So, following up on my previous article about True Fitness, and this being a rather common question that I face, I decided to write about my deciding factors on selecting a gym.
1. The best gym, is one that you will go to.
Location, in my opinion is one of the most important factor in selecting any gym. Do you have to drive to your gym or can you walk there when you want to train? What is the traffic and parking like if you have to drive?
Unless you are highly motivated to want to use certain facilities at a particular gym and don't mind travelling there on a close-to-daily basis, it's best to pick a gym that you can pop by and head back from easily without braving too much traffic. It doesn't have to be a fancy gym, but it does have to cater towards the type of training you want to do. Also, having easy access to a gym gives you the option to avoid peak hours, which brings us to the next point.
2. The opening and peak hours of the gym.
For many gyms, the peak hour is usually on weekdays from 5 till 9 pm. During this period most gyms will be packed to the brim and you may have to wait or share equipment. This is fine most of the time, however if your training program requires you to superset (to do two or more different exercises back to back) or to have to use several sets of dumbbells at a time, this could be a problem.
So you might want to find a way to train during off peak periods. The good news is the off peak hours are pretty much any other time apart from that 5-9 pm, and this gives you plenty of options to plan your training, most gyms are almost completely empty in the mornings and afternoons and all day on weekends. (I actually make it a point to train on weekends because of this)
3. The facilities of the gym.
Okay, obviously this has to be on the list. Depending on what your goals are, the gym has to have the right equipment to suit your style of training, be it a basic workout or for something more specialized like powerlifting, cross-fit, bodybuilding etc. The gym needs to be well maintained and facilities that break down need to be tended to as quickly as possible.
Is the gym air conditioned? How comfortable are you training in a gym with no air conditioning when it gets really hot, or training at an air conditioned gym when temperatures drop? Although I'm fine with training at both hot and cold environments these days, I've come to realize temperature can play a major role in my performance. While I don't have to spend much time getting myself warmed up at a non air conditioned gym, I do get dehydrated and tired rather quickly. An air conditioned gym on the other hand means I have to keep my rest periods between sets short to prevent my body temperature from dropping or my joints from getting cold if I wait too long between sets.
4. Most importantly, always remember... A gym is only as good as the amount of effort you put into your workouts.
I've trained at all kinds of gyms, chain gyms, hardcore gyms, condo gyms, hotel gyms etc, but one particular gym stands out as a reminder among them all. In an attempt to save money during my college years, I trained at a gym that was so run down I literally had to throw a rock at the entrance to chase away rats and cockroaches before walking in, needless to say, I had some pretty good workouts there. (Although I wasn't a member for very long)
My point is, you can go to a gym with the best, latest facilities but if you don't have the right mindset to want to train hard, it's not gonna be of much help. These days if I ever catch myself complaining about any gym I'm at, I'll remember what it was like training in that old gym and I tell myself, if I could get a good workout in then, I sure as hell can get a good workout in now.