Know the fees.
Every gym will have different payment terms. There are almost too many options. You can pay a lifetime fee, a yearly fee, a monthly fee, or maybe a fee for a specified amount of time (e.g. 10-week trial offer).
Believe me, pretty much every gym you will check out WILL have a joining fee which is a one-time fee you will have to pay to join the gym. This is a gimmick but they all charge it. If you find one that doesn't have a joining fee, believe me, the gym is unique. At times a gym will offer either a discounted joining fee or possibly no fee at all. This is unusual but it does happen if the gym is really trying to push membership.
Look for the “fine-print” fees. The gym I currently belong to had something in the contract that was in the fine print. It was a $25 yearly maintenance fee. Most of my fellow members had no clue about this. Believe me, this “out-of-the-blue” fee really upset a lot of members but it was in the contract. Buyer beware!
Know what will be binding.
Most gyms will have you sign at least a yearly contract, unless it is a teaser “trial” offer. But, if you have to leave the gym for some reason you are still bound to the contract and will have to pay for the year. Some gyms may make an allowance for losing your job or being relocated. You may have to show them proof of this in order for them to release the yearly binding contract.
Choose a convenient location.
We all know how tough it is sometimes to actually go to the gym, especially in the morning. To make it a little easier you want to choose a location that is convenient for you. I found a gym that is directly on my route to work as I go very early in the morning. This makes it very easy for me to go to my gym because at least it is on the way I'm heading anyway. I have coworkers who work out a gym that is directly across the street from our place of business. They can even hit the gym on their lunch hour. I chose not to join that gym because their fees were much higher than the gym I attend.
Get to know the gym.
Had to include a pic of the author 🙂Almost all gyms will give you a free guest pass for a day or maybe even for a week. Take advantage of this opportunity! This is EXTREMELY important as it will give you a good feel for the gym and it will allow you to learn all about what the gym has to offer.
Use the guest pass at the same time you will be going.
There is nothing more unnerving than signing a yearly contract and going to work out that first day only to find that the gym is packed. You have to wait for a treadmill and there are lines for each machine. You have to use that guest pass at the same time you will be working out so that you don't have an unpleasant surprise. This is probably the most important advice I can give you because if you dread going to the gym you just won't go.
Talk to other members.
This is another very important tip. Chances are if you have been in the area for a while, you will know someone who goes to that gym. Even if you don't, while you are at the gym, make it a point to stop some of the members and ask them questions that are important to you. You may want to ask them how happy they are with the gym and if not, why not. Members will give you the straight poop while the salesperson will not.
Research the gym's financial viability.
This may not be the highest priority on your list but it is very important. I know of a number of gyms that have folded only to take their members' money with them. This may be a real good reason not to make the lifetime payment or even the yearly payment. The gym across the street from my work shut its doors out of the blue this past summer. The gym was owned by a married couple who were having marital issues. This affected the running of the gym and they had to close it. As far as I know the members didn't lose money but they had to move their workouts to a “sister” gym in a neighboring town. This caused a great inconvenience to some of my coworkers who were members. They not only had to move their workout location but the gym that they moved to became overcrowded as a result. What's the best way to discern the financial viability of the gym? That's a tough one but you can get a pretty decent idea by looking at the equipment and the surroundings. If the carpets are worn and the equipment is in disrepair, ask the management about it. You should also ask management how they are doing financially even though they may not tell you. You should, at minimum, ask what your recourse is should the doors close.(Next post: What you should know “after” you join a gym.)