“Black Friday” for Gym Memberships

30 12 2010

Joining a gym? Don't sign yet.

January is the month when gyms make 70-80% of their yearly membership enrollment or should I say make their revenue.   That’s because of New Year resolutions prompting people to get off their coach and lace up their sneakers.  Owners know from years of experience that most new members will soon regularly stop coming in for workouts, so they try to lock in as many  early memberships as possible. To keep the revenue flowing many gyms will offer different types of memberships some with enrollment fees, initiations fees, cancellation fees, yearly fees and month to month fees. But here’s the financial kicker: even if you’ve stopped going to the gym though you signed up month-to-month or annually, your membership dues will most likely continue to appear on your monthly credit card statement. Canceling can turn into a time-consuming headache. Read the contracts.

Don’t be intimidated by the fit looking sales person who will try to pressure you to sign on the spot. Any good gym will give you a free pass to try the gym for a week or several days. Take that time to see if this gym is a good fit and to look over the contract.  If a gym doesn’t let you try out the place “Free” then I wouldn’t consider joining. You don’t but a car without test driving it and you are handing over a monthly payment to these folks. So much can be told by testing out the place.  Is it clean? Is the equipment well maintained? Is the staff knowledgable, friendly and helpful? Understand most of these good-looking fit sales consultants are on  commission.   I work at several gyms in the greater Philadelphia area and all the gyms I work out let people try the gym for free. Years ago I walked into a big local franchise gym and asked to try the gym before joining and was told nope $13. I remember it like yesterday. I walked out. This poorly run franchise  eventually went out of business.

Keep these things in mind before joining.

1. Contracts and terms can sometimes be negotiable.

2. Joining with a friend or family member can offer a better deal.

3. Ask about specials, cancellation fees and guest fees.

4. Ask about corporate wellness programs and check your health insurance to see if they offer money back.

5. Weigh the options: baby sitting, membership freezing, subsidiary clubs you can use (especially if you travel a lot), hours of operations and towel service. (towel service seems minor but something I personally love). Is there a pool, sauna, showers.  A gym has to fit your needs not only your budget.  Check out the amount of certain machine they have. If you love a stair climber and there’s only one that could be a problem.

6. Does your new membership get you a free fitness assessment and orientation with a Personal Trainer. I am yelling personal trainer cause too many times it is the front desk kid. Demand a trainer for this if you are clueless on how to operate the machine. If you head into the gym with no knowledge on how things work then you are doomed to be another person who joins a gym and never goes.  If no orientation is offered consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to set you up on a program. Explain to the trainer that you just want a session or two to show you how to use the machines at your fitness level. Well worth it. I am constantly seeing people at the gym using machines wrong and setting themselves up for an injury.

Be sure to consider all the added costs, before deciding which place will give you the most service for your sweat. Remember belonging to a gym is just one option when committing to a fitness program.

Gym horror story please share.  Post your questions or comments about joining a gym below.

Thanks!

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