How to Choose a Gym

How to Choose a Gym

Choosing a gym can be confusing and angst-producing. Large chains and small hometown locations. Group based or individualized. Aerobic programs, resistance training, Crossfit™, weightlifting, etc. Gender specific, or for everyone. Pay per visit or by the month or spring for a yearly commitment. The choices are seemingly endless when deciding how to choose a gym.

Gymtimidation, anyone?

This article is especially for those who want to learn how to choose a gym if you have never done so before and you are not sure what to look out for. There are several basic considerations that determine whether a particular gym is a good fit for you. Let’s look at each of them.


How to Choose a GymGarden goodies aren’t the only thing that is better local. Look for a location close to your home or on your route to and from work.

If going to the gym means more than a few minutes extra driving, it’s easy to convince yourself to skip workouts. And every minute that you spend driving is a minute away from the gym.

A thirty-minute round-trip drive to the gym when you only have an hour for working out means that you will be wasting half your time on the road.

A good rule of thumb is to look for something within ten to fifteen minutes of your home, or within five to ten minutes of the route you already take to work.

Anything more than that becomes a significant psychological barrier that can keep you from getting started on a workout.


While not the biggest factor in choosing a gym, make sure you check the pricing structure and know what you are getting before you sign up. The lowest price isn’t always the best deal, if you can only go at certain times or are only allowed to use part of the gym.

Are group classes and individualized instruction included, or is that an extra charge? Is there a limit to how many times you can come in a week or month?

If you are just starting to work out in a gym, you will certainly want to have someone to show you how to use the equipment and to give you tips on how to most effectively accomplish your goals. Basic instruction is usually included, but it’s a good idea to ask.


How to Choose a GymLocation and price aren’t the only things to consider. What is the culture of the gym? Is it dominated by six-pack abs and competitive weightlifters? Is it loud and dark, or calm and well-lit?

Are their others of your age and fitness level? A gym that is geared for older women wanting to stay active won’t fit well with a weightlifter preparing for competition, and vice versa.

Ask staff members to describe their clientele to you. They will have a good idea of the type of people who come, and it can help you figure out if you fit with the crowd.

Check with friends to find out which gym they frequent and why. This gives you an inside scoop of the advantages of several gyms. Also, working out with a friend or two is a lot more fun than going it alone, so just knowing that you will have buddies there may be enough to make you consider one gym over another.

However. Gymtimidation is a thing. Just because you see a bunch of ripped bodies doesn’t mean it will be too much for you. If you see even a few activities that look doable and fun, try it out before deciding that you can’t compete with the “real” athletes here (bonus tip: you don’t have to compete—that’s not ultimately what you’re here for!).


Aerobic centers focus on cardiac health, muscle toning, and flexibility, Equipment such as stationary bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, and stair climbers are designed to work multiple regions of your body and get your heart rate up.

Many offer a variety of classes for different fitness levels. Consider if the classes you are interested in are offered at a time that works for your schedule.


Yoga classes are usually intended to improve calmness, mental focus, and flexibility, although some may combine relaxation and breath work with intense physical activity.

Note that yoga has connections to Hinduism and is a religion (although not every yoga workout necessarily taps into the religious connections).

Dance is a wonderful aerobic workout and communal activity. Dance studios aren’t exactly gyms, but the benefits are similar to other aerobic workouts.

Dance improves balance and coordination, flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular (heart) health. In addition to those benefits, which you might get from a variety of other forms of exercise, dancing is a communal activity.

Dancing has additional benefits related to mental and emotional health because of the social connection and safe touch that comes with dance.

Pilates™ combines vigorous physical exercise with some of the mental focuses of yoga, making it a good fit for many people. Varying degrees of intensity are available so it can work for any fitness level.

Weight lifting and strength training are often the focus at an exercise center that is specifically called a “gym”. This is a good fit for someone who is especially interested in gaining muscle and strength.


Members are likely to mostly be male, which means that men are more likely to be comfortable there. Personal trainers are usually available to help, although not every trainer will be as knowledgeable about general fitness.

Fitness centers usually offer a variety of types, including aerobics, swimming, weightlifting, and more. Age, gender, and fitness level is broad, and most people will find that they can be comfortable here.

For families with children, fitness centers can work very well, because children are often able to join in as well.

Tip of the Day 🙂

Athletic clubs have all the amenities of a fitness center, along with opportunities to play a team sport such as basketball, racquetball, squash, or tennis. Athletic clubs are usually more expensive than any of the other options mentioned so far.

