Are you thinking about joining a gym for the first time?
Whether you’re a fitness newbie or someone that’s looking to take their training routine to the next level, the gym is a fantastic option. It’s a great way to improve your general fitness and get to where you want to be. But, before you’re ready to start your gym journey, you’ve probably got some doubts lingering, a few questions unanswered. That’s where we come in.
Do I need a gym to get in shape?
The first question you’re likely to have is, 'Do I really need to join a gym to achieve my fitness goals?'
Committing to a gym membership is definitely a decision to be carefully considered. This is especially the case if you need to sign a contract that ties you to an annual membership.
If you love exercising outside (in all weathers) or you’re just happy improving your fitness at home, the gym might not be for you. But if this isn’t working for you, then a gym could be the perfect place to help improve your physical and mental health.
A gym is particularly good for those that want to start exercising, but are not sure what will work best for them. Alternatively, if you’ve reached a fitness plateau then it’s worth considering how a gym can move you further towards realising your fitness goals.
There are lots of practical advantages of joining a gym.
- Access to fitness experts that can help you to plan a fitness routine matched to your personal goals.
- A comfortable, safe and dry ‘all-weather’ environment to exercise and train.
- Specialist equipment designed to help you reach your fitness goals.
- The opportunity to make new friends that could support you in your fitness journey.
- The chance to try new activities in a supportive and encouraging environment.
One of the things that might be holding you back from joining a gym is anxiety. We know that exercising in a public place like a gym can cause personal anxieties to surface in some people. Conquering gym anxiety can definitely be a challenge for new gym-goers, but we’re here to support you.
Why is going to the gym important?
The gains from going to the gym are really defined by what you do when you are there rather than just going. Just buying a gym membership won’t make you fitter. You can exercise anywhere. Gyms, though, are specifically designed to provide a dedicated and well-equipped space for people to do physical exercise. You’ll have access to the equipment, classes and expertise to help you towards your fitness goals.
The gym is a great place to focus on exercising because the environment is geared towards cardio and strength training. Personal trainers, exercise machines and equipment, fitness classes and more all contribute to a place where you’ll feel inspired to exercise.
Gyms are able to provide opportunities to mix up your training routines with a balance of both aerobic and strength training exercises. This combination is great for weight loss and heart health but can also help to prevent bone health conditions and improve balance, flexibility and strength.
Choosing the right gym
Nowadays we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a gym. Although having options is nice, how do you choose the right gym for you? Easy, just follow our five steps:
Step one: Ask yourself: Why the gym?
The first thing to consider is ‘why do I want to join the gym?’ and then make sure your prospective gym meets your requirements.
If you want facilities like a swimming pool then narrow your search in this way. If you are training for a particular sport or discipline, make sure the gym has the right equipment to help with the right group of exercises for that discipline.
- Do they have a good volume of the equipment you're most likely to use often?
- Are there gym classes you're interested in and at the right times for you?
- Check out the credentials of the PTs
It may seem obvious but it should inform your decision when trying to choose between a facility that has the right equipment or facility and one that doesn’t. Now list down all the gyms in your area that fit these criteria. You should now have a list of potential gym options.
Step two: Write down your priorities
Once you have a list of ‘possibles’, it’s time to narrow it down. Write a list of all your ‘must-haves’. These factors are slightly different to ‘would be nice to haves’. List both the ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ down and research the gyms on your list online or, better yet, give them a phone call to find out the answers.
An example of a ‘must-have’ might be that, as a woman, you want to train in a female-only weights room. A ‘nice to have’ might be having access to a steam room and sauna. A ‘must-have’ will determine whether the gym is suitable for you. A ‘nice to have’ isn’t essential for you when thinking about where to go.
It’s important to think about your pre and post-workout needs too. What are the showers, lockers and changing facilities like? Do you want a lot of privacy or are you happy to get changed in an open-access space? You should now be able to whittle your list of ‘possibles’ down.
Step three: Consider location
The location of the gym is very important when trying to choose the right one for you. This will all depend on when you want to use the gym. For example, if you want to go just before or after work (or even on your lunch break), choose a gym that is easily accessible by foot and a short distance away from your place of work.
If you plan on going first thing in the morning or later in the evening you might want to choose a gym that is close to where you live.
