Chances are that if you’re someone who goes to the gym every week, then you certainly have a friend that wanted to get in shape and eventually got a gym subscription. In most cases, this friend will probably hit the gym for a couple of months and then suddenly quit because he’s bored or simply doesn’t want to keep up with the training routine anymore.
Well, while this is certainly happening to a lot of people, it doesn’t need to be the same for you. Sure, you may think that working out can be challenging and difficult at times, but always remember the reason why you started training in the first place: To lose weight and get in shape. Therefore, if you’re currently looking to get a gym subscription, here are some of the things you need to bear in mind.
What type of gym are you comfortable training in?
In most gyms you’ll find there is workout space for classes, but also rowing machines, exercise bikes, treadmills, cardio equipment, but also weight training equipment. If this is the first time you get a gym membership, then going for a standard gym is highly recommended.
On the other hand, if you’re a woman and are looking for something more specific, then a women’s only gym may be a better choice. These gyms usually have aqua classes, a pool and operate 24h a day. If you’re looking for something a bit more different than what others are doing, such as MMA or CrossFit, then this type of gym may be a good choice to consider.
Here are some of the most popular types of gyms and fitness centres:
- 24-Hour gyms
- Aquatic & fitness centres
- Boxing gym
- CrossFit gym
- Health and fitness club
- Martial arts studio
- MMA & kickboxing gym
- Personal training studio
- Pilates studio
- Weightlifting gym
- Women’s only gym &
- Yoga studio
To learn more about the various types of gyms you can consider, check out our article that covers the best ways of working out depending on the type of gym you go for.
Choosing the right gym for your needs is a very important decision that you have to take, so before you do, keep these things in mind:
- Child minding – If you really need this type of service, then you need to learn more about the booking process, costs involved and availability.
- Fitness support – You need to learn more about whether the gym has a special program in place for beginners and if you’re also going to be training with a personal trainer (at least in the first week).
- Operating hours – It’s especially important that the gym is open when you want to exercise.
- Location – The gym should be located close to where you live. This way, you’ll not have to waste time commuting to it.
- Membership fees: Prior to getting a gym membership, you can search the web to find the best deals in your area. Think about the type of training you’re going to consider and then decide whether its price, location and equipment meet your needs.
- The quality and experience of the personal trainers: Hiring a trainer is important if you want to train properly and achieve your fitness goals faster.
- People: The people frequenting the gym are more important than some may care to admit. For instance, if you just want to get in shape, then you can choose to frequent just about any gym.
- Equipment: Regardless of the gym you choose to go to, the quantity and type of equipment they have is very important. That’s because if there is little equipment and the gym is always crowded, it’s going to be hard to finish your workout on time.
- Food: What you eat directly impacts your health and fitness level. Therefore, be sure to check whether the gym has post and pre workout meals, quality protein shakes and maybe a juice bar at affordable prices.
- Locker/change rooms: Check the lockers. If they look clean, then this shows how much the gym owners care about their clients.
Types of membership
There are quite a few types of memberships you can choose from based on your needs.
A casual membership, which may be a ten-visit pass or a pay per visit session is the best choice to consider as a beginner. However, just keep in mind that not all gyms offer these types of memberships, so you’d have to research a bit in order to find one that does.
You can easily test the equipment and see whether the gym suits your needs or not. A short term membership may also include other services, such as induction, fitness assessment and having a program specifically devised to help you meet your fitness goals.
If you want to sign up for a membership with one such gym, then you’ll need to sign a paid contract and pay a certain fee in order to use its services. On the other hand, be sure that you can cancel the contract at any time without incurring any extra fees.
If you want to save good money on you membership, then paying upfront for a twelve-month membership is highly recommended. There is a risk doing so, because if the gym goes broke, then you’ll lose your money.
Also, even if you enter a twelve-month contract and pay for it every month, you’ll still be locked into the contract. If you want to cancel, you’re going to have to pay a cancelation penalty and/or for the rest of the year.
