Body Building Resources

Ten Things to Know Before Choosing a Gym
By Jean Lam

If you can't seem to stick with a workout routine, it may not be you-it may be your gym. The wrong gym can affect your motivation-and it can even cause you to give up on your body building routine. Don't let this happen to you; choose a gym that will keep you coming back. Here are ten things to look for when choosing a gym.

A schedule that fits yours. Not every gym has a great schedule for you. Think about when you're likely to work out-early in the morning, late at night, or during the day. If you prefer to go to the gym late at night after all your day's chores are over, you should look for a 24-hour gym. If you plan to head to the gym in the morning before you go to work, make sure your gym opens early enough to accommodate your schedule-not all of them do.

Closeness and convenience. You'd be surprised how much a long commute to the gym can affect your motivation. Many people stop going if it takes longer than thirty minutes or so to get there. Choose a gym that's near where you live or where you work, and you'll be more likely to stick with your workout.

Knowledgeable trainers. Especially if you're just starting out, you'll need the advice of someone with experience to get started in the right form. When checking out a new gym, look around at the trainers and staff. Do they seem helpful and knowledgeable? Do you notice them helping people who are having trouble with the machines or have terrible form with the free weights? Are they approachable and friendly? Look for a gym with trainers who are focused on customers and willing to show you the ropes.

A facility that's not too crowded. You shouldn't have to wait in line all the time just to get through your workout. Visit a new gym at the time you'll probably work out, and look to see how crowded it is. If it's a zoo, you'll probably hate going there. It's also not a bad idea to visit your new gym during "prime time"-the time when it's the busiest. For many gyms, this is either early in the morning or early in the evening, just before or just after work for most people. This will show you how bad you can expect it to get.

Enough equipment for everyone. Is there only one of each machine? Unless this is a gym that never gets crowded, this may be a sign of trouble. If there's only one of each piece of equipment you're likely to use, you may find yourself waiting in line during the busy periods. Look for a gym that has enough equipment to accommodate everyone, even during prime time.

A cost that fits your budget. Some gyms are more cost-efficient than others. Gyms with dozens of state-of-the-art exercise machines and endless classes and options will naturally cost more. Bear in mind, though, that you can develop a perfectly effective body building routine using only free weights-you don't need all the expensive extras and add-ons of an expensive gym. If all you can afford are the basics, don't sweat it-you'll still get a good workout.

The right range of free weights. Free weights are the most important equipment a body builder uses. You'll need to make sure your gym carries a weight range that works for you. Some gyms have barbells that only go up to 100 lbs or so; but many body builders need weights as heavy as 220 lbs. Make sure they have heavy enough free weights to allow you to grow. Look for iron weights, not rubber; rubber tends to chip and can lessen the weight of the barbell.

Well-kept equipment and facilities. Cleanliness is crucial to any gym. Think about how many people have sweated on that bench before you. Does the gym provide towels and do people use them? Do the users wipe down the equipment after their use? Does the gym make disinfectant and paper towels available? Are the bathrooms and locker rooms clean and well-kept, and are the machines in good repair? Is the free weight section well-organized?

A good atmosphere. Do you hate the music at your gym? Sure, you can bring your own music-but you might have to turn it up louder than you'd like to drown out the awful '80's dance music they're piping in. In addition, if there are televisions in every room, you may find this distracting-and a bad television show can be just as difficult to drown out as bad music. If you find the atmosphere makes it difficult for you to focus on your workout, this isn't the gym for you.

The right members. It may sound trivial, but the other members of the gym can also affect your experience there. Some gyms are social gathering places, and others are meat markets-where people go to check each other out rather than to get fit. If the people around you are as focused as you are, you'll probably have a better experience. But if you aren't comfortable with the atmosphere at the gym, you probably won't keep coming back.

The right gym can make the difference between a workout routine you abandon and one you stick with. Choose your gym carefully, and you're more likely to look forward to going there rather than dreading it.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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