Gym with elliptically
Credit: Wiki commons
Getting a gym membership can be an anxiety inducing process.  There are a lot of factors to consider and the sales process can be pressure-packed.  Having previously worked in gym membership sales, I understand this process fairly well, and understand what you should consider before making this commitment.  In this article, I will walk you through the considerations you should make before buying, what to expect when you walk in the door to sign-up, and how to determine what membership is right for you.


The first consideration when picking a gym should be location. If the gym isn't convenient, you are considerably less likely to use it, so this an important part of the decision.  Pick a location that is either close to your home or place of work.  The most common times to workout are before and after work, so your gym should be close to either where your commute begins or ends.  Ideally the location would be somewhere within walking distance of these places, so that you never have to worry about parking.  Gyms near your workplace are good if you tend to workout after work and on the weekdays.   If you tend to workout on the weekends and mornings, picking a location near your home is usually best.  


The facility must have everything that you need in order for this to work.  The key is quantity.   If you like a certain activity, make sure there are lots of the equipment you like to use.  You will be competing for that equipment during peak workout hours, so make sure there is plenty available. 

Do you like to lift?  Make sure there are lots of free weights, benches and racks.  
Do you like to run?  You want to have more treadmills than you care to count. 


Getting the right price for your membership can be the most frustrating part of this process.  Gym memberships sales is not unlike car sales.  Most of the sales people are on commission and are trained and incentivized to be aggressive.  The important thing to do is be patient and only buy what you need.  Big gyms will often have multiple membership types: one gym, multiple gyms, packages with personal training, or restricted schedule (i.e - Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat).  In most cases, they will ask you to pay enrollment fees along with first and last month's dues.
The costs are set by the corporate offices and while they vary between plans, they can't be waived by the sales people.  Some gyms may offer to allow you to space out the enrollment fees over multiple months.  You will have to push hard to get this, as the sales team makes less money that month if they have to space out their commissionable money. 

The Sign-up Process

Here is what to expect when you go in for your membership.  When you walk in the door and say that you would like to join, the front desk will ask you to fill out a customer information form so that they can learn about you and possibly follow up later.  Be careful if they ask you to list any friend phone numbers, because they WILL be called.  The information gathering is preparation for your tour and sales pitch.  This is part of the process and can't be avoided.  Expect it to take 30 to 40 minutes.  Even if you came in with a "free pass" for the week, you are going to have to go through their tour and pitch.  
The sales person will sit you down to learn more about you, using the form you just filled out, and then you'll go on a tour of the gym.  After the tour, you'll look at membership options.  Be prepared to see several options. They will usually start with the option with the most upfront cost and additional services like personal training, and then work you through to the least costly services. If your patient, they may reserve a couple off-the-book options if your not willing to sign up right away.  Make sure you see all the options before buying.  Be prepared for some hard-selling tactics like the "manager hand-over."  They may call in a manager to assist with the sale if you don't commit to buying anything that day.  The manager may try to incentivize you with some of the off the books options with less up front cost.  Once you've got all the options, its time to make your choice.

Membership Options

Here are my opinions on the type of membership you should get:
  • Low Rate: Focus on getting lowest monthly rate, as it makes sense in the long term. Often the upfront costs are usually higher, but its worth it if you stay at a gym for 2 years or more.
  • One Gym: Multiple gym options are usually unnecessary unless there is gym near your home and workplace.  Most people only workout at one place out of habit and convenience.
  • Personal Training Options: If you are new to working out, personal training may make sense, because knowing how to work out is what makes your gym membership useful.  You don't need to commit to this upfront, you can always add personal trainer sessions later.
Hopefully this helps you with the process of getting a gym membership.  Take the time to find a good location, scope out the facility, and walk through all the options.  Just remember, you don't have to buy anything that day; make the decision once you are ready.  Good luck with finding your gym!