January 17, 2017


4 things to consider before joining a new gym


I hope you have gained some benefit from my first two articles of the year and that they are giving you plenty of help and advice towards your health, fitness and mindset goals for 2017.

By now I am sure you are working your way through the eight steps I mentioned two weeks ago and you probably have a few of those points nailed down as daily habits at this stage.

In last week’s piece I gave you the pros and cons of both commercial gyms and personal trainers and today I plan on staying along a similar path which might just help you out even further on what plan to go with for the year ahead.

With so many options, here are four basic things you should look for when deliberating over which gym to join.

First of all, what you need to do is perhaps audit 2016.

Look at what you enjoyed, what went well and what didn’t go to plan. This will set you up on really choosing the right path and not allowing you to go down the same route that may not have went to plan again.

Time and time again I used to see the same faces every January in the commercial gym sign up for the annual 12-month ‘special offer’ membership and come March they were nowhere to be seen.

There are many reasons for this: perhaps you got lazy and unaccountable, perhaps the training or gym you choose just wasn’t for you and it turned into a chore. Or perhaps you weren’t making much progress towards your goal or you just became totally bored with the whole thing.

I’ve said before you need to find a path that suits you best and one which will keep you on track working towards your goal.

What you ideally should do is find the right gym or trainer that is going to cater for your needs. A lot of the time people fall into the trap of signing into a place just because they are under a brand, or they seem to have the lowest price, or the best of equipment or even a big presence on social media.

Ignore all of that and focus on these key things to look out for.

Let me start these couple of points by mentioning this information really is for the individual who wants to improve their fitness and is willing to put some work in.

If you are the person looking for saunas or jacuzzi as top of the list when joining a gym this may not be the article for you.

1. Assessment

Upon joining you should have the option to be assessed with a trainer.

This means you should have the option to sit down with a trainer, talk over your goals and that allows the trainer to get a fair idea of what you want from joining the facility they work in.

A lot of the time I have seen people being shown around the gym, been shown how to stop/start the cardio equipment, receive a very easy and generic programme and that’s that.

Any client I work with sits down with myself and I generally screen them for everything from goal setting to mobility work to body composition to lifestyle factors. It’s all important.

Then there is discussions about previous fitness regimes, injury history and nutrition advice. Getting all this information covered from day one really is the most important part to get the ball rolling. It’s about putting the building blocks in place.

2. Find the right trainer

Most commercial gyms now have a large selection of trainers. Along with that there are now many freelance personal trainers out there attached to privately owned gyms.

Some are relativity cheap to join whereas some can run from €80 per month all the way to €180 per month, although cost shouldn’t be the driving factor behind your decision.

I am a big believer that you do get what you pay for. The gym staff, coaches or trainers should look the part and behave like a trainer.

They should show passion about what they do, be professional on all levels and bring excitement and energy to the session. They should motivate clients, know each and every one of their client’s goals and ensure that goal is achieved.

3. Gym layout

It’s great to see a lot of the big commercial gyms starting to keep up with the trends and shifting their focus on laying out the gym floor the right way.

Long gone are the days of hundreds of resistance isolation machines taking up space on the gym floor and now we are starting to see people focus a lot more on movement, mobility, flexibility, strength work and on their core.

A good layout in a gym is having access to squat racks, barbells, kettlebells, dumbells, resistance bands and other mobility tools such as foam rollers and lacrosse balls.

That equipment above might not sound a lot to some people but it means you can really put together a good workout with a strong emphasis on developing strength on the basic movements.

I covered these top five movements in a previous article and you can find them here.

Having extras like some open-turfed space, battle ropes, plyometric boxes, suspension trainers, prowlers, rowers and assault bikes will allow you to get some good conditioning work in too.

4. Community, programming and coaching

Having a large selection of classes can be good for some people.

It can hold you accountable and it’s a good social aspect and a nice way to make new friends.

I have been to a number of facilities that have a strong sense of community about them. Having a community in a gym is important.

It’s nice to be part of a gym where people know each other and is a place where you don’t feel intimidated. It should be a place that you should enjoy going to and place where you mean something and should be held accountable.

If you are looking for programming or coaching advice you are going to need to source a trainer for that. Like the point above you need to find the right trainer.

Different people have different goals. A lot of the time the group classes offered in most gyms won’t cater for a certain individual and are really very generic.

Your programme should be catered to your goal, your body, your training age, your strengths and your weaknesses.

I hope you’ve found this information useful and if you need any more advice you can pop me a direct message from the links below.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.