Most gym memberships are paid in monthly dues which can range from around $10 to several hundred dollars a month, depending on the gym’s features and its location. When a gym representative offers you a deal you like, be sure to get all the details in writing in an official contract. Gym membership contracts and pricing schedules vary from company to company. Be sure to read the entire contract and ask questions before signing if you’re not sure what something means.
- Initiation or registration fees: Many gyms charge a one-time, up-front initiation fee. Some companies waive this fee during promotional periods, especially in the off season when fewer people join gyms (generally April through December, and especially the latter half of the year).
- Annual fees: Most gyms and health clubs charge a monthly membership fee, but many also tack on an additional annual fee, which could substantially increase the cost of your membership.
- Prepayment options: Many gyms offer a discount if you opt to prepay for a year or more of membership. If this is your first time with a gym membership, you might not want to prepay since you will not receive a refund if you decide the gym is not for you.
- Added or hidden fees: Some gyms tack on additional fees like cancellation fees, added charges for certain classes or equipment, required membership for children in order to take advantage of childcare services and more.
What fitness equipment is available?
In general, the more fitness options available at a gym or fitness center, the more expensive the membership. Think about what types of equipment you are likely to use regularly and find a gym that has all the options you need. Try to visit the gym at the time of day that you would normally work out to see if the equipment you want to use is available, or if the gym is especially busy.
- Cardio equipment: Gyms typically have machines like treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles to increase your heart rate and burn fat through cardio exercise.
- Weight training equipment: Look for weight training equipment like benches, bar weights, hand weights and weight machines. Pull-up bars, kettlebells, suspension equipment and resistance bands can add more options to your weight training routine.
- Other fitness options: Some gyms also have supplementary equipment like yoga mats, foam rollers and exercise balls for functional exercises. Sports facilities like boxing gyms, lap pools and rock walls can also add to your workout. Think about what options you need to succeed at your fitness or training goals.
What classes and coaching options are offered?
Most gyms offer one-on-one or group instruction to help you get started in a new fitness program. These sessions are especially helpful if you are new to exercise or want to try something new. Experts can help you learn proper forms and movements to avoid injury and maximize your workout.
- Group classes: Some gyms and fitness centers offer group fitness classes, which can be a great option if you like working out with others or need a bit of extra motivation. A large selection of diverse classes like yoga, barre, Zumba, Pilates, kickboxing, dance classes and more can help you get out of a fitness rut and find something you enjoy.
- Personal training: Most gyms and fitness centers employ full- or part-time certified trainers to work with clients on baseline readings, fitness goals and coaching. Some trainers also conduct group fitness classes or circuit training. Check to see if sessions with a personal trainer are included in the contract or if you have to pay extra.
Can you try it before committing?
If you’ve never used a particular gym or fitness center before, you might be reluctant to commit to a membership contract. Find out if you can try the gym before committing or spending any money.
- Friend passes: Many clubs and gyms offer members free passes to give to their friends. Typically the passes are for one visit, one week or a similar short time period. Ask your friends if they can get you passes to try their gyms.
- Trial period: Many gyms offer new customers free or reduced-price trial periods to see if they like the gym and its services. These are often offered seasonally or on rotation, so follow your local gym’s website and social media feeds to stay updated on current deals.
- Discount membership: Group discount websites like Livingsocial and Groupon periodically offer deals on gym memberships or fitness classes. These deals can allow you to try out a gym without signing a full contract.
What other features does it offer?
There are other features to keep in mind when touring gyms or fitness centers. Think about what aspects of the experience matter most to you, and prioritize those when considering which one you want to join.
- Locker rooms and showers: Think about how you’ll use the gym and whether you need one with just basic facilities or more fully-appointed locker rooms. If you plan to use the locker room to shower and get ready for the day, be sure the area is clean and fully stocked with all the amenities you prefer.
- Childcare services: Many gyms and fitness centers offer on-site childcare facilities so children can be supervised while parents exercise. Almost all gyms with onsite childcare implement age restrictions for the children they accept and charge extra for childcare services.
- Cleanliness: When you tour a fitness center, pay attention to the cleanliness of the facilities. Check out the bathrooms, floors and corners. Look to see that all equipment is in working order and kept clean. Sanitizing wipes or spray should be available for customers to clean up after themselves when using equipment. A dirty gym is a breeding ground for germs and sickness, and a company that doesn’t keep its facilities in order may not be one you want to do business with.
How accessible is it?
You are more likely to stick to your fitness goals if you choose a convenient gym that fits your schedule and lifestyle. Additionally, if you have any type of physical limitation or disability, be sure that your gym is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Location: Think about when you’ll go to the gym. If you plan to go on your lunch break, it makes sense to find a location near your place of work. If you plan to go before or after work, think about what traffic will be like in different areas of town, and pick a place that will be easy to get to.
- Hours: Be sure the gym is open when you may need to work out, whether that’s late at night, early in the morning or on weekends and holidays. More and more gyms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which is helpful if you need to work out at unusual hours.
- ADA Accessibility: Many fitness centers are accessible for customers with disabilities or physical limitations, for instance using ramps instead of stairs and equipment that is modified or adaptive for different abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires gyms and fitness centers built after 2010 to be reasonably accessible for people with disabilities, meaning ramps must be available, equipment must be in an accessible location and at least one of every type of equipment must be accessible. If you have a particular need, like accommodations for a visual or hearing impairment, be sure to check the gyms in your area to find one that fits your needs.
Source: Consumer Affairs.
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