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Gym Belle Q&A: What gym should I join?

Many readers have asked me which gym to join in their neighborhood.

Before we talk about which gym to join, understand that it's ok not to join one at all.  Really.  Lots of very active, in-shape people are not card carrying members of any one gym in particular.  In fact, if you travel a lot, already do a sport or participate in a non-gym activity, have a gym in your building, or just plain have commitment issues, it may not make sense.  In NYC, your a la carte options abound for all kinds of activities and you should feel free to play the field.

If one-stop shopping is more your speed, you're looking for a good home base, or if, despite what I've said, you still believe that joining a gym is up there on the "should list" with voting and regular dental checkups, then here's what I recommend you consider in whatever order suits you:

Price  In most NYC neighborhoods, you should have at least a few options and monthly membership fees really do vary (from about $60, $65 on the low end to $900 at Tracy Anderson's gym). Most gyms have an initiation fee in addition to the monthly membership fees.  Often you can get a deal on the initiation fee.  If there's not a promotion going on, don't hesitate to ask if that fee can be waived or lowered.  It's worth a shot, especially these days.  Also, check to see if you can get a discount through work or if they offer student discounts.  Note what the commitment is.  Can you go month to month or are you locked in for a year?

Location  It's raining.  It's 5:30 in the morning.  The sun is not up and it's maybe 17 degrees outside.  How many blocks are you willing to walk to get to the gym?  Subtract a few blocks, and that's your radius.  Seriously, all the wonderful things about that cool gym that's just a drop farther will not matter if you don't get out of bed to go. 

Locations Some gyms offer memberships that cover multiple locations.  At some gyms, the difference between a single location membership and a multiple location one is neglible, at others there's a big difference in price.  Multiple locations can be nice if a) you take classes a lot and want the variety b) your significant other lives in a different part of the city or c) your office is in a different part of the city.  Otherwise, you may not care.

Locker Room  If your gym is two blocks away, the locker room probably doesn't matter much.  If you plan on showering there, though, especially en route to work, it matters.  Especially for women.  You want it to be clean and secure.  You also want to see what the wait is like for a shower or a blow dryer in the morning.  Find out if the shampoo and conditioner are workable, or if you'll need to bring your own.  (Equinox, good call on the Khiels.)  Can you store your things in a permanent locker?

Equipment  Does the gym have what you like?  Are there time limits during peak hours?  How well do they maintain the equipment?  Worn out treadmill are no fun.  Is their cardio equipment the latest and greatest with places to plug in your iPod and personal TVs?

Classes  Do they have what you want at the times you'll be there?  Gyms cater to their main crowd.  On the upper east side, this means that a lot of gyms offer the best classes between 9am and 11am.  Other locations focus on 5pm to 7pm or mid-day.

Aesthetics  Gyms should be relatively clean places, but some gyms are places to sweat and others are more luxurious.  Be honest about what you want and who you want to work out with.

Other Needs You may want to consider whether the gym provides day care services or whether there are trainers walking the floor who can help you.

Most gyms offer passes so that you can try them out, usually for between 3 and 7 days.  Before you sign up, try it out.  Test it out the way you plan to really use it.  If you're planning on going before work, do that.  You won't know how much time you really need or what the water pressure is like otherwise.  If you're interested in a class, try it.  It's great that there's 6:30am spin on the schedule, but if the instructor's lame or doesn't play your kind of music, you're not going to go.   Don't make assumptions about a gym based on the chain.  Locations vary and each one has a personality.  If you don't believe me about personality, just ask any instructor who teaches at a few locations. 

Happy sweating!

-Gym Belle-



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Reader Comments (2)

Hey I would say join the gym which best fits your budget. I currently live in California and just joined Gb3 Fresno Clubs. It's a pretty nice gym, locally owned. However it's super crowded since it's in a new and up coming area and even though it's new the equipment is already pretty badly used. I would say find a small gym. It'll be cheaper and won't be as crowded, plus you'll get your fitness in which is your main goal. Hope this helped!


January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny G.

Im interested to join Tracy Anderson's gym. I just want to know how much is the memebership and monthly fee.

January 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBest Gyms

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