Picking a gym can be a difficult thing. Read on to see what kind of gym is right for you.
How Does the Gym Fit in Your Life?
Sometimes we have a specific time in mind like, “I’m going to start doing cardio for an hour before work on weekdays.”
Others aren’t as set to the clock, such as, “I’m going to do whatever I have to so that I gain 15 pounds of muscle.”
So once you figure that out, you can pretty much nail down where you want to go after reading this article. If you’re a little more open-ended, then try several gyms near you, but pay attention to the following points in each gym.
Obviously your well-established professionals will pay higher gym fees because they have more disposable income. You’ll see more of them in a high-end gym. They’ll often have personal trainers.
In your cheap gyms you’ll have everyone else, including the well-established professionals who don’t want to waste money. If they just need a treadmill and a rowing machine a few times a week, then many of them opt to go with a cheaper
I was out of town a couple of months ago and checked out a $10 per month gym just to see what they were up to. It was a small town and they had a sign that all local high school kids could work out free during their summer break. I thought, “What a great way to get the kids exercising!” But the amount of young men flexing in front of the mirror was…alarming. Both in locker room and in front of everyone near the dumbbells.
So, if you’re going to meet professionals and want to make this a “networking opportunity,” then definitely go with the expensive gyms. You’ll become a regular face among some major players in the city. That could work to your benefit if you’re fresh on the job market looking to make a name for yourself.
As a fitness trainer, I’ve connected major people with minor people. I (as a minor person) was connected to anywhere I wanted to go in the city. Car dealerships, lawyers, doctors, chiropractors, restaurants, the coliseum… I’ve got deals everywhere.
I can’t downplay the benefits of networking at all. Just don’t go there to annoy people.
There will be some noticeable differences in equipment from the cheap gym vs the expensive gym. There will also be a difference in the level of maintenance.
At an expensive gym (like where I work), I make sure that nothing squeaks. If something is off, I either fix it or mark it as not to be used and I tape up the cable with blue tape so it can’t be connected to anything.
You don’t see this kind of attention to detail in the cheaper gyms. Things squeak. Machines don’t work, but no one labels them because it is only the members using them and not the maintenance people or the staff. When it does get noticed, it’s usually a big deal and a safety hazard.
The various handles on things will be well worn in cheap gyms. Maybe even a little greasy. This is kind of a small thing, but it is noticed by those who drive $80,000 cars.
Hands down, the expensive gym will be spotless compared to a cheap gym.
In the cheap gym I visited, I went to the men’s bathroom and the walls were dirty. These were tile walls and after I dried my hands off, I took the paper towel and swiped a tile. The paper towel was filthy.
In the cheap gym, you have a person who goes in and cleans up the major feces and piss stains around the toilet, wipes up the standing water around each sink and then mops the floor. They just do the same routine every time and it is the bare minimum.
In an expensive gym you will see a much more thorough cleaning being done. The cleaners are getting paid well and will clean something even if it isn’t clear that it needs it. They are paid to wipe a rag over all spots in the bathroom on a regular basis.
It is just a completely different viewpoint on cleaning.
This isn’t just in the bathrooms, but extends to the weights as well. They need to get cleaned no matter what. Wipe a damp rag over them to get the dust and debris off even if it doesn’t look like they’re trashed. This is what basic cleaning is.
I swear if cheap gyms just hired a cleaner who worked hard and knew what they were doing, they could seriously expand their membership or charge higher prices. A good cleaner is worth their weight in gold.
In an expensive gym, you’ll have regularly scheduled spin classes, yoga, kickboxing, dance, step classes and all sorts of other crazy activities to get you going.
The cheap gym just has machines and free weights.
If you are lacking motivation and want to just go into a spin class and have an instructor with a microphone screaming at you to “GOOOOO!!!!!”, then I would hit up the expensive gym. The instructors usually aren’t bad to look at and I work out ten times as hard when someone is yelling at me to pedal harder.
I also use those as learning opportunities. If you pay attention, the instructors are constantly teaching you about form, whether on the bike or in a kickboxing move or in body weight exercises.
Even I, with my super degree and certifications, take something away from it in how the cues were delivered and the wording of them. There is a total art in this and good trainers study it. But back to the point.
The variety of classes really is a great learning opportunity.
If you were to graph the “Number of new movements learned” over a person’s lifetime, there would be a point in most people’s lives where it totally crashes. I would bet that, at that point, is where things start going downhill.
Because that is the point in time in which the person stops learning in general. They stop training their bodies, their minds, they stop applying themselves to life.
