Free gym passes are a great way to try out a fitness club. It's like dating before deciding to put a ring on it. Make sure you maximize your time and properly evaluate each gym in question. Here's how…
- Try out the gym at different times of day.
This will help give you a sense of the overall culture and clientele. How does it feel to you? Do people seem happy, overall? Do staff members pay attention to what's going on or are they hiding behind a desk/computer? Is it super crowded all the time? Or the opposite—mostly empty?
Ideally, you want a place filled with happy, satisfied clientele and helpful staff members. Plus, you should have a gym that works with your schedule, meaning classes and equipment will be available at times convenient for you.
- Take a couple of different group fitness classes.
Did the instructor greet you? Was the instructor enthusiastic and engaged from start to finish? Did the instructor make time to answer questions at the end of class? How did the instructor interact with students during class? Did he/she know members' names? Encourage people? Support people who were struggling? Kindly help people who might have been doing a movement wrong?
While different instructors will have different styles, the overall vibe the instructors give off will definitely reflect the gym's culture and what you can expect moving forward. As for what style is best (casual, intense, fun, and so forth), only you can decide that.
- Can you picture yourself going to this gym day in and day out?
Be honest and listen to your gut. The gym itself might be perfectly fine—the question is whether it's fine for you. This goes hand-in-hand with our previous point.
If you're looking for a more casual atmosphere, for example, and the gym in question is filled with high-intensity members, trainers, and instructors, then it might not be the best fit for you. That's OK. Better to know that now before signing on the dotted line.
- Investigate the "extras."
Gyms will talk up its perks—think pools, day care, juice bars, etc. Make sure you check out the perks (e.g. is the pool as impressive as the website makes it sound? Is the "juice bar" just a fold-up table with a couple of blenders?).
Another important point: Take time to learn what a membership covers. Sometimes a basic membership doesn't cover all the goodies.
- Don't overlook important things like cleanliness and upkeep.
Do a walk-through of the place, including the locker rooms and showers. Is everything clean and orderly? Is everything in proper working condition?
You'll be paying good money for your gym membership. You deserve to work out in a clean, safe facility.
- Strike up a conversation with some members.
The best way to get the low-down on the gym is by chatting with members. Find out how long they've been going. Ask them what they like best and what they would change. How do their answers resonate with what you're looking for in a gym? As you talk to people, are you hearing any troublesome themes (e.g. "it's always crowded")?
Again, you'll need to decide what the deal breakers are.
- Check out multiple locations, if applicable.
If the gym in question has multiple locations (and if your trial pass allows it), make sure you stop by some of the other ones (especially if you know you'd probably use the other locations in addition to your main gym). While each gym's vibe might be a little different, you're looking for overall consistency.
- Find out what the gym has planned for the next 6-12 months.
Gyms are always adjusting their offerings to meet demands and new trends (for example, barre classes have become quite popular in recent years). So, if there's something you're hoping the gym will offer, but you don't see it "on the menu," then ask.
The best gyms will be eager to hear what its members want, so use this as another "test." How did the staff member respond to your question/suggestion? Did he or she seem receptive or dismissive?
- Don't settle.
With so many gyms out there, you shouldn't settle. Keep maximizing different free gym passes until you find "the one."