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Are you joining the right gym?

Rashmi Ail | January 24, 2006

The Generation X solution for the right look -- whether it is flexing your muscles like those macho men on the silver screen or saying a little prayer every day for a JLo derriere -- seems to be to head for the gym.

image It's not surprising, then, that gymnasiums are sprouting in every nook and corner.

The problem arises when meagrely trained men and women pass off as gym instructors and give advice that, at best, is worthless; at worst, it can prove dangerous. You risk life and limb at the hands of a novice trainer.

The question, therefore, is how to choose a good gym? Here are some tips to help you get gym-savvy.

i. Do your homework

It is easy to fall prey to the glib sales pitch of gym managers.

A smart way to make sure you choose the right gym is to cast a wide net. Talk to people, your neighbourhood friends and colleagues who frequent gyms to get the inside dope. Get a referral from someone whose judgement you trust. If your friend has burnt his fingers, learn from his experience.

Take the case of Rubaina Ail, 28, a corporate trainer at a call centre in Mumbai. She joined the gym in her colony to initiate herself into a fitness routine. A novice to the gym scene, she expected, and was promised, personal attention from the instructor.

Her expectations came to naught the day she went for her first workout. The gym was crammed with about 30 fitness enthusiasts vying for the attention of the sole trainer; the ideal number is 10-15 people per trainer (of course, the lesser people per trainer, the better). Needless to say, individual attention was a far cry as far as Rubaina was concerned.

You also have the choice of opting for a personal trainer who gives you undivided attention. However, this option comes at a higher price too. When you check out a gym, try and find out how many people a trainer supervises; this is important because, if you do your exercises unsupervised and end up doing them the wrong way, you could seriously hurt yourself. 

ii. Be focussed

Decide on the focus of your exercise programme. Does it align with that of your gym?

Every gym has its own USP. While one gym can boast of the best equipment for weight training, another can have an internationally certified aerobics instructor showing you the right moves to burn your calories.

What kind of exercise do you enjoy? If you enjoy the high adrenaline rush of an aerobic session, join a gym which is known for the same. Would you like to stick to just lifting weights and doing cardio exercises? Then join a gym that specialises in this form of exercise. Like they say, you either get what you like or you will have to like what you get.

If you have never joined a gym before, it would be a good idea to initially choose a gym which offers you a host of activities like aerobics, yoga, weight-training, diet programmes, etc.

For the first six months, experiment with all these activities in consultation with your intructor, who will suggest a regime after taking into consideration your height, weight, body measurements and fitness goals.

Try to find an activity which you enjoy and which will help you attain your fitness goals.

iii. Location and hours of operation

The more convenient your gym is to get to, the more you will use it. Check when you are most likely to squeeze out time from your daily schedule in order to work out.

Samreeedhi Sharma, a certified personal fitness trainer and nutritionist, points out, "Your gym should ideally be located near your place of work, near home or directly on your route between the two, else the commute itself can put you off from working out religiously. If your job requires you to put in odd hours, look out for a gym with extended hours."

Some gyms have special timings for women. During these hours, men are not allowed to use the gym. However, these special timings are usually in the afternoons; as a result, it is not convenient for working women.

. Get a feel of the place

The general atmosphere of the place can turn the scales when it comes to choosing a gym. It is difficult to quantify but can be sensed. Are the staff members polite, helpful and pro-active? What kind of people frequent the gym?

Is the gym packed with Gen-Xer's, with rap and rock music blaring over the sound system, or is it a haven for housewives who hit the gym to exchange household woes while jogging on the treadmill? Will you fit in effortlessly or will you feel like a fish out of water?

Join a gym where you will feel comfortable and welcome.

v. Do a test run

You would not buy a car without taking test drives, so visit prospective gyms and 'test drive' each one before signing on the dotted line. Most gyms offer a complimentary work out for two to three days. Some charge for even a day while others offer a week's trial package.

Visit the gym at a time when you would work out to get a realistic picture. Meet with the manager of the health club and get a tour for a comprehensive overview of the facility, its programmes and amenities. Does the gym have men's and women's locker rooms, changing rooms, and showers? What about a sauna and steam room? Do they offer massage facilities? Will the use of these facilities cost you extra, or are they tacked on to your gym membership cost?

Participate in group exercises. Check if the health club is clean and well-maintained. Check the workout area, showers and locker rooms for unpleasant smells.

Is there a system in place to ensure all members have access to the facilities in a fair manner? Don't shy away from asking members for feedback.

vi. Equipment matters

Is the equipment old and worn-out? How many machines have an out-of-order sign posted on them? Are the floors uneven? Are the exercise mats curling up?

Can the machines be customised to your height and size? Is there enough space in the gym to walk freely between machines and members?

If there is equipment you are not familiar with, get the trainer to help you give it a once over.

Aldhea Shah, spokesperson, Gold's Gym, says professional equipment is always better, "Brand names like Startrack, Cybex, Precor, Lise Fitness are always preferable when it comes to gym equipment."

vii. Trainer talk

You are entrusting the trainer with your body, so don't just find out if the trainer is certified; also find out at the name of the organisation.

Internationally reputed organisations like the American Council of Exercise, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, International Sports Science Association grant certifications and are preferable. At the least, look for certificates from Talwalkar's, Reebok, BFY Sports and Fitness, which are recognised Indian fitness bodies.

Girish Talwalkar, director, Talwalkar's Gym, says, "The single biggest deciding factor in joining a gym should be the team of fitness instructors. During the trial membership, check out if the trainer is motivating, guides you properly, shows you how to use the equipment, is able to explain which part of the body is benefited by which kind of exercise. The trust factor is most important as far as the trainer is concerned.

"Check out if the trainer insists on a warm-up session before working out. Does he insist on doing the exercises slowly so as to derive maximum benefit? Does he inform you about drinking at least a litre of water during the workout? Ideally, the trainer needs to be both informative and communicative."

viii. Moolah matters

Be sure you read and understand everything before signing a membership contract. A short-term gym membership may cost you more, but gives you the flexibility to change your gym if you are not satisfied.

Read the fine print. Some gyms make money through hidden costs, such as towel fees and locker rentals. If stashing your shirt in a locker costs you an extra Rs 300 per month, beware of it.

Be clear about the cancellation clauses in the contract. Some gyms offer family discounts, off-peak hour rebates, couple memberships, etc. Bargain for a good deal. Check if you can terminate the contract at any given time.

At the end of the day, you should be happy with your decision to join the gym.


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Number of User Comments: 5

Sub: Certified Trainer

I have been in the field of fitness since 8 yrs and have attended many workshops but now i want to do a internationally certified ...

Posted by Smitha Pillay

Sub: joining a jym

let me know the ways to build up a good looking body with out going for a jym....are there any such tips ?

Posted by vvviswanath

Sub: gym advices

kindly post the same to my ID as i am also aware of these gym matters aand want to know more about these.

Posted by shoba

Sub: Protien

I want to improve my muscles . Should i use Protien powder or not.

Posted by Nadeem

Sub: Bad trainers = Bad gym

I agree with the article that the team of trainers is the most important factor in deciding the right gym. Speaking from my personal experience, ...

Posted by Rushabh


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