10 Do’s and Don’ts to Consider Before Joining a Gym This New Year!

new-years-resolution-gymAs we enter the height of the resolution season, gyms and fitness centers across the country will see an influx of new and new again fitness enthusiasts. As a gym owner with over 20 years of experience in the industry, I write this to help unmask the gimmicks of the fitness industry and guide those that want to join a fitness center on the right way to start and not get trapped.

# 1 Do Not Pay and Enrollment Fee
If the fitness center or gym has an enrollment fee, ask them why? Is there really a cost to signing up? This is simply a way of grabbing a few extra bucks at the beginning of your membership and paying a commission to the salesperson for signing you up. An enrollment fee is typically there to use as an incentive (see #3 and 5) tool for the sales staff. You will most likely hear “If I can waive the enrollment fee, can I get you to sign up today?” If that’s the case then then enrollment fee is fake and paid by only a few who get bulldogged by the salesperson.

#2 Do Not Join If The Gym Writes Its Rates on a Blank Sheet of Paper
If the gym does not have printed rates than that’s the first indication that everything is negotiable. It also means that you should expect to be standing in the locker room after you join and hear that the guy next to you just joined for less than you and in the summer when membership is slow and the “Corporate Owned” gym needs to make its numbers then people will be joining for a lot less

#3 Do Not Join on Your First Visit
First visit close numbers are tracked hard by sales driven gyms and salespeople are both rewarded and bonused on this. They know that they won’t service you for much more than 30 days and if they get you committed today you will still pay for however long they signed you up for. You need time to see if the gyms culture is a good fit for you. Ask one question when you visit, “How will I get results in your gym?” Most of you will ask, “How much? and How long?, and “when are classes, hours etc.” None of that really matters unless we can craft your visits to get you results. If the salesperson can’t answer that then they probably have no background in fitness and are just really good at sales.

#4 Do Not Take the “FREE” Personal Training Service as an Incentive
When a gym says we offer a free personal training session that means that they are going to throw you to a trainer who will assess whether or not you are financially capable of spending a few hundred dollars a month with them. If you are not then they will show you a few machines and point to the cardio and kick you out on the floor. They may even give you a card with those machines written in order so you can track your workouts which you never will.

#5 Do Not Join because there is A Join Today Incentive
This is akin to the car salesperson asking “What can I do to get you in this car today.” You know you need to do something to improve your health and they know that if you walk out without joining they don’t have a way to get you back in. This hard close tactic is called fear of loss and you should run away if you ask, “Can I still get this if I came back next week?” and the answer is no.

#6 Do find out who owns the gym?
If the gym is a chain/franchise/corporate owned facility then you will be dealing with high staff turnover, a quota driven sales and training staff and 1-800-WHO-CARES phone number for your billing issues. Locally owned and operated facilities are always a better choice but ask if the owner actually works at the gym or better yet do they workout in the gym. Hands on beats offsite corporate direction any day.

#7 Do Try the Gym for Free.
Unless you are currently exercising and the gym is exactly what you want or have a bunch of friends that are currently members of the gym and recommend it, (side note: don’t join because that one friend wants you to help them go and don’t join because a few friends are members but never go) then you need time to evaluate if it’s a good fit for you. A trial membership lets you see the gym as it will be after you have joined when the salesperson isn’t guiding your experience. You get to meet other staff, other members and see the gym for what it is. How crowded is it when you want to use it, how clean is it kept, is the equipment in good repair, how does the staff behave when you are “just a member” and not a prospect.

#8 Do Take Advantage of the Free Session to Plan Your Results.
Fitness program design should be done on a hierarchy based on the results that you are trying to achieve. i.e. if your goal is weight loss, specifically fat loss then there is a specific strategy to follow to get those results.  The gym you choose should have a process to help you get started that ideally should be conducted by one person. The process should be 1/3 strategy, 1/3 assessment and 1/3 practical application.

Strategy= What results do you want to achieve here over the next 90 days and this is how you are going to achieve those results including, areas of the gym to use, classes that fit that goal, nutrition advice etc.

Assessment= How does your body react during the 7 different movement patterns? This allows us to properly prescribe exercises that are safe and effective. Most new members have lifestyle issues such as tight hamstrings, poor shoulder mobility and weak glutes and core muscles. If we don’t assess this how can we put you through an exercise program?

Practical Application= These are the exercises that will help correct the lifestyle issues you are dealing and the types of exercises you need to do when you come to the gym on your own.

If you are tossed to the next trainer that has ups, your assessment is financial based on how ready are you to buy training?

#9 Do Ask to Take a Copy of a Contract Home Before You Sign Up.
This allows you to read all the terms, fine print and specifics to the membership contract. What are the cancellation policies, can you freeze the membership, what are the gym rules, any other fees charged? Use caution here because no matter what was said it’s what’s in writing that matters.

#10 Do get specifics on how you can pay.
Most gyms collect dues automatically through an EFT or credit card charge. You should be able to pick the day of the week you want your payment to come out. If you don’t want to give your financial info you may be able to pay monthly for a higher fee. Also be wary of the bi-weekly trick. This allows gyms to show a lower rate but actually charge you more. For instance, the gyms rates are verbally communicated at $39 per month and the dues are charged bi-weekly at $19.50. This seems reasonable except that this actually nets the gym an extra month’s payment in a year since they will collect 26 payments instead of 24.