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Gym Time

Choose a Fitness Facility That Fits You

By Michelle Medlock Adams
Guest Contributor

CBN.comWorking out in the wrong fitness facility is like wearing a pair of shoes that are too small—very uncomfortable. So how do you choose the perfect fitness facility, a gym that will fit your personality, needs, financial situation, location, and preferences?

Very carefully, according to John McCarthy, executive director of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the not-for-profit trade association representing the fitness industry.

“Americans of all different ages and levels of physical fitness are making the decision to get fit,” said McCarthy, “and it is critical that they choose the health club and personal trainer that are right for their specific health or fitness needs.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

To get the skinny on a gym, you’ll need to go armed with good, probing questions. Go ahead, take a notebook along on your initial health club visit and act as an investigative reporter. Remember, there are no stupid questions. (OK, in all honesty, there are some stupid questions, but just ask the ones we’re providing here and you’ll be cool.)

Important questions to ask, according to Craig Tynan, a fitness trainer and head men’s basketball coach for Albany College of Pharmacy in Albany, N.Y. are as follows:

  1. How many staff members do you have?
  2. What are their qualifications?
  3. How much is an adult membership/family membership?
  4. Is there an initial membership registration fee in addition to a monthly fee?
  5. What do I get for my membership (free classes, access to other facilities)?
  6. What are your hours of operation?
  7. Are there other services provided, such as babysitting, pools, massage therapy, daycare, tanning, a juice bar?
  8. Do you give a free trial period?
  9. Do you offer free initial training on use of the machines?
  10. Do you offer any consultations, such as nutritional counseling or specific training programs for triathlons, marathons, bodybuilding, etc.?

Beware of Membership Gimmicks and Hidden Fees

Remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, that definitely applies when evaluating health club memberships.

“Be wary of low-cost trial memberships that morph into high-pressure sales pitches,” advised Bonne Marano, certified fitness instructor and owner of Fit to Be Tied Online ( “You don’t have to spend your life savings just to become a member.’”

A health club membership should run between $650 and $1,000 annually, according to Marano. If the membership you’re considering is more than that, keep looking.

Also, proceed cautiously when the salesperson tries to close with the words, “The offer is only good today.” That’s unwarranted sales pressure, and it’s probably not even true.

“If you are not ready to commit that day, chances are you will be able to get that ‘today only’ special another day,” Marano said.

Tynan agreed.

“Beware of gimmick promotions that may lead you in the door to join for a small fee and then charge you for any classes you may want, or boost the price after a two to three week trial period,” he said. “Check out other area clubs to compare monthly and yearly membership prices. Also, be aware of what that membership offers you in terms of free classes and use of certain facilities like saunas, steam rooms, pools, etc.”

Look for ‘Red Flags’ on Your Walk-through Visit

OK, so you’re doing your “walkthrough visit” of the gym you’re thinking of joining. Don’t be distracted by the cute trainer who greeted you at the front desk. Take this time to use your senses in an investigative manner, gathering important information that will help you make the right decision.


“Look for a clean environment, a friendly staff, and well-maintained equipment,” Marano advised. “Check the benches and machines for fraying cables and stitching. Look at the cardio machines for wear and tear.”

Be critical, Tynan said, adding, “If a club can't take care of its equipment and facility, there is little chance they can take care of you!”

Marano also suggests scanning the walls for instructors’ certifications through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or ACE. If you don’t see any certifications posted, ask about the personal trainers/fitness specialists’ fitness background.


Do you hear a lot of laughter and visiting going on? That’s a good thing. Who wants to go to a gym that is less than friendly?

Marano also advises that you listen to the equipment that is in use—is it making strange noises like it needs an overhaul? If it is, the equipment is probably in bad shape and in need of repair. Beware!

While your ears are perked up, ask others who are working out if they are satisfied with the health club. Tell them you are considering joining and just wondered if their fitness experience at this gym had been a good one. You can learn much from “a regular.”


Does the health club smell “funky?” If it smells like the dirty sweat socks in the bottom of your hamper, you might want to keep looking at other health clubs. Remember, you want the health club you choose to be inviting and pleasant. If it stinks, you’ll be less motivated to visit regularly.

On the other hand, do you smell a citrus aroma coming from the outskirts of the gym? Follow your nose. It might just lead you to a groovy juice bar, which is a great place to relax and socialize after a hard workout.

Make a List and Check it Twice

When deciding on a health club, there are a few more important details to consider before signing that contract such as the location of the gym to your home or work, its hours versus your schedule, and its equipment versus your fitness goals.

“The location of the gym is very important,” Marano said. “If the health club of your choice is not in proximity to either your place of business or your residence, the chances of you going are slim to none.”

In addition, it’s always a good idea to visit the health club you’re considering at the time when you would normally work out. That way, you can see firsthand how busy the health club is at that particular time.

Lastly, before joining a fitness club, Tynan suggests sitting down, making a list of your fitness goals, and evaluating how they match the club’s offerings.

“Once you know what it is you want to accomplish by joining the gym, I think that makes it easier,” he added. “You can then search out the gym that has the equipment, classes, and staff that will help you in achieving your goals.”

To locate gyms in your area, go to You’ll find a list of quality clubs in your area, directions to the clubs, and membership information. Now, go forth and choose wisely!

This article also ran in the July 2003 issue of Christian Single.

Michelle Medlock Adams is an award-winning journalist, earning top honors from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Hoosier State Press Association. Author of 32 books, Michelle has also written thousands of articles for newspapers and magazines since graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University. Her picture book, Conversations On the Ark, earned her the Barnes & Noble Author of the Month honor in May 2003. In 2006, her books What is Easter?; Why I Praise You, God ; Why I Trust You, God; Why I Thank You, God; What Is Christmas?, and Divine Stories of the Yahweh Sisterhood (which she co-authored with Gena Maselli) debuted. Michelle is also a former certified aerobics instructor and trainer through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AAFA) and a previous health and fitness writer for Christian Single magazine. When not speaking at writers’ conferences, churches, and women’s retreats around the country, Michelle spends time with her husband, Jeff, their two tweenage daughters, Abby and Ally, and their three miniature dachshunds, Maddie, Miller, and Molly Mae in Bedford, Indiana.

Please visit her at  


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