Your gym should be a place that gets you going – if not, it’s time you start looking into other options. And there's always another place around the corner.
When you’re heading into a dirty gym with unhelpful employees who do nothing about that broken treadmill for weeks, all while hordes of new people flock to the gym hogging the equipment you want to use while paying a fraction of your membership fees, it’s obvious they’re not doing enough for regular exercisers like you.
Here’s a list of 10 warning signs to watch out for.
1) Broken equipment not getting fixed in time
Before deciding to get your membership, you had a look around the gym to see what kind of machinery and equipment they had. You didn’t join thinking you would never be able to use some of it. As soon as something breaks, the staff should take notice and take strides to get it fixed as soon as possible. Even if it isn’t a piece of equipment you usually use, or if there are other working machines, it reflects poorly on a gym if something is out of commission for more than a few days. “Nowadays, you can get parts over night and service people in a day or two,” trainer Mike Duffy says. “So if your treadmill is out for more than a week or your lat pull-down cable has been twisted around the weight stack for weeks it's time to look for a new gym.” Duffy goes on to say that this is often a sign of an apathetic gym owner or of a gym that simply cannot afford the repairs and may go under soon. Either way, it’s a sign to take your workouts elsewhere.
2) Equipment Is Chosen For “Trendiness”
Don’t get caught up in appearances while judging a gym. As mentioned before, make sure it’s clean, but you should also be able to make the distinction between what equipment is there to create a glossy exterior for casual exercisers and what equipment will actually get you in shape. “The equipment that actually gets the job done isn't always sexy,” trainer Greg Robins says. “Barbells and squat racks are the foundation of strength training. However, most gyms have maybe 4 barbells and only a single rack!” If your gym neglects machines that have proven their worth over the course of fitness history in favor of newly invented machines, tread mills pointed at flat screen TVs and juice bars, the gym may be trying to get more money by seeming cool than by trying to get you in shape.
3) There’s No Open Space
Your gym might have a ton of great equipment, but is there enough room to use it? There are plenty of machines that won’t require a huge amount of space, but you’ll also want the freedom to move without worrying about smashing into another person or machine. “A good training environment will have the space allotted to not only move weight in place but also to push it, carry it, drag it, throw it, and so on,“ Robins says. A gym cluttered with equipment is overkill – allotting space for movement should be a huge priority. A gym overbooked with members can be even worse, since you won’t want to jostle past people or feel hindered in any way as you move around. Basically, if your gym makes you feel claustrophobic, find a way out!
4) Bad Employee Attitudes
Gym employees should be welcoming and ready to help you with whatever questions or requests you may have. Even if you tend to be the kind of guy who flies solo or with just a couple friends, the staff should be friendly and take notice of who you are, how long you’ve been a member and how often you come in. Take it as a huge warning sign if employees are tentative to help you out, put off a negative vibe or just seem to sulk on the job. It’s mostly going to be you or a trainer pushing your body to get stronger, but you also deserve a bit of moral support from the staff.
5) Lack of equipment you like to use
This is a simple one to consider, hopefully before you ever agree to any sort of membership. Have a look around before you sign onto anything, and don’t let your frugal tendencies overtake you. Plenty of gyms are overpriced, but that doesn’t mean you should turn to the suspiciously cheap one as an alternative. If the person on staff trying to get you to sign up tells you the gym will expand soon and get new equipment you hope to use, ask around a bit and see if this is a promise they’ve been making for a while. If so, avoid it, or best of luck running on a rickety treadmill for the next bunch of months on your membership.
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6) A dirty gym
Gyms are filled with sweaty people pushing themselves to the limit. When you lie back to do a bench press, there’s no telling how many guys have done the same that day, and it’s unsettling when it’s obvious that no one’s wiped down the bench since the last guy lifted. That’s just one example though – there are tons of things that need cleaning and the gym should be employing a diligent staff that makes sure everything is constantly being disinfected. A gym crowd is normally healthier than the general population, but you never know who could be sick or have come into contact with someone with a virus, and you don’t need to be sharing their germs anyway. Just look for the obvious things: “Dust balls for days, soap scum on the shower walls, sweat marks on the treadmills and holes in the carpet,” Duffy says. “These are all signs of a dirty gym. If these are things you can see imagine the things you can't see!” If they can’t keep up appearances, they’re probably not sanitizing the equipment – you can do better.
7) Membership expenses that are greater than the gym is worth to you
Not every gym is worth the money it costs. For some lucky people, money doesn’t pose much of an issue, leaving only quality and proximity to be considered. However, for most people, it’s a good idea to really weigh the pros and cons of every gym in the area within a comfortable distance. That list should include the positives and negatives for you personally – maybe the gym you pay for boasts a good price considering it has a full rock wall, but why pay that much if you only used it a few times in the last year? For some, the glossy look of a state-of-the-art facility is enough to draw them in and keep them there, but if you don’t see yourself using most of the equipment they have to offer, it might not be worth it to you. Go for something more basic and economical if you find yourself using equipment you’ve seen in every gym you’ve ever been to, or consider ditching your membership altogether if you’re getting good results with little to no equipment workouts.
8) Pricing that does not take care of the people who take care of the gym
Some gyms don’t understand the idea of taking care of their longtime customers first. As important as it is to gain new members and expand the business, they can’t do it at the expense of the regulars who have supported the gym for several months or years. Duffy puts this problem perfectly: “Imagine being a member of a facility for years and paying $60 per month. Hey, everyone has a right to make money and you never had a reason to question it. But imagine one day you walk into the gym and you cannot get onto a treadmill because they are all taken by new faces. Then you find out that these new faces all came in on a "deal or promotion" and are only paying $19.99 per month.” If your gym has an ongoing problem with running promotions that allow new people to walk in for practically nothing, all while leaving you high and dry and with less equipment to use, it’s time you got out. They’ll learn their lesson when the n00bs drop their memberships before their rates go up, leaving them with fewer customers than they had in the first place.
9) High Pressure Sales Tactics
Some gyms have crazily crafted contracts that rope you into a full year’s worth of membership payments before you’ve ever put on shorts. Duffy describes some of these as “contracts that OJ Simpson’s attorneys couldn’t get you out of.” Watch out for this before you ever join a gym in the first place. If a contract includes several paragraphs of legal jargon making it incredibly difficult to leave the gym and stop making monthly payments, that often means the gym doesn’t have confidence in the product they’re providing for you, and it may also mean they don’t believe in your dedication to fitness. Try to find a gym that allows you to have a trial run, will allow you to sign on for shorter membership contracts and will understand if you have to cancel due to a move or some other extenuating circumstances. “You will want to be a part of something where there is a bright, clean, well maintained, friendly atmosphere with a lot of positive energy that is fairly priced,” Duffy says. “And, if they keep this up over time, why would you ever want to leave?”
10) You’re the Strongest Person There
First of all, if you’ve gotten to this point, congratulations. However, if you’re the strongest person at your gym, what chance do you have of getting much stronger? By taking a look around, you’ll think of yourself as the benchmark of fitness. You’ll be tempted to coast until you see other people putting in the same effort and getting similar results. Robins suggests to move on if this is ever a problem. “You are the product of your environment, and unless staying stagnant and mediocre is your goal, then you will seek out a place where people are better than you,” he says. Even if you don’t care about being competitive with other people in training, it’s still important to be around stronger people with more experience. Hopefully, they’ll motivate you to keep moving forward and give you some idea of how to go about doing that.