We all want that one place where we can go to even when everything else in our life has gone to crap.

I can’t think of anything more constructive to do when you’re upset than to kick your own ass at the gym. Not only do the post-workout endorphins make you feel better, but you also get a boost of serotonin (happy hormone) from accomplishing something productive!

I think of my gym as my dojo.

When I need to mull over an important decision, take out frustration, or feel less sad about something, the gym is where I find my solace.

If you’ve never been to a gym consistently, you might think that they’re all the same. Let me tell you, that is FAR from the truth. Not all gyms are created equally. Every gym has its own unique vibe, routine, and society.

I’m going to help you assess the different elements that make up your gym experience. This way, you can determine what your needs and expectations are of your home away from home, and choose a great fit.

Luckily, most gyms offer a free trial period, so you’ll be able to try out many until you find your fit. Hooray!

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how to pick the right gym

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Do I Even Need A Gym?

You may ask, “Do I even need a gym? I can just run outside.”

And the simple answer to that is YES, you do need a gym. That is because you need to lift weights. Read here why.

You also need a place that you can go to alone that isn’t a bar, shopping mall, or restaurant. In other words, the gym provides you with a place to be constructive with your woes, instead of depleting your resources.

The People

how to pick the right gym

Do you like a gym that doubles as a social club, comparable to South Beach during Spring Break?

Or do you want people to leave you alone to do your work?

Personally, I want to put in my headphones and forget the entire Universe when I workout, so a gym with chatty members is a huge turn off. But you may be different! You may love gaining new friends and having spontaneous conversations while exercising.

How crowded does it get? Are the after work hours insane, flooded with people? Is that something that you like or something that you detest? Are guys always hitting on you, or do they leave you be?

Are the people judgmental, passing condescending looks at you as you struggle to grunt out your last rep? Or do they mind their own business, hardly noticing you’re there?

These are all HUGE questions to ask yourself, because they will determine your comfort level at the gym that you pay for. Note that not every single person at a gym will be the same. However, from the patterns I’ve studied, they will be relatively similar.

The Classes

If you’re not into group fitness or yoga, skip this section.

Buuuut, if you’re cool like me, you enjoy the occasional Zumba or yoga on a day where you want to workout, but lack drive.

Making sure that your gym offers (FREE) fitness classes is important if you frequent them weekly. It also means that you won’t be shelling out extra money to attend a yoga studio when you want to get your Asana on.

What’s more is making sure that those classes are scheduled during times that work for you! If you only workout during 5-8 pm on weekdays, and the classes you want are from 12-3 pm, that’s an issue!

The Equipment

how to pick the right gym

I tried to make it through this post without ripping on a gym, but Planet Fitness, COME ON. No squat rack!?! Really!?! How!?!

Some people like to skip leg day, that’s fine and all (jk you’re wrong), and so a gym without a squat rack would be completely acceptable. But, if you like to have a banging booty, you’re gonna need a gym that has one.

Things to keep in mind when assessing equipment:

  1. Do the weights go up high enough? (i.e.: dumbbells only go to 30 lbs, but you need 50 lbs for your workouts)
  2. Do they have the equipment you use daily? (Some gyms I went to didn’t have barbells with a straight bar, only curvy ones.)
  3. Do they have enough machines to compliment your free weight workouts?
  4. Do they have enough cable attachments for you to get creative with?
  5. Does the gym keep a tidy free weight area in terms of clips, plates, padding, etc?
  6. Do they have the cardio machines you like? (For me, the StairMaster is a MUST.)
  7. Do they have a basketball court, racquetball court, volleyball net? (Sports are a workout too.)
  8. Is the stretching/abs area big enough to accommodate a busy gym?
  9. Is the cardio equipment positioned in a way that makes spying on -observing- other people easy? (No? Just me?)
  10. Do they have the cool ropes you get to pretend you’re mushing a team of Huskies on like in the photo above?

I got a little bit silly towards the end of that list, but you get the point! Don’t choose a gym that’s lacking equipment you 1 need and 2 like.

The Hours

Unless you’re a manic, insomniac, exercise freak who works out at 4 am (I applaud you), then you don’t need a 24 hour gym.

A lot of gyms pride themselves on never closing. In 4 years of working out every single week, I can tell you that I’ve never been up earlier than 6 am, and never been out later than 10 pm. 6 am – 10 pm are suitable hours for me.

Be honest with yourself. Are you a morning bird or a night owl? Will you find yourself going for an impulse cardio sesh at midnight? If not, don’t spend the extra money for a 24/7 gym, which brings me to our next facet…

The Expense

how to pick the right gym

Your health is something that you should definitely be investing into with not just your time and effort, but also your money. That being said, don’t spend an arm and a leg for a gym membership.

Personally, I go to YouFit. It is $20 a month for any gym nationwide, and I can bring a friend whenever I please. Because they meet all my other requirements (hours, social, classes, equipment), it is suitable for me to pay such a low monthly fee.

Understand that it will vary city to city, and for what I get in my town for $20 a month, I may have to pay $50 a month in another place.

If you’re someone who likes to have a personal trainer to coach and/or motivate you, make sure that your gym doesn’t charge out the wazoo for training sessions. I’m looking at you, LA Fitness.

Do your research. Compare prices vs. features of the gyms that have the qualities you desire.

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By assessing these 5 things, you’ll know what to look for in a gym. Once you feel comfortable, you’ll be more prone to show up and put in work towards your health and that sexy bod ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here they are again:

  1. People
  2. Classes
  3. Equipment
  4. Hours
  5. Expense

What gym do you go to? What do you love or hate about it? Tell me below, I’m all ears!

Until next time, lovely, stay WILD.