Let's say you've recently switched from telling yourself you're going to join a gym to actually joining a gym. Excellent.
Most people start with a basic search: Gyms near me. Then they compare reviews. But one person's four-star perfection might be a one star suck-fest for you. You need to first decide what kind of workout fits the way you like to exercise. Because this much is true: If you hate the workout or the environment, you aren't going to want to show up.
Location matters. But it isn't everything.
At Axistence, many of our members live near us in southeast Denver - usually coming from Lowry, the Tech Center, Virginia Village and Cherry Creek. But we have a few outliers that live in Green Mountain and Evergreen. Why do they travel to southeast Denver? Because it fits their goals... and their personality. Decide how far you want to go, but don't limit yourself if a little more driving will get you to a gym you love.
Think about your workout style.
The fitness industry has exploded in the last decade and with so many options to choose from; sometimes it’s tough to wade through the gimmicks. Should you compare personal trainers in Denver? Or maybe try Orange Theory? CrossFit? What about those HIIT classes at the place open 24 hours a day?
Stop and ask yourself two questions: What are my goals? (Weight loss? Learning skills? Gaining strength?) And What kind of workouts do I like? (Large group or small? Routine classes or variety? Close community or more anonymous?)
Once you figure out the type of gym you want and how far you're willing to travel, narrow your options further by comparing these six things.
A good gym will do regular tests and assessments to make sure you're improving.
Before you’re ever asked to do a workout, your trainer or coach should do an assessment on you. It doesn’t have to be super in-depth, but they should at least see how you move through certain ranges of motion. To quote Eric Cressey, “If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing”. You don’t want the people in charge of your health to be playing a guessing game. If your trainer/coach finds something that they cannot take care of, they should refer out to a trained professional. You also need to know where you stand in order to make improvements.
2) NO PAIN. NO, SERIOUSLY, NO PAIN
If a workout hurts, then something is wrong.
Pain isn't the same as soreness. There SHOULD be soreness, there SHOULD NOT be pain. If you ever feel pain, you should stop the workout. If your coach/trainer tells you something like “no pain, no gain,” its time to look elsewhere. Snatches done properly may be an effective movement, but if you do them 4x a week, don't be surprised when your shoulders start to hurt. Smart programming gets results and keeps you from injury.
Great gyms have well-credentialed, experienced coaches and trainers.
After all, your goal is to get results right? You want to see what kind of results they can deliver. Ask questions! Ask to see before and after pictures of members with similar goals as yours. Ask how long it will take you to get a pull-up based on where you are now. Ask, ask, ask! An experienced professional should have answers.
4) CLEANLINESS & ATTENTION TO DETAIL
If they take good care of the facility, they're likely to take good care of you.
Although having a full toilet paper roll doesn’t necessarily mean that the training is top notch, it does impart that the owners are paying attention to the little things. If they’re making sure that the floors are swept, the carpet vacuumed and the bathrooms cleaned, you can bet they’re paying attention while you’re doing deadlifts.
5) PROGRESSIONS, SCALING & INDIVIDUALIZATION
Modifications to a prescribed workout are a good sign.
A 25-year old female athlete who played collegiate soccer is completely different than a 45-year old female with a knee injury, and they should get guidance on how to customize a workout to suit their situation. Although you may be in a group environment, your workout should be based on your starting point, your goals and your assessment(s). Also, you may notice that there are people older than you that can lift more weight than you. This is ok. Put your ego aside and realize that these folks have been training (consistently) for a long time.
6) COMMUNITY & FUN
Great gyms are supportive and fun.
Find out what the other members are like. If you’re training with like-minded folks with similar goals then your likelihood of success is extremely high. If you don’t feel supported and you’re not having fun - especially if you feel intimidated, ignored or judged - then you probably won’t stick with it. Every legitimate fitness operation should have social media. Check out their website, Facebook page, Yelp & Google reviews, their YouTube channel and anything else you can find to see what the vibe is like.
Choosing a gym is a big decision. What are you willing to invest? How much time, money and sweat are you ready to commit? Ask yourself these questions, follow the six principles laid out above and you should be able to make a well-informed decision that’ll lead to the results you’re looking for, and a community of friends cheering you on along the journey.