Just like your favorite cross trainers or earbuds that feel like they were tailor-made for you, there’s a gym out there that’s also a perfect fit. Finding it, though, requires a little research. To help, we asked personal trainers: “What questions should you ask before joining a new gym?”
Whether you like a get-in-get-out, no-frills gym experience or you want a fitness center that has a robust class schedule and juice bar where you can hang out after class, these seven trainer-approved questions will help you determine whether a gym is a match for your lifestyle and fitness goals.
1. What Are Your Busiest Days And Hours?
Figure out your gym’s rush hours, suggests fitness trainer Steven Mack, C.S.C.S. with Simple Solutions Fitness. Having a good idea of the days and times your potential gym is busiest will help you determine things like whether you’ll need to wait in line for machines or if you’ll ever have the sauna to yourself.
“Gyms can offer very different experiences, depending on the hour you come,” Mack says. Some gyms, like Planet Fitness, offer a “Crowd Meter” to let you monitor gym capacity real time. But if your 7 a.m. workout time isn’t flexible and the gym your eyeing is a madhouse during that hour, it’s probably not the best fit.
2. How Often Do You Replace Equipment?
If a gym does not do a good job of maintaining its equipment, you’re at a greater risk of getting hurt. For instance, if a belt on a bike is not maintained properly, it can feel clunky to ride, or worse, break while you’re using it.
“You don’t need to have the fanciest gym with the most expensive equipment,” Mack says. “You do need a gym that is committed to upgrading and replacing the equipment they choose to buy.”
Different manufacturers have recommendations for when equipment might need to be replaced. The management at your gym should be aware of that schedule. However, they should also be able to point out if they stay ahead of that schedule on their most popular cardio machines, which are getting a lot of use.
3. What Is Your Cancellation Policy?
You sign up for a gym hoping for a healthy, long-term relationship. But some things could come up: COVID surges may mean you’re no longer comfortable working out at a gym. Or, you get injured and need to press pause on your fitness routine while you recover.
Before you sign a membership contract, you should have a solid understanding of the cancellation policy, Mack says. Some gyms may allow you to get out of the contract within a few days of signing up if it’s just not the right fit. Others might charge cancellation fees or have a stipulation that you must show proof that you’ve recently moved.
“If a gym has a reasonable cancellation policy, you can rest assured that they’re working to try and keep you,” Mack says.
Also, ask if the gym offers a free trial so you can get a feel for whether it’s the right fit before making a formal commitment.
4. What Qualifications Do Your Trainers Have?
Whether you’ve plateaued in your fitness goals, need help getting reintroduced to the gym, or have specific goals like participating in a bodybuilding competition, there are plenty of situations where you may want to hire a fitness trainer.
Make sure trainers at your gym have proper certifications, says Robert Dodds, C.P.T. with Nothing Barred Fitness. “You should ask what qualifications the trainers have and how experienced they are,” Dodds says. “You don’t want to injure yourself because you’ve been given an unsuitable workout.”
He recommends ensuring trainers have qualifications from National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), or The National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF).
5. What Are Your Cleaning Protocols?
Germs can thrive in a gym setting, which can put you at risk for everything from skin infections to viruses. That’s why it’s important to always ask about how often the gym, including locker rooms, are cleaned, recommends Dodds.
Ask about or look for well-stocked cleaning stations that members can use to wipe down mats and machines with sanitizer. You can also ask whether there’s staff members who are disinfecting high-touch areas throughout the day.
6. What Kind Of Group Classes Do You Offer?
It’s normal to get bored with your workouts. Group fitness classes can help break up the monotony, as well as teach you some new moves and hold you accountable to your fitness goals.
When you’re signing up for a membership, get a good overview of the type and frequency of group fitness classes that are offered, says John Gardner, C.P.T. and co-founder of Kickoff, a remote personal training platform.
You’ll also want to determine if you need to sign up in advance for classes, and just how far in advance you need to do so, he says. Are classes capped at a certain number? How is physical distance maintained during those cardio kickboxing classes or those Vinyasa yoga sessions? Is there a good mix of strength training and cardio classes on the schedule from which members can choose?
Also, determine whether, as part of your membership, your gym offers access to pre-recorded and live virtual classes. This is becoming a trend at larger gyms such as Life Time and 24 Hour Fitness. Having the option to work out virtually can help you stick to your workout plan on cold winter days.
As you’re considering potential gyms, check to see which classes are offered online, as well as what kind of equipment (things like resistance bands and five-pound weights) you might need at home for those classes. Is access to these classes free or do they come with an upcharge?
7. Do I Have Access To Other Locations?
Locations, locations, locations. If your gym is part of a franchise, perhaps there’s one that’s close to your work that you can use on weekdays and one close to home that you can frequent on the weekends. It’s a good idea to find out whether you have access to more than one location.
“This is crucial for consistency,” Gardner says. “If you end up having to drive a distance or go out of your way to get to the gym, you will think twice before going.”
Some gyms have tiered memberships, and will require you to pay a premium to have access to additional locations. Make sure to ask for that info up front!