It’s an all too common tale: A person joins a gym with every intention of visiting it each day on their quest to get in shape. Then life happens—they hit the snooze button, they have to work late, the babysitter cancels. Before they know it, two weeks have passed and their membership card is collecting dust in their wallet.
Sound familiar? Luckily, there are things you can do to stay motivated—both while choosing a gym and after you’ve joined—and maximize the benefits of your membership.
CHOOSING A GYM
Look at the amenities
If you need variety to stay motivated, join a gym with lots of machines and classes, and possibly other amenities like a pool and racquetball courts. But if you just want to sweat it out for 30 minutes, a smaller gym that offers only machines and free weights would be a better—and significantly cheaper—option. If you have kids, also look for a gym that offers on-site child care while you work out.
Pick one with a convenient location
If you plan to exercise on your lunch break or after work, choose a gym near your office. (Once you go home, you’ll find a million excuses not to head back out.) If you’d rather work out in the mornings or on weekends, a gym close to home is better. Try to stay within three to five miles of your chosen location, so you won’t be tempted to skip your workout when you’re pressed for time.
Consider the gym’s hours
If your schedule is scattered, you’ll probably need to join a 24-hour gym, or one with long hours. But if you plan to work out at around the same time each day, save your money and join a gym with more limited hours. Just be sure to visit the gym during the hours you’ll be working out to get a feel for how busy it is and what’s available at that time. If you go on your lunch break and need to wait 30 minutes for a cardio machine, you’ll never get a good workout!
Study the contract
When you first visit the gym, don’t sign a contract on the spot. Take it home and read the fine print. Make sure you agree with all prices and terms before signing.
AT THE GYM
Use your free personal-training session
Many gyms offer a free one-on-one session with a personal trainer when you join. Take advantage of that session. It will typically include a personal fitness evaluation and a personalized workout routine. Ask the trainer to show you the proper techniques for any exercises with which you are unfamiliar.
Mix up the machines
If you always use the treadmill, you’ll get bored and stop seeing results. So take advantage of all of the machines at your gym—the stationary bike, the elliptical, etc.—to work different muscle groups and get a more well-rounded workout.
Group fitness classes such as spinning, Pilates, and kickboxing can be intimidating if you’ve never done them before. But they can also be a lot of fun and give you a great workout. So remember that even the most advanced students were once beginners, snag a spot in the back if you can, and take the plunge! You may make new friends and discover a new exercise that you love.
Keep it up
The more time you allow to lapse between gym visits, the harder it will be to get back into your routine. So try not to let more than a couple of days go by between visits. It helps to plan gym visits with a friend, who can hold you accountable when you try to skip a workout.