One thing to bear in mind is that it’s not recommended to pay for more than twelve months in advance, since you’re putting yourself at risk by doing so.
It’s very important that the atmosphere and the people that frequent the gym you’d like to buy a membership from are to your liking. After all, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time there and you need to be in an environment that makes you want to stick to your exercise routine. So before getting a membership, be sure to consider the following:
- The number of free lockers during peak times.
- Security and safety, especially if you go with a 24/7 gym.
- Parking space.
- The condition and cleanliness of the change rooms and showers.
- The condition of the equipment.
- The gym’s atmosphere (whether it’s spacious and airy, if the place has AC, if the air is stuffy or sweaty, etc).
- The way you feel around the people there.
- Whether the TVs, lighting and music are to your liking.
- The staff’s attitude.
The contract’s specifics
If this is the first time you get a gym membership and you must sign a contract, you must read it carefully and see what it covers. Among the many things you need to be aware of, these are the most important:
- Can the contract be transferred to someone else if you don’t want/cannot continue your membership anymore?
- Learn more about the conditions of terminating your membership and ask about any potential penalty fees that may apply. Remember that if you signed a contract, you always need to cancel it in writing.
- Try to find out as much as you can about the cancellation policy. For instance, learn more about the minimum amount of time you need to give the gym notice about your desire to terminate your contract with them.
- If you think you’re going to change your mind, you must check the cooling-off period. Every gym has a specific minimum that you need to abide by, especially when it comes to contracts of at least 90 days. For instance, in most states the cooling off period is forty-eight hours and up to 7 days in the ACT. On the other hand, there are also gyms that have their own cooling off period that may be longer than 7 days. Regardless, certain fees may apply, and you need to learn more about them and if there is a way they can be waived.
- Are there any added fees? The truth is that on top of the membership fees, there are plenty of gyms out there that are going to charge you a wide range of other fees along the way. Some of them may include dishonour or late fees, exit fees, cancellation fees, direct debit fees, but also monthly administration fees and joining fees.
- If you must deal with pushy sales tactics, then run away. A lot of gyms are going to do everything they can to convince people to sign a contract with them. The reason they do this is obviously to lock you in a contract for as long as possible. Once you’ve signed the contract and you want to cancel it (if it’s possible that is), you’re certainly going to have to pay a lot of hefty fees.
If you think you’ve been conned into signing a contract with a gym that you feel has taken advantage of you, then don’t worry about it. Fitness Australia can help you file a complaint and recover your money where possible. However, before deciding to go down this path, it’s highly recommended that you send a written letter to the business voicing your concerns about it. If their answer or resolution is not satisfactory, then you can consider filing a complaint. Filing the complaint is simple and all you need to do is complete this form and then send it to us. If the issue isn’t resolved, you may have to get in touch with the state fair trading office.
Tips to help you choose the best gym or fitness centre for you
Since there are so many gyms, fitness centres and studios out there, as a regular individual you may find it a bit difficult to choose one. After all, there are quite a few things you need to bear in mind and learning about them can take some time as well.
The benefits of joining a gym or fitness centre
What’s great about exercising in a fitness centre is the fact that you are always supervised by experienced personnel. On top of that, you have access to a lot of equipment that can help you perform a wide range of exercises to lose weight, stay in shape, bulk up, etc.
How to choose the right fitness service
You need to do your research and learn more about the fitness services in your area. Always ask questions and don’t be shy of staying for a bit to observe the programs and classes they run. While doing so, you can take notes of the things you like and don’t like.
Vital things to consider:
- Is the fitness centre concerned about the experience of its members and does it actively seek feedback from them?
- Is the fitness centre actively involved in improving its services?
- Can they assess the needs of new members by carrying out pre-exercise screenings?
- Is it easy to get to the fitness centre and is there plenty of parking space?
- Does the centre feature child-minded facilities as well?
- How’s the quality of the equipment?
- Is the fitness centre crowded when you want to attend?
- Is the staff helpful and friendly?
- Is the fitness centre a well-established business?
