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What To Look For When Choosing a Gym

09 Jan 2018

It’s the new year and many people are considering getting their fitness into gear by joining a gym. So what are the benefits of 24-hour gyms versus manned facilities?

Do you belong to a gym? I do. A few in fact. Over the years I’ve been a member of more gyms than I have fingers and toes to count so I like to think I’m a wee bit of an expert. Let me clarify – by expert I mean this as an attendee; I’m not here to give you training advice. I am still working out that for myself. What I would like to do is share with you my thoughts on what makes a good gym. Let me give you some context and perhaps you can work out where you fit on my sliding scale of gymnasium user.  I’ve found that there’s a particular kind of gym that's kept me coming back for more.

Modern Gyms

When I first started attending gymnasiums, there weren't that many around. The odd establishments had a monopoly on their suburbs so for those looking to get fit, you really didn’t have a choice but to sign up and go to that one and only that one. Once you’d spent hours reading pages and pages of terms and conditions (and by ‘hours’, I mean skimmed over like the average person does when presented with such epic documents) you sign the dotted line and off you go. Little did I know, that signature meant I was locked into an iron-clad contract, extremely difficult to get out of or change and I’d go once, twice, three times and that was the end of that. You know, if I had the money back that I paid for all gyms I've never used, I’d be writing this from a yacht moored somewhere on the west coast of Barbados. The early side of this decade saw gym contract laws change and with that came the onslaught of 24-hour gyms on every street corner because of what is tantamount to an almost perfect business model. From an owners perspective, you have limited overheads and the potential to maximise income through memberships. From a user’s perspective, 24-hour gyms give you the flexibility to train at ungodly times of the day or night and more often than not, you find yourself with sole availability to all equipment. Take it from me, at 4am you’re able to sing your lungs out when pounding the treadmill and apart from the steely black singular eye of the security camera, there’s no judgment or stinky side-eyes from other patrons.

So what’s the downside of 24/7 gyms?

Sounds great, right? Well for this writer not so much. A lot of 24-hour gyms have limited staffed times, this can often mean that when the last trainer clocks off at 7pm on a Friday night another one doesn’t arrive until Monday morning. Weekends are busy times for gyms so you can imagine what the cleanliness is like in the bathrooms come Sunday evening. I’ve encountered overflowing sinks, zero bathroom tissue, broken equipment, aggressive punters – all avoidable issues when you have a manned gym. And who do you turn to when you aren’t quite sure what piece of equipment is going to work your deltoids? What about when you attach the hand-held loop to your ankle to work your glutes and get completely twisted up in the rope? Who is going to tell you that the less weight on an assisted dip machine is actually the hardest level you can use it at! I still have the scars to prove that when you're in a 24 hour gym on your own, no one can hear you welp.

Price is right

How do some gyms keep their membership prices so low? See above paragraph. When a facility isn’t manned for a majority of its open time, staff salaries are not an issue. Geographically, high traffic gyms will have greater membership numbers meaning that utility costs are covered even with reasonable membership prices. You’ll often find that operating-hour manned gyms come with high membership costs and it’s up to you to decide what’s most important to your training requirements. The trick is to find a gym with low membership costs, that is manned for the majority of its operating hours and they are definitely out there. In fact, there is one in Preston!

It’s about what works for you

So full disclosure time. I have two memberships. The reason? There is a benefit in both manned gyms and 24/7 gyms. Whilst my preference is the manned, spotless, friendly-staffed gym that I attend every morning, sometimes I just need to smash out a few deadlifts at midnight or get in a quick rowing session on a Sunday morning. And the price of my two gym memberships is still cheaper than the designer gyms of yesteryear (although some do still exist!). If you are considering a gym that offers any unmanned period, it’s important for you to know that by law, these facilities must offer ‘duress lanyards’ a device that you hang around your neck and can use to alert security services should you get into any strife. Most reassuring. It’s also important to resist the temptation of skipping over your contract and allow yourself plenty of time to read all of the small print. Melbourne Polytechnic’s Preston Fitness Centre is available to not only students and staff, but also everyone in the community. Opening at 6 am (manned from 8am) until 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am – 5pm Saturdays (unmanned), you could not ask for a friendlier, more relaxed and spotless training facility. You can find out more and book in for your one-on-one consultation at the Preston Fitness Centre here. Image courtesy of Scott Webb. The image is not of the writer.