Joining a health club, gym, or fitness studio is an investment in your health, and finding a facility that’s right for you is important. Here are some suggestions for choosing a health club from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a trade association representing more than 10,000 fitness businesses across the globe.
What to Consider When Choosing a Health Club
The most important thing to remember is that your health club should work for you. Choose a club that will help you attain your goals in a fun and engaging way. When investing in your health, your choice should be based on how you expect to use your membership.
Since there are clubs geared to all types of exercisers and all budgets, in order to find the club that’s right for you, you’ll need to consider:
Your level of experience - Will you need hands-on service and programs for newer exercisers, or a fully stocked weight room designed for an experienced athlete?
Your lifestyle - Will you be working out before work, during lunch, on weekends, or at 3 a.m.? Will one location suffice, or will you need locations where you travel?
Your goals - Will you be training for a marathon or do you just want to keep up with your grandkids?
If you are planning to use a gym for a quick workout during your lunch break, a small, express club close to work may meet your needs. However, if you are looking to participate in group classes, personal training, and/or social activities and sports leagues, a full service club may be the right choice for you. And, if you have children, you might want to consider a club focused on family activities, and/or one that provides childcare facilities.
When touring the club, make sure they have what you want. Prepare a checklist of the things that are important to you, such as personal training, childcare, group exercise classes, children’s programming, parking, locker-rooms and changing areas, choices in cardio equipment, swimming pools, etc.
7 Important Factors to Consider When Selecting a Membership
The more convenient the club’s location is to either your home or your office, the more likely you will be to use it. And, related to convenience, what are the club’s hours of operation? Many clubs open early and stay open late, and a growing number are open a full 24-hours (some fully staffed, some not), while others are only open “mothers' -hours” or have different rates for afternoon hours. Be sure to visit the club at the time or times you are most likely to use it.
Staff should be available to answer questions, and show you how to operate a piece of equipment. Be sure to ask whether the trainers and instructors are certified through a nationally recognized certification organization.
Equipment selection is important, as some people like a wide variety of equipment while others only require simple free-weights. Make sure you join the club that provides the equipment and services that will have the best chance of keeping you motivated to help you reach your fitness goals.
4. Atmosphere, Cleanliness, & Other Details
Pay attention to the general atmosphere. How is the overall cleanliness? What kind of music is being played? Is the equipment well maintained? What are the other members like? Is the staff friendly? Is this a place you would enjoy spending your time?
If you travel, you may benefit from a membership in a club that participates in the IHRSA Passport Program, which entitles you to discounted guest privileges at a worldwide network of clubs. Find a participating club at healthclubs.com/passport. Or, a chain that allows you to visit several locations may work well if you find yourself in multiple locations.
6. Read the Contract
Before you enter into any agreement, make sure you know the terms. Never sign up for a lifetime membership (which is illegal in most states). Know what the cooling off period is. Most clubs provide a 3-5 day cooling off period, which provides a sufficient window of time during which you can decide if the facility and services are desirable.
Also, ask about the membership agreement terms and take care to thoroughly review the application details. Be sure that you understand the cancellation policy, billing procedures, length of the agreement, and membership renewal process. And don't feel pressure to sign any contract on the spot. You are entitled to take the contract home and read it before you make a final decision.
7. Join an IHRSA Club
IHRSA member clubs have taken the extra step of joining their industry’s trade association in order to support health promotion, industry best -practices, and to access continuing education, services, and training. And only IHRSA members are able to provide their members with the Passport Program for reciprocal access for members that travel. Find an IHRSA Club.
About IHRSA: IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA and its members are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise and activity promotion.