There are a few things to consider when it comes to the location of the fitness centre, as following:
- Carefully check the centre’s timetables and opening hours to ensure they are open when you want to attend the activities you enjoy.
- It’s particularly important that you choose a fitness club that is close to where you live. If not, then you’re always going to find excuses not to go.
Equipment, programs, and activities
There are quite a few factors you should consider when it comes to choosing a fitness centre, as following:
- Do you require that the fitness centre offer facilities such as a coffee shop, parking, or child minding?
- It’s important that the exercise routine you consider is diverse, since if it’s not, then you’re soon going to get bored and feel tempted to stop training altogether.
- Ensure that the fitness centre has everything you need to achieve your fitness goals.
Staff and support
You need to choose a fitness facility that hires professional and well-trained staff based on the duties they’re going to perform. A few things to consider include:
- Is the facility constantly monitored and supervised? This is especially important in the case of 24/7 facilities.
- Depending on your health status and special needs, can the staff modify the programs, facilities or equipment if required?
- Is the staff properly certified and are their certifications recognized by a relevant authority? When it comes to exercise professionals, they need to hold current registration with a relevant industry association (such as Fitness Australia).
Image and atmosphere
No matter what fitness centre you’ll opt for, you need to ensure the environment and atmosphere are comfortable enough for you. Ask yourself the following: Will working out there make you feel self-conscious about your problem? Will the environment make you feel at ease and relaxed?
Take a tour of the facility and observe:
- The state of the equipment (whether it’s in good working order or not).
- The facility’s amenities and the cleanliness of the change rooms and that of the facility itself.
- The volume and type of music being played.
- The clothing most member’s wear.
- The general fitness level of those frequenting the fitness centre.
- The men/women ratio.
- The age of everyone frequenting the fitness centre.
Join the fitness centre only after you’ve taken a class in it
Before you join a fitness centre, you need to drop by at an hour you’re going to come in the event you’re going to sign for their classes/membership. This will help you decide whether that specific centre is a good pick or not.
No matter the fitness centre you’d like to join, you need to ensure that it operates in accordance with the business and consumer laws imposed by the industry and the government, the fitness industry’s Code of practice and the Code of Ethics. On top of that, if you really want to make sure that you’re going to effectively protect your investment, then you need to sign up for a membership with a centre that is financially sound and has a great reputation.
There are many other features you should consider, as following:
- You need to do some research to learn more about the amount of time the fitness centre has been in business for. The longer it’s been running for, the less likely it is for it to go out of business.
- In the event you’re involved in an accident, you need to have the peace of mind the centre has appropriate insurance to help you cover your medical bills.
- Always speak to current members to learn more about their experience with the fitness centre.
- If a fitness club is well reputed and prides itself with impeccable services, then it needs to be registered with the local council, the YMCA or with Fitness Australia.
There are plenty of benefits to exercising with a registered fitness business, such as:
- If the business is properly registered, then it’s going to go through a wide range of quality accreditation processes and have their accreditation branding clearly displayed for everybody to see.
- A registered business is generally acknowledged as a fitness provider by a wide range of private health insurers. What’s great is that these insurers offer various fitness rebates.
- Usually, registered businesses are properly insured.
- The instructors and trainers working at a registered fitness centre hold a current first aid certificate and have relevant qualifications.
Getting a membership from a fitness service
If you want to start training at a fitness centre, then you need to consider the following things:
- You need to know if you can transfer or suspend your membership, if needed.
- If you change your mind after signing up for a membership, can you get a refund without incurring any penalties?
- Depending on the fitness centre you go for, they may have different payment schedules in place. Because of that, you need to ensure you choose one that suits your needs.
- Are you, as a member, going to be provided with a written set of policies and rules that you must follow while training in the facility?
- Does your membership include a personalised exercise program and a fitness assessment? Will you be training with a personal trainer as a new member and does this involve extra costs?
- Are you going to be charged extra fees for towels and childcare services?