Country clubs are the most expensive and most comprehensive options, including all the options of the other types as well as a golf course. Yearly membership fees and activity fees make this an expensive option, but if money is not a problem, the luxury and quality is usually better than almost any other option.

Try Before You Buy. Even if all the logistical stuff above looks perfect, the best way to find out about the culture of a gym is to go there. Most gyms offer a free week. Take advantage of that—visit several times, try the machines, come at different times of day to find out what kind of people visit and what the culture is like.

Maybe hop into a class. Observe the staff in action. Are they friendly, professional, and knowledgeable? Is the equipment clean and in good working order?

If stuff is squeaking where isn’t supposed to, dirt is hiding in the corners, or the showers are grungy, you probably want to reconsider.

Just Do It

How to Choose a GymTry out several types of exercise facilities. Tag along with a friend to a class. Take advantage of the free week at a few places. Even if you’ve never been to a gym before, you can quickly get used to the way its done.

Start easy, especially if this is your first time or you haven’t been working out for a while. The first time I tried working out at a gym, I made the mistake of doing an intensive workout every day for a week, and then I needed to stop for several days to allow painful muscles to heal. Oops.

Have fun. While exercise isn’t easy, you should be having fun and feeling challenged. If it starts becoming drudgery or is not longer challenging, switch it up! Try a new class, a new machine, a harder workout, or even a different gym.

Bonus: Free (or almost free) Workouts

Aside from taking advantage of the free week-long trial at most gyms, there are several other ways to work out that don’t require anything other than a pair of sturdy sneakers. Running, fitness DVDs at home, hiking, dancing, and free community classes are great ways to get fit on a tight budget.

What have I missed? What do you wish you had known before you signed on the dotted line? What are some of the things you took into consideration when you were deciding how to choose a gym? Share your thoughts below. Be Well!


  1. When I lived in NJ I found a fantastic gym called Health Quest. I spent on average two hours 3 – 5 times a week depending on my schedule. I loved that gym. They were more on the pricey side but they had absolutely everything you could ever want including indoor and outdoor Olympic size pools, kids summer camps, indoor track, etc. I loved the spin classes, pi late classes and the Zumba classes (my favorite). I lost so much weight and really enjoyed it. They also had a small cafe area where you could grab a quick healthy salad, sandwich or soup along with a variety of shakes and drinks. Since I’ve moved out of the state, I’m resigned to bare bones basic of Planet Fitness. Better than nothing though.

    • Hi Anne,

      Thank you for visiting. That gym sounds awesome. Seems like it had everything someone would need. How expensive was it? I am very familiar with Planet Fitness. Hopefully you will find another gym similar to Health Quest.

      Keep those workouts going no matter what. I really appreciate you stopping by today and adding your experiences on this topic. Hope to see you again soon. Be Well!

  2. I’ve been thinking of joining a gym and your post really helped man. I will surely look for a week try out in the gym and only take a decision. Very helpful post nate i look forward to your insightful blog. Keep it up

    • Hi Sujit,

      Thank you for visiting. I am glad you found this information useful. It is a great idea to always take advantage of the promo’s the gyms usually offer. This will give you an opportunity to really test out everything I mentioned.

      I appreciate you stopping by today and adding value to this topic. Be Well!

  3. Definitely yes! Choosing a gym to join can be confusing and difficult especially for the first-timer like me. Yes, I admit I was not been in a gym before. I do my regular running every day and do my deep-breathing and slight exercise in the park in between my running routine.
    If I’ll choose a gym that is for me, I would rather choose one close to our house, I have a perfect choice to try in my mind with a stunning view of a Japanese garden.
    Thank you for this insight, I give a try to join a gym.

    • Hi Lyn,

      Thank you for visiting. I am glad this may have helped you. Choosing a gym can be a bit daunting of a task if you have not done it before and do not know what to look for or the questions to ask.

      I hope you find the gym you are looking for. The one you have your eye on sounds promising with a great view as well 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and providing awesome value on this topic today. Hope to see you again soon. Be Well!

  4. I like how you have broken everything down to make your information clear and helpful.
    I have always been someone who likes working out at home because this was an environment that was much easier for me to consistently workout in.
    But once I found a gym that I liked, then I really became accustomed to working out at that gym.
    Gymtimidation is definitely a thing and finding a place that is going to work for you can take some time. But this post really helps give the best information to help you find the gym that will work best for you.
    Thanks for the helpful information!