In terms of a perfect distance away from either your home or your workplace, this will depend on whether you live in the city or the countryside. Think about all of the uncontrollable contributing factors to how easy it is to get from your home/workplace to the gym and back. Busy roads, traffic lights, road works, schools, parking zones or even the time of day you’ll be travelling can all affect your journey.
Step four: Check out their social media
Gather some intelligence about the gyms on your list by checking out their social media accounts. Lots of people use social media channels to ask questions or even complain. This is a great way to see unfiltered views of each gym you’re researching. You’ll learn some vital info from what people are saying about their experience at the gym. You’ll also be able to gauge how supportive and responsive the gym is by how they answer queries and complaints.
Along with social media channels use other online review sites to see what people are saying about the gyms on your list.
Check Google Reviews, Trustpilot, Yelp and TripAdvisor as-well-as any other review platforms you trust.
Step five: Try out some options
Groupon, Voucher Cloud, Latest Free Stuff and Hotukdeals all offer free or cheap offers for gym try-out sessions. Making the most of any special deals and introductory offers can be a clever way to try out the gym options left on your list before committing to a long-term contract.
Other factors to consider
You should always look around the gyms you are considering. This will help you decide between them. Take particular note of the following:
- How busy is the gym when you visit?
- Are there enough machines to cater for everyone or are there queues to use equipment?
- Are the workout areas spacious?
- Is the lighting too bright or too dim?
- Are there TV screens?
- Is the music volume too loud?
- Are the classes always overbooked?
- How clean are both the changing rooms and the workout areas?
All of the above will shape your experience of using that gym throughout your time there. These things can start to become annoying after a while and even impact your motivation.
Gym fees: How much does a gym membership cost?
The cost of joining a gym can vary widely. Cheap gym membership might cost anywhere between £10 and £50 per month. If you are joining a private health club, expect to pay much more. Fees will depend completely on the gym you are joining, it’s facilities and a number of other factors that can affect the overall cost:
- Initial signing on fee – Some gyms will charge a signing on fee when you first join. This can sometimes cover an introduction session where you learn all about the facilities available to you and how to use the exercise machines.
- Contracts – Most gyms will want you to sign up to a fixed-term contract. This is often set on an annual basis. Some gyms offer rolling contracts where members pay monthly. However, fixed-term contracts often work out cheaper than a monthly rolling contract.
- Off-peak and on-peak – Off-peak gym access tends to cover restricted hours when most people are at work i.e. Monday to Friday 9 – 5. Gyms are often a lot busier outside of the normal Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 working hours. People generally tend to want to avoid these busy times in the gym because the demand for fitness equipment is high and the spaces are more crowded. If you are able to go to the gym during these restricted hours, off-peak could be the package for you. It’s also a lot cheaper too.
On-peak gym access covers the busier times such as weekday evenings and weekends. On-peak hour access is often more expensive than off-peak. Having both on and off-peak access to your gym is normally the most expensive form of gym membership.
- Just a gym or swimming pool too – Your gym package can include access to a swimming pool too although this normally costs more. Some gyms offer discounted rates for swimming sessions to gym members.
- Exercise classes - Your gym package could include free fitness classes or early bird booking for any classes that are run. Sometimes gyms do charge for the fitness classes but they’ll probably offer discounted rates to gym members.
How do I join the gym
Once you have found the right gym and a package that suits your needs and routine, call ahead to book a meeting with them to discuss joining.
An important aspect of joining the gym is thinking about how you might use it.
- How many times a week will you go?
- Do you plan on just using the gym or do you want access to fitness classes and personal training sessions too?
- Do you want to use the swimming pool too?
- What time of day do you plan to visit the gym?
Knowing these details will help you to avoid being talked into an expensive deal that doesn’t suit your availability or needs.
Joining the gym normally requires you to sign a contract (either fixed or rolling) in which you commit to paying the membership fee. Some gyms allow you to pay for the whole term in one payment, others allow for monthly payments. Once you have signed the contract you are now a member of that gym.
Energybase Health & Fitness Gym
Energybase gym and pool is operated by Student Central for the benefit of all University of London attendees, as well as the surrounding community.
We have different memberships available depending on whether you're a student, alumni, University of London staff, NHS/ Wellcome Trust staff or public user.
Our facilities include a 60 station fitness suite, 33m swimming pool, up to 50 fitness classes per week, remedial treatments, a sports hall and a multi-purpose studio. Membership of Energybase includes unlimited use of the fitness suite, swimming pool and classes.
Contact us today to learn more about our membership options.