We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

What To Look For When Joining a Gym

young man and woman with barbells doing shoulder press squats in gym
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Cost is an important factor when choosing a gym, but it’s not the only one. There are sometimes compelling reasons to pay more. Here are a few things—besides monthly fees—to consider when joining a gym.

Location, Location, Location!

Don't get a gym that's in the middle of nowhere

A gym that’s close to work or home is obviously more convenient, but that convenience can be vital to your experience. When you’re first getting started, it seems like any little excuse (“I don’t feel like driving across town!”) is enough to break your motivation. Having somewhere close by removes that impediment.

Even if you’re already in the habit of going to the gym, it’s easy for things like a busy week or inclement weather to break your routine if you just can’t take the time to get there. And when your routine gets thrown off, it’s easy to start falling behind or eventually find you’ve stopped going altogether.

Everyone’s daily commute and routine are going to be different, but spending an extra few bucks for a gym that’s right along your normal path makes life that much easier, and gives you one less excuse.

Included Classes

Sign up for in-person classes if you're just starting out

If you haven’t so much as looked at a dumbbell, don’t dive in and start flinging weights around. You’ll waste your time, and most certainly injure yourself. Look for gyms that offer classes in the kinds of training that interest you.

Some memberships include classes in their base cost, while others may offer them for an additional fee. Either way, take advantage of the courses your gym offers, especially if you’re just starting. You can get a general idea of exercises to do from YouTube videos, but an in-person instructor is going to much better to make sure your form is correct. This will let you get the massive gains without ending up in the hospital.

Even if you’re self-sufficient at the weight rack, it’s always good to have someone check you from now and then. Some gyms will offer periodic assessments, so you can more easily see your progress over months and years. Knowing you’re not on track is the best way to get back on track, and knowing you’re doing well will motivate you to keep going.

Other Amenities

You may prefer a more expensive gym that offers more amenities

Most gyms offer a changing area; even cheaper ones will likely have at least one shower. More expensive locations may offer smoothie bars, tanning beds, and other niceties. These won’t necessarily make you fitter, but if they interest you, you might as well only pay one monthly subscription.

If your gym is close enough to your home, you can save a bit of money by just showering at home. But if you go to the gym on your way to work, you’ll want to pay to make sure you can clean up before going to the office.

Does The Gym Offer a Variety of Equipment?

Different muscles need different exercises, and any good gym will offer a bunch of machines so you can target different parts of the body. Even when you look within a certain muscle group, there will be different machines that can target different parts of the muscle, and keep you and your body from getting bored. Even when you get into a rhythm and see improvements over a few months, you may want to try different equipment to improve that much more.

Being in a gym with a variety of equipment also comes in handy when the gym gets full. I usually enjoy a smaller gym, but waiting in line because all the benches are taken gets old quickly.

Do You Even Need a Gym Membership?

It may be cheaper in the long run to buy your own equipment

If your workout is mostly (or all) cardio, it doesn’t make sense to pay for access to weights and machines you won’t use. The cost of a gym membership adds up over time, and your monthly subscription could instead go to a nice bicycle, treadmill, or something else for your home. Or better yet, just run on trails near you and save even more money.

Even if you do like lifting weights, you don’t necessarily need to pay each month to get to the gym. Extra space in your home can be used as your workout room, and not paying $30+ each month will quickly pay for your own equipment. Check around at garage sales or resale sites, and you can save even more money.

Tom Westrick
Tom Westrick is a freelance writer for How-To Geek and its sister sites. He has been poking and prodding at electronics since he was a teenager, and he's been writing about technology since 2014. When he's not writing about technology, Tom is a Tier-1 Help Desk Technician, songwriter, and guitar player. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on one thing: making your life outside of work even better. Want to know more?