    • Hi Jesse,

      Thank you for visiting. I know many who prefer working out at home also. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. I am glad you found a gym though. I am also glad you found this post useful. Thanks for providing your valuable input today. Be Well!

  5. Some great advice here Nate, and a very informative article. I’m a personal trainer and have spent a lot of time on the gym floor, listening to customers complaining about lots of these things. They need to do their research before signing on the doted line, and i think everyone needs to be reading this article. Top work!

    • Hi Colin,

      Thank you for visiting. I am glad you found something useful here. It is great to know you are a personal trainer. That is a wonderful way of helping others. Thanks for stopping by and providing value on this topic today. Be Well!

  6. Oh man I definitely know hard it is to choose a gym, especially when you have found the perfect one. I was facing this dilemma this spring when the gym I’ve been going for the last 6+ years was closing due to financial reasons.

    It is the perfect gym for me, it’s 5 minutes from home and right on the way to work. The price is very reasonable because there are no group classes or constant personnel. This is fine by me because I go do my strength training routine with free weights and don’t care what other people are doing, so I don’t want to pay extra for services I don’t need. The gym is also reasonably equipped with powerlifting racks and free weights, which is definitely not the case with every city gym around here.

    When you go to the same gym for several years for 4-6 hours every week, it kinda becomes your second home with familiar faces so the fact the place was shutting down actually felt like a big lif change. I scouted around for a replacement but wasn’t really satisfied with any of the options.

    Then a miracle happened. A local business man bought the gym and even invested on new high quality equipment and dropped the price! I couldn’t be happier for his decision 🙂

    • Hi Jukka,

      Thank you for visiting. Finding a gym can definitely be difficult especially when you are use to the gym you currently have. Change can b e difficult sometimes.

      I am so thankful that everything worked out for you in regards to the gym you have spent so much time at. You provided so much value today and I really appreciate your story. Hope to see you back again soon. Be Well!

  7. hey thanks, for sharing. This is something a lot of people don’t think about. they just go ahead and sign up with their local LA Fitness or something like that and as you said, regret it later. It was a bit difficult for me to find a good gym. I like a big atmosphere with a lot of people coming and going because if the opportunity arises, I like to connect and make friends.

    but also It NEEDS to be 24 hours every day. I found a few gyms but most of them were not really 24 hours. I work the night shift with a weird schedule so my off days never fall on the same days as the week before. the one thing I have about night shift is that everything closes at night and everyone goes to sleep. so there isn’t anything to do.

    I was starting to feel really lazy and depressed. I knew I needed to get out and find a gym that is 24 hours. luckily I found Anytime fitness which is truely open anytime.

    It’s actually smaller than I like and well the crowd is still a lot smaller than I like but I rather be active than lazy. I feel a lot better.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for visiting. I am glad you liked this information. I agree that this is something many people do not thoroughly think about but it is very important and a big commitment.

      You make a great point about making friends. The gym is a good place for that and being around like-minded people can actually motivate you at the gym as well. You are in a unique situation and need a 24 hour gym and I am glad you found Anytime Fitness.

      I have heard great things about Anytime Fitness. It may not be a huge place but you do get some of the other qualities you are looking for to include the hours of operation. Thank you for stopping by today and adding so much value. I hope to see you again soon. Be Well!

  8. Hi Nate!

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I used to go to gym regularly but now that I have a 2-yer-old son it has become more irregular. Maybe I should look for a gym that offers something for my son while I’m doing my exercise, like some kind of kids activity…


    • Hi Joonas,

      Thank you for visiting. Its hard sometimes to find time for the gym especially when you have a huge change in your family dynamics. Most gym’s these days have lots of activities for children and I have found the atmosphere to be very safe.

      I would definitely suggest you do your research, but I think you will find that you have plenty of options and will be able to include your son in this adventure. Let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for visiting today. Be Well!

  9. This is such great advice.

    Only if I knew this before. My girlfriend signed up for a gym and di not really use it and when she wanted to cancel they showed her the contract and told her it is not possible.
    This was only because we did not read the terms and conditions before signing up.
    This is why I am grateful you are telling people to check what they are getting themselves into.

    • Hi Thabo,

      Thank you for visiting. You definitely have to be careful with some of those gym contracts. They can be tricky with a lot of small print they do not readily share. I appreciate your kind words and am glad you found this information useful. Thank you for stopping by today and adding so much value. Be Well!

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