How to choose the right gym or fitness club

Are you a regular gym-goer?

I used to be, but it’s been a long time.

When I first moved to Ohio, and no longer had a commute that sucked up too many hours of my day, I found myself with extra free time. I loved having the time to work out at a fitness club.

I really liked getting up before work, going to the gym and getting in a great workout. It’s a terrific way to start the day and there are so many health benefits.

Then again, I also loved going in the evening – getting in a hot workout is a great way to spend a Friday night! E and I spent a lot of time in gyms and health clubs together in our younger, pre-parenting days.

Over the years, especially since becoming parents, our gym habit has fallen by the wayside.

And although I have plenty of ways to work out at home (treadmill, weights, yoga mat, exercise DVDs), that has fallen off, too.

There’s no time like now to jump back into the workout habit. I want this not just for myself, but for my entire family. Z is old enough to come to a gym and work out with us, and she’s super excited about the idea. Since she’s in a unique academic program at the moment and I work a flexible schedule, we both have the time to go when the gym won’t be too crowded.

When I asked Z if she’d like to join me in researching the perfect fitness club for our family, she was up for the challenge. I created a simple T chart so that we could easily compare and contrast the three fitness clubs nearest our home.

Here are the categories we used to see how our three local gyms stack up:

  • Distance from home
  • Cost
  • Vibe check
  • Fitness classes
  • Pool/sauna/hot tub
  • Personal training
  • Other notes or attributes

This was Z’s first time visiting fitness clubs and she fell in love with different things about each one. She kept giving them each a 10/10 in the vibe check category – I think she just loved the idea of a fitness club! By the end of our three visits, however, she had a good sense of what each facility’s strengths and weaknesses were.

Because of Z’s age, she’s not able to become a full-fledged member on her own yet, but two of the gyms offered the ability to come as a guest with a parent. Only one of the gyms we toured will not even allow her in as a guest until her next birthday.

We had several misconceptions about the fitness clubs, including an assumption that one was considerably closer to our house than the others; turns out that it is actually only one minute closer. Saving one minute of time is not worth how much more expensive that particular establishment is!

I thought another of the gyms would be mostly dudes and bros lifting weights, but I was wrong; that gym ended up having the best group fitness class schedule, including yoga, which is a strong draw for me.

Two of the fitness clubs have pools, which initially seemed very attractive until we realized that we probably wouldn’t use them all that much. I honestly find a sauna or hot tub more enticing than a lap pool, but only the most expensive club had both of those.

As with so many things, it came down to a matter of weighing the cost and value provided.

We ultimately decided on the fitness club with the most offerings for the smallest price. Z presented our findings and recommendation to E and then we agreed as a family and signed up together. And, the nice thing is that since most gym memberships are month-to-month now, we can always switch it up in a few months if we want a change.

Z got so excited during our gym visits that, when we finally signed up, she wanted to work out immediately! So far, Z has worked out the most since we joined. I’m nursing a foot injury but, once I’ve healed, I plan to be sweating right alongside her.

I’m a little nervous because it’s been so long since I worked out in any formal way. I plan to start out pretty slow and gentle. I’m not in my 20s anymore and the last thing I want is any more injuries or health misadventures.

So far, joining a gym together feels like a really fun activity for our family and I know it will help us to stay energized and active over our long upcoming winter.

One key aspect will be making sure that we don’t slip into any negative aspects of diet culture while we enjoy moving our bodies. That will be a separate post soon, I’m sure!

Have you been to the gym lately? I’d love to hear your workout tales in the comments below or over on Instagram or Facebook.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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