Cycling, toning, yoga, stretch, core fitness, Pilates, strength training, self-defense, boxing, boot camp and personal training are just a few of the offerings at boutique fitness studios and big box gyms on or around Capitol Hill. Most people who join a gym join in January as part of their New Year’s resolution to start exercising.
While 80% of people who commit to exercise goals in the new year have abandoned them by February, IHRSA (International Health Racquet & Sports Association) statistics show that in 2017 there were 38,477 health clubs/fitness centers in the U.S., a number that is steadily growing. About 16 percent of the American population (about 50.2 million people) currently belong to a health club. However, a whopping 80 percent of people who have a gym membership don’t use it.
So picking the right studio is important. If you are contemplating investing in your health and well-being by joining a fitness studio this year consider the following guidelines. Before you begin your search make a list of your ‘must-haves’. What will keep you going week after week to a fitness studio? Will it be the instructors? The classes? The social interaction? Then start trying out different places.
Location may be the top consideration for someone joining a gym. If it’s not convenient to get to, you won’t go. Even if there’s a gym in your office building, will you take the time before work, during work or after work to schlep to the basement and sweat with your colleagues? If the answer is no, you’d be better off joining a gym close to home. Do you travel often? Does the gym you want to join have reciprocity? Sport & Health, Washington Sports Clubs and Orange Theory are just a few that have facilities in other locations.
Cost is a huge consideration when joining a gym. Many people look at their gym membership as a luxury and carving out time in a busy schedule for working out is one of the first things to go when there’s a time crunch. It’s not a priority. Putting fitness in our budget as a top priority (preventing illness is always easier than getting well) can insure we realistically choose a studio whose monthly fee fits into our budget.
Variety in a fitness studio is key to keeping our interest. Research has shown that variety in our exercise regimen is the most efficient way to work the more than 600 muscles in our body. If you do the same thing every day you will get the same results. Whether you are interested in yoga or like to weight lift some days, walk a treadmill on others and take classes another day you must be sure the studio offers enough variety for you to keep your muscles and mind stimulated. Or consider takig classes at several different studios–Pilates one day and yoga the next.
Hours of Operation – Does the gym you are considering offer different kinds of yoga classes taught by different instructors at times of the day and night you want to go?
What amenities does the gym provide members? In some of the smaller boutique studios on the Hill there is only room for the bare minimum – no steam, sauna or whirlpool. If that is something you would enjoy using, then make sure it’s a part of the package.
Kid Friendly-If a gym that had babysitting would make it easier for you to go regularly then look for one that provides it for your kids. Some places also offer after school or evening classes for teens or yoga for moms and babies.
Be sure to check out reviews on social media and talk to members about their experience. Nothing is better than personal accounts.
Cleanliness is very important in a gym. Is the equipment dusty? Are the exercise floors sticky? What about the bathroom and shower? How clean the studio is can tell you a lot about what your experience will be like if you join.
I think one of the best ways to figure out if the gym is the right one for you is to notice how you feel when you walk in and around the space. Does it feel like a good fit? Don’t dismiss your gut feeling.
Finally, ask if you can try out the studio for a week. There’s no better way than to test the waters. Make sure the fitness studio or gym you choose is a place you can relax and enjoy yourself while you work out.
Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading edge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions. Pattie can provide lectures, private sessions and group classes to your church, home or office. She is also producing a podcast. You can contact Pattie at: [email protected].