We look at some older people and wonder why their mental capabilities have gone out the window, but then some others who kept working their whole lives (and learning new things) are still up and at it.
Learn new things!
Personal Fitness Trainers
I have looked into the wages for personal trainers at different gyms and it is very, very different.
This is partly because every trainer is very, very different.
A good trainer controls the entire room without pushing people away. The word “control” has a bad name, so let me give you an example:
If I’ve got the three high school kids here hitting the bench press and I know that my client Jimmy (a high paying professional) is looking forward to hitting the bench that day, I’ll let the kids know when the bench is open that day and suggest that they hit it after I show them some “new” or “different” dumbbell chest flys that they’ve never done before.
This is where a good fitness trainer earns his keep. His attention is on keeping the floor running smoothly. He controls, but doesn’t say “Stop.” Instead he suggests, offers, helps and otherwise encourages people in the right way so that there are no hiccups and no arguments.
The clients leave and feel they got something for free. Every day should feel that way in an expensive gym.
In a cheap gym, if they have trainers, they are usually focused on the client in front of them and nothing else.
The Amount of Usable Space
In an expensive gym, you don’t want a bunch of people crowded in a specific area.
That first section on demographics kind of covers this. Usually the higher-paid people of society will eat in nice, not-congested restaurants and bars. They’re definitely not going to come and huddle around the leg press with a bunch of sweaty people in a gym.
They pay to have the leg press ready for them. Sometimes they pay enough for the trainer to load it with weights. That’s the kind of service going on. There isn’t anyone within smelling distance.
In fact, if someone does smell too much or does so on a regular basis, I will approach them in the most respectful manner possible or have another staff member do so. The goal is to eliminate the smell, not freak the person out, make them wrong or to lose them as a member. They are part of the team. We’re just handling a small point.
In a cheap gym, people smell worse. I know this based on my own studies. I know this because there isn’t anyone coming up to them and approaching them like I do.
And with a smaller amount of space, that smell becomes even more in your face.
Expensive gyms will have:
- Towel service
- Showers (with more towels)
- A place to sit and socialize
- Possibly even tanning beds
Cheap gyms will not. I’ve seen some cheaper ones offer more expensive memberships to utilize one or another features, but then they are just trying to be expensive without really making it all the way.
An expensive gym will have personal relationships with each of their members.
This means that the receptionist knows everyone’s name. The manager knows everyone’s name. Each instructor (whether a group fitness instructor or a personal fitness trainer) knows everyone’s name.
This is what you want to create with people who pay you well. You give them good service and atmosphere. From the second they walk in the door to the second they leave, they are treated with kindness, respect and a sense of familiarity. They are welcome on their good days and welcome on their bad ones.
They will always leave feeling better no matter how they came in.
A big, cheap gym just let’s you do what you want and doesn’t bother you. It is almost weird being around so many people and not talking to them. I personally stay away from apartments because there is often no sense of community, despite being SO close to each other. It blows my mind.
The same concept with the gym. Here you are working your butt off, but don’t know the name of the guy next to you and haven’t ever even made eye contact with them.
The whole approach is totally foreign to me and, if I worked there, I would make sure that I knew the names of every member and that I got them talking to each other.
What ever happened to having a community?
The Actual Price Difference
So, cheap gyms are typically about $10 per month at the lowest (after the hidden sign up and annual fees).
Expensive gyms can be $150 or more for a general membership – more if you’re in a city like Los Angeles or New York City.
If you hire a trainer, it can add up to $500 a month real fast.
In my opinion, these are all good investments. I can’t understate the benefits of exercise. Exercising on a regular basis removes so many future medical situations, it is ridiculous.
There may be a cheap gym near your work and an expensive gym near your home. But every time you go home, you’ll never leave because you want to be with your spouse. So go to the cheap gym near work and keep it all business like.
There are a number of factors I haven’t covered here, but proximity to work and home is a factor in choosing a gym. Whether or not you have kids is another.
My main goal was to go in depth on the difference between the types of gyms and help you find out what you are looking for. It is no joke, you’ll encounter more body odor in a cheap gym. It will be more crowded. If you’re smart and go at weird times (like at midnight for a 24 hour gym) then you’ll avoid some of those inconveniences.
But most of us just want something steady that we can work into our daily schedules and is also a place that we want to go.
Try several gyms out. Pay attention to the cleanliness of their facilities, showers, bathrooms, weights. See if any of the equipment squeaks. Did the receptionist make a point to know you by name?
Find something that works for you so that you become a better you.