How to choose gyms
SOME people like me prefer a smaller-scale gym without too many frills, while others prefer a massive gym with all the trimmings. Others prefer running and exercising in the great outdoors.
At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to choose an option that best fits their particular lifestyle, which will in turn determine how long they will stick to their fitness programme.
It is much easier to quit a gym than to keep yourself motivated enough to keep exercising regularly every week. To overcome this problem of members leaving early, most gyms will offer greater incentives for those who sign up and pay upfront for longer membership contracts. Once someone is a long-term or lifetime member, the gym will notloseoutmuch financially if he or she drops out. But sadly, the True Fitness saga has shown that some big gyms are more concerned about recruiting new members than looking after the welfare of its existing members.
Spotting dud gyms
For those of you who are looking to join a reliable fitness centre, here’s my advice. Ask yourself these important 1 questions first: Why do I want to join a gym? Do I have a fitness plan?
How much time can I realistically spend in the gym in a week? What is a comfortable budget?
After you decide that you can really afford it, and can make time to visit the gym at least twice a week, then you can proceed to the next tip below.
Shortlist some potential gyms 2 in a location convenient to you, either close to your workplace or home. If the gym fees are greater than your available budget, strike it off the shortlist.
Visit the shortlisted gyms and 3 check if their exercise machines and the overall facilities are in good working order. Check also if they have enough machines/ facilities.
Ask current members what they like and dislike about their gym. Talk to the staff and check if they are friendly and motivated. If you learn that the machines keep breaking down or take a long time to be repaired, then forget about joining this gym.
Similarly, if the staff complain about the gym, management or the members, strike it off your list too. Make an appointment to meet 4 the gym owner or manager, and ask them what their current and future plans are for the development of their gyms. The more specific and detailed their plans are, the more likely that they will follow through on those plans.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the financial stability of the company or about its major shareholders – any genuine company will be transparent about their business operations to instill market confidence in their brand.
If the answers you get are too general and non-committal, then strike them off your list too! Basically, asking more of the 5 right questions will help you to eventually find the right gym for you.
NEVER allow yourself to be rushed or pressured by hard sell tactics into a decision. If you have any doubts about the gym which cannot be satisfactorily clarified, then just walk away.
When you have made your final decision and you have chosen one gym, don’t sign up yet. Ask for free passes (one or two days), so that you can get a good feel of what it’s like to work out in the gym.
If the gym management is sincere, they should have no qualms about giving you free sessions without any obligation.
If you still want to join the gym after all that, then make sure you are fully informed about the payment mechanisms and due dates, the cancellation clauses and if there is a cooling-off period in which you can cancel the contract (again, without any obligations) within a certain timeframe (typically seven days).
The silver lining about the high profile demise of True Fitness is that other gyms will expect a backlash from the public, so gym operators ought to be more accommodating when it comes to answering detailed questions about their company finances, facilities and staffing. So fire away with your questions!
Smaller, cheaper gyms
The disadvantage of a long-term gym membership is that it is not flexible when it comes to meeting any major unplanned changes in your life, eg:
> you have to move overseas or outstation
>youcannolongerexercisedue to injuries
> you decide to pursue other exercises like running in a park
> you can no longer afford to upkeep the monthly gym fees
Of course, the biggest risk of longterm membership is if the operator suddenly closes down.
In my case, I have found many small neighbourhood gyms which charge as little as RM8 per entry. Because of the True Fitness fiasco, some people are now moving back to the smaller boutique gyms for better, more personal service at a lower cost.
Granted, these small boutique gyms may not be as “glamorous” as the hyper gyms, but I find that they have adequate basic exercise machines to keep me fit without the burden of large upfront fees.
The great outdoors
No matter how good or cheap gyms are, many people still prefer to exercise for free (alone or in groups) in parks, open fields and forests – there’s fresh air too!
There are many different types of exercises which we can perform outdoors (or in our homes) with very basic and inexpensive equipment or by just using our own bodyweight as resistance. If you don’t believe me, just type “calisthenics exercises” on YouTube. –
Elastic resistance bands are like having a ‘gym in your pocket’ that you can take anywhere. You can turn any place into a gym by using simple things like elastic resistance bands. You can exercise anywhere you want, not just at a gym, as this file photo of former US President Barack Obama shows.
Many parks have free outdoor gym equipment, like this one in USJ 4, Subang Jaya, Selangor.