10 questions to ask before joining a gym
6. When is the gym open?
"Definitely check the hours," says Kaehler, who also is
co-owner of Health-E-tips,
a company that provides health pointers for corporate wellness programs.
Make sure the club offers hours that make it easy to fit the gym
into your schedule, she says.
Visit at peak hours to see just how jammed it can
get. "Look at equipment, look at rooms, make sure it's not
going to be so crowded that you have to wait a half hour for a piece
of equipment," he adds. "You may only have 30 minutes
for a work out. What's the point?"
Then visit again at the times you're most likely to
work out, says Kaehler. That way you get to see the gym as it likely
will be when you're sweating off those pounds.
Also take note of the parking when you're there. You
want to make visiting the gym as easy as possible, especially on
those days you might be a little less motivated. When you want to
go in and work out, says Decker, "Nothing is worse than driving
around in circles looking for place to park."
7. Which services or amenities cost extra?
"There are usually additional charges you don't realize initially,"
says Siler. You may have to rent a mat, rent a towel or pay for
water. "Those are additional costs that add up."
8. May I see a class schedule?
If you're joining for specific classes, look at what is taught and
when, says Siler. If you want to use the pool, does it have special
hours? Ditto personal instructors or anything else you plan to use.
9. Do you offer
child care? If you have kids, you may have to occasionally
take them with you to the gym. Accommodations for children are "very
common," says Kaehler. "You'll see (child care) in commercials
for national chains. It's definitely a big incentive to get more
parents to participate in an exercise program.
"I've seen a few places that offer really nice
child care in the facilities and also have cameras that will show
on closed-circuit TV in the adult area, so that a mother or father
can watch their child," she says.
10. Will the club waive the initiation fee?
Sometimes gyms charge initiation fees that can be hundreds or thousands
of dollars, says Decker. But they often waive or reduce them, especially
if you're shopping around and know what other facilities are charging,
Siler agrees. "The initiation fee is there for
them to barter with," she says. "So don't just accept
Also look for holiday or seasonal specials, when the
gym might be waiving fees, or slow traffic days, when the staff
members might be more willing to dicker, says Siler. "That's
the best time to go in because they have quotas to make," she
says. "Some people get amazing deals."
Finally, take your time. Don't rush into a gym membership
until you get the answers you want.
"Like anything else, all health clubs are not
created equal," says Decker. "Shop around."
Dana Dratch is a freelance writer
based in Atlanta.