Choosing the Right Gym – 8 Steps to Guide Your Selection

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Sounds familiar to you? There are just too many offers and promos out there when it comes to joining a gym, and I’ve heard enough. It’s upsetting when some of them are misleading and only make it tougher for you to decide… so here are some pointers to help you choose a perfect gym you can call home. ๐Ÿ™‚

Choosing the right gym has a huge impact on how well you adhere to your fitness program – for example, if it’s really out of the way but cheap, what are the odds you’ll be going regularly? A health club membership isn’t something you buy and don’t use – instead, the more you use it, the more you will get back, and the better value you get out of it.

So before you decide to sign on that membership contract, it only makes sense that you also ‘shop around’ first. Attractive prices and promotions can be tempting, but COST and the HOT female salesperson or front desk girl IS NOT everything when it comes to choosing the right gym for you.

FIRST, narrow down your selection to a few potential health clubs that you like, and then take the following suggestions into consideration (in no particular order) to guide you in making the right choice:


For you to adhere to your fitness routine and not find it a hassle to workout – going to the gym needs to be convenient for you. You’re more likely to use a club if it’s close to your home or workplace. You won’t go if it’s far away, or if you have to constantly endure traffic jams just to get to workout. If you join a club that isn’t convenient for you, you’ll eventually find an excuse to stop going. When I first joined Fitness First back in 2003, it was less than a 5 minute drive from my workplace, and it still is – but the nearest one from my home was 20 km away. But now that there’s a new Fitness First in Bukit Tinggi, Klang – the gym is 5 minutes away from home too. I’ve now got the best of both worlds. Lucky me.


Make sure you ‘test drive’ the gym BEFORE you sign up. Sales people / Membership Consultants / Sweet Young thing, or whatever you call them – are well trained to hype up the benefits of the gym, so it is essential that you yourself actually try out some of the equipment and get a feel of the actual atmosphere BEFORE you sign up. You’ll need at least a day pass to try out the gym and decide for yourself before you sign up.

Check the gym’s website for a day pass – almost always given out for free. Come at the same time you plan to come in the future, get changed, work out, maybe try a class, have a shower, relax, and then go home. Then, you decide.


When you tour the club, pay attention to details. How clean is the facility? Is the music too loud? Are all the equipment in working order? Too many ”out of order” signs may indicate poor maintenance. Are new members provided with a club orientation and instruction on how to use equipment? Make sure the club is a place where you would enjoy spending time, cos if you don’t – once again, it’s only a matter of time before you start making excuses not to go.


This is depends on one’s personal preference – if group classes are what gets you going and motivated, then find a gym that offers a good mix at a time that suits your schedule. Some fitness centres have classes as early as 7AM – so there’s always something for someone out there. Personally for me, even if the group studio comes crashing down, it wouldn’t really affect me because it’s just not my thing, but it may be for you.


A decent gym must have CERTIFIED Instructors/Personal Trainers. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) recently recommended that gym owners only hire personal trainers with certifications from agencies accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or an equivalent accrediting organization. These include: the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); American Council on Exercise (ACE); The Cooper Institute; National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM); National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF); National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT); and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Credible certification will ensure you get a trainer that meets the guidelines to provide a safe and effective workout. For something us Malaysians can relate to – it is like comparing a Kancil with a Volvo which comes fully equipped with side impact safety bars, airbags, etc.

According to the American Heart Association, almost one-third of sudden cardiac arrests outside homes and hospitals occur in fitness clubs or sports facilities. So, it is better if the gym you choose is fully prepared for such an incident at all times with staff that are trained to perform CPR, and also the gym needs to be equipped with AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Also.. are they friendly and helpful? Or do they only smile when you sign on the dotted line?


Most of the gyms open early and stay open late, so this shouldn’t be much of a problem. Before you join, though, make sure your club is open when you plan to go. Then visit the club at those exact times you intend to work out. Check whether the club is too crowded or if there are long lines for equipment at that time. In a recent survey of 1,500 website visitors by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), 46% of respondents indicated that overcrowded gyms are the number one reason that keeps them from going to the gym. Believe me – it can be very frustrating and time consuming if the gym is overly crowded when you workout – you end up wasting a lot of time.


Many clubs have a variety of payment options (monthly cash payment, credit card auto-billing, bank direct debits, etc). Find a payment schedule that meets your needs. Find out exactly what the membership fee is and what it includes – ask around and check how much your friends are paying. Will you have to pay extra for towels? Don’t forget to take into consideration admin/joining fees, and deposits that may be required.


Before you join, talk to current members about their experiences with the club. Additionally, it helps if the gym is a member of IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association), as member clubs must oblige by a code of ethics that protects the health and safety of their members and also protects you from falling prey to unscrupulous business practices.

With a little research and patience, you really can find a gym you can call home – hopefully, for many years to come.

Do not feel pressured to sign a contract right away, but take time to review it carefully and ask questions if something is unclear. You have the right to make the salesperson wait – even if it’s for another week. Once you sign up, give yourself a good pat on the back – cos you’ve made a worthwhile investment in your health.

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