- Learn more about the membership fee and what it includes. Also, be sure to read the membership agreement in full before agreeing to it.
The fitness centre you choose must fully meet your needs
Finally, you should only join a particular fitness club/centre if it fully meets your needs in terms of the activities you can perform there, the equipment available, amenities and cost.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Even if you do get a gym membership, that doesn’t mean you’re going to start working out. So even if you do join a fitness club, you won’t get in shape unless you frequent it regularly.
- If you want to lose weight or get in shape you don’t need to use any type of exercise equipment or machine. You can very well start walking or jogging and still reap some benefits.
- It’s true that even though fitness providers have a wide range of exercise machines and equipment people can use, they are not the best choice for everybody. If you don’t find going to one such club convenient, then you can consider playing a sport, dancing or maybe biking. Furthermore, if that still doesn’t cut it for you, then you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer that offers mobile or outdoor services.
- If you train with a professional, you’ll be able to get results faster.
What you need to keep in mind:
- A reputable fitness centre is either run by the YMCA or registered with Fitness Australia or a similar management organisation.
- It’s especially important that the gym or fitness centre you decide to buy a membership from operates in accordance with the fair business principles set forth by Fitness Australia, the Codes of Practice, and the industry standards.
- You may want to get in shape fast, but if you’re over forty years old, haven’t exercised in a while and you suffer from one or more medical conditions, then you first need to be screened by your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Always take a decision to sign up for a particular fitness club only after you’ve done extensive research about it.
So, what happens if the gym closes down?
Since the marketplace is very competitive, many gyms close down every week. If you’re a member of a gym that closes down, then you’ll lose your membership with little or no hope of ever getting your money back. Even if they do close down, certain gyms may have contingencies in place for their customers.
For instance, in the contract you may have signed with a Virgin Active gym, it’s stated that in the event your Home Club needs to close down, you can easily continue working out at a different club or even opt to terminate your membership on the day the gym closes.
There are plenty of cases where members had to consider changing gyms due to the aforementioned reasons and not everybody finds comfort in this. So, when Carlton’s (Sydney) Lifestyle Fitness gym had to close down, active members were given the choice to continue training at the Erskineville and Marrickville gyms. However, soon after they were informed about the news, the members were very uncomfortable and unhappy about the whole situation. While some of them chose to train at the aforementioned gyms, they soon had to close down as well.
Some people may get lucky and receive invitations from other gyms (that are not affiliated with the facility) to continue their membership with them. While this may sound like great news, some of these gyms may require that you sign a contract with them as soon as your current membership expires.
If all of this isn’t enough to make it up to you, then don’t worry about it. You can easily stop direct debit payments (if this is the way you paid for your membership) by getting in touch with your bank.
However, if you paid upfront for a 3, 6 or 12 month contract, then you need to get in touch with the liquidator or the company itself and recover your money from them. For more advice, be sure to call your state fair trading department.
Members who paid using their credit or debit card may be able to do a chargeback and recover their money this way.
5 excellent tips that can help you get the best gym deal
If you plan on signing up for a gym membership, then January is the best month to do so. The reason? Well, during this time of the year many gyms post attractive New Year specials that are hard to resist. You can also find similar specials in May or on a slow mid-afternoon or a slow morning in the weekends, so be sure to drop by your local gym then and see what they can offer you.
- Be on the lookout for special deals and take advantage of them when they become available. Special deals are generally offered in December/January and during most other major holidays.
- Carefully check what your membership includes and opt out of extras that you don’t require (such as use of towels, pool access, various types of classes, etc).
- By negotiating in person, you’ll easily be able to get a better deal than if you’d negotiate on the phone or on live chat.
- Don’t rush with signing the contract: instead, tell them you need to study it better before doing so.
- Lastly, always shop around in order to learn more about the best deals in your area.
There are many different things to consider before you join a gym. Make sure the gym you choose meets all your needs and is best suited to what you are looking for. Check out reviews, ask friends and family and visit the gyms yourself so you can be sure you find the right place to work out.