Thinking of Joining a Gym? Read This First.

By Michelle Hutchinson

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Prediction: Next week at this time, when I walk into my gym, the equipment areas and classes will be more packed than ever. That’s something I like to see because it means that more people have resolved to get healthier in the new year, and if people are healthier, it means medical costs go down for all of us.

If you’re someone who plans to join a fitness center in 2012, there are certain amenities to seek―like a babysitting service if you need childcare, or a pool if you enjoy swimming―but here are some less obvious things to do or check when evaluating a health club:

1. Visit the gym at the time of day you plan to use it. That will give you an idea of how long you might have to wait to use your equipment of choice.

2. Go into every room you are shown. Don’t just look through the window. Why? So you can feel how well the gym controls the temperature and humidity in the room.

If the room is too hot, you can easily get dehydrated during your workout.

If the room is to cold, your muscles won’t warm up well, and you run an increased risk of injuring them.

Is the humidity so high that the perspiration can’t evaporate from your skin to naturally cool your body?

Will you slip during an exercise class because the moisture in the room is condensing on the floor?

3. How many machines have out-of-order signs on them? Even if you don’t plan on using the machines, looking for these signs will give you an indication of how well the facility maintains its equipment.

4. Even if you don’t plan on taking an aerobics class, check the aerobic steps for tears and ripples that might cause a user to trip

Photo courtesy of Gujamin,

Check the underside of the risers to see if the rubber grips are worn down. What you find will give you an idea of how much (or how little) the health club cares about the safety of its members.

 5. Are dust bunnies rolling around areas of the gym that have bare floors, like the aerobics room, basketball, court, or racquetball courts? That will tell you if the housekeeping staff does a good job of maintaining cleanliness.

 6. Likewise, look at the shower stalls even if you plan to bathe at home or the office. Are mold and mildew growing in the corners or in the gaps between tiles?

 7. If the gym has a pool or a Jacuzzi/whirlpool, ask how often the chlorine level is checked, and then ask to see the document where the chlorine levels are logged. That will tell you if the answer to your question matches what really goes on.

Veteran gym rats, what other suggestions do you have for the newbies? Newbies, what questions do you have for us?

If you liked this post, you might also like Don’t Be Intimidated by Step Aerobics and Turn Up the Fun in a Cycle Class.

Always consult your physician or healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.

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  1. Samira says:

    See if the club has a comment or sugestion box. Then see if they have a bulletin bord where they answer the comment cards.

    • Thanks for the comment, Samira. I agree. It is frustrating to pay monthly dues to a fitness club and not have a designated way to voice a concern. I was once a member of gym that did not have a box like the one you mentioned, and when members had a concern, the only folks we could tell were the greeters at the front desk. From there, our concerns went nowhere. Needless to say, I soon canceled my membership at that facility.

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