January, if you own a box gym, is by far one of your best months. New Year’s resolutioners are the typical population generally thought of to flood the gyms of the area, though I think many people make the New Year a new start whether it’s a resolution or not. But I digress.
So how do you find a new gym? Let’s say you’re looking to start training and working out or you just moved to a new area and you need a new training home.
Below are a couple of key points to aide in your quest. Note that these are entirely my opinions, though said opinions are based on 14 years of training and the many, many gyms I’ve stepped into over the years.
Actual Free Weights
Here is where I am strongly biased: if a gym doesn’t have Olympic barbells, weight plates, dumbbells (up to at least 100lbs), squat racks, and the allowance of deadlifting, they’re not in the business of encouraging strength but only perpetuating the mediocrity of human fitness. I’m not saying that gyms shouldn’t stock machines (cardio or weight), buuuuut strength happens though discomfort. Most weight machines are designed to be “comfortable” and confine the body to movements that it doesn’t actually perform in real life. I can sense a rabbit hole of a rant coming on, so I’ll stop there and conclude with this: pick up heavy junk. That’s how you get stronger and actually make a difference with your body.
The gym is not a club. It’s not there to help you pick up a date, flirt, converse for 30 minutes, or leer at other trainees. A gym that has more people yakking than training is not a conducive environment for staying on task. True story: I was a member at a gym that virtually turned into a club after 5pm (shimmery workout clothes, techno club music, and dudes trying to pick up ladies while doing bicep curls…) and it was horrible. I never made the mistake of going there again after dusk.
I’m all for rust and some dirt. I don’t expect a gym to be immaculate, in fact, that’s kinda weird to me. If a gym is being used regularly, it will have seemingly perpetual dirt in the corners and hard-to-reach areas. Dust and dirt on the floor, assuming it’s not excessive, is acceptable from a place where dozens of people walk daily. That said, the bathrooms should be clean (always), there should be the tools necessary to wipe off benches (and it should be encouraged and done so by the staff… no one wants MRSA), the equipment should be kept in working order and stored in a logical and safe manner, and members should be told (or better yet, just know) that they need to put their equipment back.
Above all though…
It should be somewhere that you will go to train consistently. All these other points are moot unless it’s a place where you actually show up to train. The gym that you DON’T go to will serve only to drain your bank account with its monthly membership.
Find a gym. Train 2-3x/week. Repeat.