym depends on a number of factors, including what services you might use and where your interests lie. For example, moms with young kids might pay careful attention to the onsite childcare facility.

Plan to take some classes? Have a close look at the group fitness schedule to see if the class times and formats meet your needs and interests. And be sure to inquire about whether any classes cost extra to attend, which could have an impact on your budget.

3) Be Picky About Cleanliness

When on a gym tour or guest pass, keep an eye out for club cleanliness. For example, have a peak in the change rooms and showers even if you aren’t using them right away.

Another area to inspect: Machines and equipment. Does it look as if equipment is clean and well maintained? Are there frequent or lingering “out of order” signs on machines?

4) Ask For Help

The best way to ensure you get the results you want at a gym is to seek out guidance right from the start. The type of guidance you can get varies per fitness club, but typical offerings include personal training (usually for an additional fee) or basic orientation from a qualified staff member (often included in the price of your membership).

5) Try Out Group Glasses

Committing to classes or personal-training sessions helps you stay on track with your goals and ensures you make it to the gym on a regular basis.

Saikaly advises checking out what the group exercise department has to offer, as well, even if you don’t like typical “aerobics.” Take note: Today’s instructor-led classes and trends aren’t just for the uber-coordinated.

“Group exercise can be a crucial aspect of keeping yourself active at the club,” he says. “The group setting is where you participate with other people who often become your friends at the club.”

6) Meet With a Personal Trainer

“If you have a hard time sticking to goals, meet with a personal trainer to see what he or she can do for you,” says Saikaly.

Before committing to a personal trainer, don’t forget to ask about their credentials and areas of specialization. Common fitness qualifications include those from Can-Fit-Pro, ACE, ACSM, NASM and NSCA.

7) Do It For Your Health

Above all, treat your gym membership like the important investment that it is. “Avoid entering into joining a fitness club as just something you’re going to try and if you don’t like it you won’t do it,” says Saikaly. “Think of it as a long-term lifestyle change.”