By Cavino Johnson Athletic Xtreme
Gyms. They are everywhere. Big ones. Small ones. 24 hour ones. Fancy ones. With so many options, how do you know which one is the right fit for you? Actually, it all can be deceiving and confusing. Being that I have worked in nearly every kind of fitness facility over the last decade or so, I can tell you this– not every gym is for everyone. You have to know exactly what you want out of your gym. True, you want to lose weight, build muscle, maybe both. Whichever your goal, you have to be sure the facility you join is the right one and has everything that you need.
Let’s break these different facilities down.
24 HOUR FACILITIES:
A gym that is open 24 hours a day, and most times, 7 days per week.
These offer convenience to the odd hour people, the people that work odd hours, or lead a life that is so hectic during the day hours that their only time to workout is after 8pm. Also, these gyms are good for those that are intimidated by people in the gym or self-conscious. They are usually smaller franchises that use a scan card entry. Inside, you may find the normal equipment, such as cardio, machines and free weights. Standard locker rooms, water fountains, the basics. If you need a place to work out, either during day hours or after hours, you can make that happen here.
Not many will have a lot of plate loading machines. I actually joined a 24 hour facility that didn’t even have a squat rack!! So, why did I join? Sixteen dollars a month. That’s why. I’m frugal. But, I got what I paid for. The gym had dumbbells, but their 90 pounders were “missing” due to someone stealing them in the middle of the night. Their 100 pound dumbbells were broken and gone for 2 months before they finally replaced them. Another issue I had, as a bodybuilder, that I had, was the size of the gym. It was small. During peak hours (4pm-7pm), the gym floor had people stacked on top of each other. I’m a get in, get out person. I don’t want to play rock, paper, scissors to use the benches. Another problem that I have with the 24 hour facility– cleanliness and organization. There’s nothing more annoying than having to re-rack someone else’s weight. Without staff on duty, the people that lack gym etiquette take advantage of being jerks. If you think it’s bad during the day, stay away from after hours. Also, if you are looking for group fitness and/or childcare
BIG BOX GYMS
Franchise style gyms.
These are the gyms that are huge. I’ve worked in and have trained in these facilities. They are nice. Most are split level. They seem to have it all. Some have dumbbells up to 200lbs or more in some, 100lb plates, every plate loading machine you can think of, fancy cardio equipment, cool strength training machines, swimming pools, saunas. Some have raquetball courts, basketball courts, and the really high end ones have tennis courts. The amount of amenities these places offer can be astounding!! Most offer child care and group fitness and even a smoothie bar or cafe of some sort,
Those amenities mentioned above– likely, you will not use them all, but in case you decide, one day, to use them, your membership fee has it covered. These fees can be in the price range of $40-$100+ per month, depending on what they offer. One of the catches to these facilities is that, with the cost that you will pay monthly, one would think that childcare would be included in that fee. That’s not always the case. Some charge at least $15 per kid!! So, if Suzie home maker just needs her “me time” and gets it during her one hour Zumba class, she may be shelling out an additional $30-$45 for her three precious little angels!! Again, during peak times, it seems everyone has the same bright idea to workout at the same time. Most of these people will be your nine to fivers, coming in to blow off some of the stress of the day. Now, not all big name franchises are all the same. I worked in one that had a club-like atmosphere. The music was always loud and it was always busy. But it was big enough in a split level, that you weren’t being showered with the next person’s sweat. At the same time, like I said, it had a club like atmosphere, which means a lot of social gatherings between sets, in the locker rooms, at the water fountain, everywhere. That can be as about annoying as not re-racking weights.
COMMON GYMS (non-franchise)
A more “mom and pop” style gym, usually owned by a local person/family.
I love these gyms. Usually run by someone who just loves to lift and wanted to open a place where others with the same serious love for the iron can come together. It’s small. It’s dingy. The equipment isn’t shiny or fancy, but old school. There’s graffiti on the walls, basically commanding you not to be a *****. There’s a chalk bucket in the corner and hash marks etched into the wall. It’s never crowded, not overly, anyway. The weight goes up to ridiculous weight and they get used, often. You are expected to lift, groan, scream, make noise when you do deadlifts, drop weights, spit on the floor… Ok, I might be going too far with the spitting on the floor part, but you get the idea. It’s grimey, and for me, it’s ideal.
*I’ll list some of the “cons” with these, but understand that this is my favorite kind of gym, so what you may see as a con, I still see as a positive.
Ok… You won’t find some fancy cooling system in these during the summer months, nor will you find some toasty heat system. During the summer, the big auto repair shop type door is raised and industrial fans MIGHT be used. During the winter, hoodies and space heaters. Most of the people you see here, are here to lift as heavy as they can with no restraint. Big muscles. Big weight.
HONORABLE MENTION – YMCA
I’ve only been inside a couple of these, and I gotta say, they are big. But the actual training areas are not. They have basic equipment, simple machines and cardio. They are usually much cleaner, too. But these are family oriented, meaning there is something for everyone. The kids can swim in one pool while grandma gets in her weekly water aerobics in the other. Mom can get her massage while dad goes through his workout. I’ve even seen these facilities with massive pool slides outdoors that can ***** a waterpark’s main attraction. These are one stop shops. Depending on your ultimate goal, you can actually get a great physique out of these places. The price you pay in membership, though, seems to be only worth it if your whole family is using it.
“Judgment Free Zone” gyms. No further comment.
I hope this points you in the right direction. Usually, upon your visiting a possible joinable gym, the membership ‘specialist” will give you a tour of the facility, showing you their highlights and giving you the rundown of what they have to offer you. They may even convince you that no matter what your fitness goals are, they are perfect for you. Don’t believe the hype. You choose what you need and pay for only that. They will, likely, hit you with an initiation fee and inform you of a “maintenance fee” that they will charge you whether you want them to or not. Also, most of the gym types listed above will offer you personal training orientations and services.
The orientation is usually free, so if you are new to the gym, take advantage of it by asking the trainer questions and make sure they show you how to use the machines. Most of those trainers allow about an hour of time per orientation, then spend another 30 minutes trying to convince you that they can help you by adding an additional monthly fee to your gym membership. Be sure to get what you’re paying for. If you are offered a certain amount of days on a free pass, take full advantage of it as well and try different gym times, so that you know what to expect and to see if the gym is right for you.
Not all gyms are created equal. Choose wisely.