There seems to be a gym on just about every corner nowadays. So, how do you tell if a particular fitness center is right for you?

For most people, the first consideration should be a convenient location. The facility should be close to where you live, work or visit regularly. Most people lead busy lives. Having to spend an extra 30 or 40 minutes going to and from the gym often ends up becoming an excuse to skip workouts when time gets tight. A fitness center can have the fanciest equipment, the trendiest classes or the cheapest rates but none of those things will do you any good if you don't go regularly.

Next, think about what will make you comfortable. If you're middle aged or a senior and feel intimidated by young hardbodies, think twice before joining the club favored by college kids and bodybuilders. If you're overweight and would be uncomfortable exercising around the opposite sex, check out a single-gender facility. If you have health or medical concerns, make sure you feel confident that any fitness center you consider joining can set you up on a workout that is safe and effective for you.

Decide what features are most important to you. Do you want a personalized workout routine? Are classes important to you? Do you need a facility with extended hours? Will you be happy repeating the same basic exercise program month after month or do you want a gym where you have the option of changing your routine? Do you prefer the atmosphere of a big club or a small one? Do rows and rows of equipment excite you or intimidate you? Will you be exercising before work? If so, will you want to shower at the gym? Do you need child care? If you are a lapsed exerciser who really enjoyed lifting weights, can you be happy at a gym consisting solely of 10 or 12 pieces of hydraulic equipment?

Unless you are an experienced exerciser, make sure you find out the qualifications of the instructors and trainers. Unfortunately, there are fitness centers that will hire people with little or no knowledge or experience. People often assume that the big guy they see at the gym knows all about building muscle or that the skinny girl who takes all the classes can help them lose weight. However, for all you know, both those people could just be genetically lucky. Or, unfortunately, Mr. Muscle could also be Mr. Steroid and Ms. Skinny could be Ms. Eating Disorder. A great body does not make someone a knowledgeable fitness professional.
After narrowing your choices down, go take a tour of each facility. The place that seems like the best choice on paper may not be. Do you feel comfortable? Is the staff friendly and attentive or does it seem like they’re just going through the motions? Do they ask about what you want in a gym? When visiting a club, go at the time you intend on using it. Touring a facility at 9:30 AM on a Tuesday doesn’t give you a good indication of the atmosphere or how busy the gym is on Mondays at 5:30 PM.

Determining your priorities before you start visiting clubs will help you ask the right questions and make a more informed buying decision. The more comfortable you feel and the easier it is to integrate exercise into your lifestyle, the more apt you will be to maintain the habit.

Author's Bio: 

Mickey Glick is the owner of Body & Soul Fitness Studio, an all-women fitness center in Lancaster, PA. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1995 and is a certified personal trainer.