How to Find a Gym That is Just Right for You

Remember the story of Goldilocks?

The poor girl tried out chairs, bowls, and beds that were too this and too that, but she finally found her fit.


flickr: Alison Christine

flickr: Alison Christine


We don’t mean to rush you, but 2014 is right around the corner. If you’re one of the many people who make your health and fitness a priority after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you may want to start considering gyms now. Otherwise, you could end up walking into the nearest club with a deer-in-headlights look and handing over your credit card to whoever happens to be behind the counter.

Choosing a gym is no impulse decision. Depending on your contract, you could be stuck with your gym for a very long time, so choose wisely! Use our criteria to determine which gym in your area is just right for you.


First, determine how much you can afford to pay. How flexible are you on that amount? If you find a gym in a convenient location that is a better fit with your priorities, are you willing to pay a little more? What’s your absolute maximum monthly payment?

Don’t forget to factor in fees when you look at gyms. Most gyms prominently advertise their monthly price (“Only $10 a month!”) while conveniently leaving out the hefty signup fee and annual maintenance fee.

Speaking of signup fees: How much can you afford to put down now? Some gyms have different pricing plans allowing you to pay less per month the more you pay at signup. Examine these options carefully to make sure you’re really getting a good deal. 


Once you know how much you want to spend on a gym membership, you can narrow down the field by prioritizing other factors like location and options.

Things to consider:

  • Location—do you want a gym that’s close to home or close to work?
  • Hours—are they open at times that work for you? Be realistic; don’t promise yourself you’ll go to the gym at 5 am on your way to work if you’re not a morning person.
  • Commitment—when you sign up for a membership, are you locked into a contract or able to join on a month-to-month basis? Will you go to they gym more consistently if you know you’ll be paying for it all year, or would you prefer a month-to-month gym so you can join for the winter months and then exercise outside all summer.
  • Amenities—what does your gym need to have? A wide variety of classes, including the hottest trends? Or are you more into free weights? Need a spa with a steam room and salon? Or looking for a no-frills approach? Willing to put up with older, possibly run-down equipment and a less-pristine atmosphere for a lower cost, or would you rather pay more for top notch facilities and hot towels?
  • Members—who do you want to work out next to? Does it matter? It can be motivating and helpful to join a gym that caters to people with similar goals as you, but this may rank lower on your priority list if you aren’t looking for your gym to fulfill a social function.

When you know your budget and priorities, you can rank your potential gyms and decide which one is best for you.

Congratulations! You’ve done all the ground work to find a gym and you’re ready to join.

But wait…

Once you’ve taken everything into consideration and you’re sitting down with the membership rep, make sure you understand everything fully before you sign. Chances are, her salary is largely dependent on membership sales, so it’s in her best interest to get you to sign quickly before you can reconsider. Don’t be afraid to ask her to clarify any points you are not quite clear on.

Some questions to cover before you sign:

  • Can you cancel the membership? What penalties or fines come with canceling?
  • Can you transfer the membership to someone else?
  • What is the guest policy?
  • What if you move? Does your membership include other locations in the chain, or can you transfer to another location?
  • If you are on contract and cancel before the contract is up, do you have to buy out the rest of your term or is there a small cancellation fee?
  • What if you’ll be unavailable for a few months—can you put your membership on hold?

Don’t get caught in a membership with a gym that isn’t “just right” for you. Do your research, take your time, and find a gym that fits your needs. The better your gym fits who you are and what you look for in a workout environment, the more likely you’ll go, and the less likely you’ll end up paying for a gym membership you never seem to make the time to use.


What do you look for in a gym? Let us know in the comments!

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