I am as much of a do-it-yourselfer as the next woman. I have bought exercise equipment to use at home, and made up a regimen of walking in my neighborhood and stuck to it. BUT there are problems which crop up in even the best intentions and well-executed plans. Owning your own equipment is great BUT you have to put it somewhere and you have to maintain it. Also, do you really want to spend 1+ hrs every day doing the same thing? I thought I did when I bought a rowing machine. Not only is doing the same thing every day boring as hell BUT it’s not good for you. Mix up your workouts and do something different every day for best results. If you get one of the all-in-one machines, you run the risk of something breaking, and then you are in for some Big Bucks to fix it (and sending something elsewhere is out of the question). Sigh, and don’t forget that the great schedule for power walking can look quite unappetizing when it’s 104 deg F outside, -12 deg F, or it’s raining/snowing/hailing out there.
I really do think that gyms are a great idea and a worthy investment. But how do you decide, and I am sure that you have heard the horror stories from friend and foe alike. But you can win, if you think a bit and get prepared.
#1 What Is Available And What Do You Need-
There are several broad categories of gyms. The Country Club is a large complex with many different sorts of activities available. There are cardio and strength training and usually the latest sort of yoga to enjoy. Squash and tennis courts, indoor pools, basketball/volleyball courts and the lot. Often, there is a nice restaurant to take your friends to and the emphasis is social. Oh, and personal trainers are also part of the available amenities (for a hefty premium). Be prepared to pay for all this nicety. Sometimes they offer sliding scale memberships (you can not use the club at the busiest and most desirable times for instance) or cheaper memberships for people of a certain class (youth or seniors). If you like luxury, this is your best bet. There are not a lot of Country Club gyms as chains, usually these are local and locally owned.
The Big Empty Box is another class of gym which is very popular because it’s so cheap. 24 Hour Fitness and Planet Fitness are good examples. They basically offer you a big box with equipment in it for you to use when you have the time. There are no classes and bare bones surroundings. It’s up to you to make your own schedule and go there to work out for however long you like. Also, you choose what you do and how you do it. No personal trainers are around to hire, no one is there to help you learn the machines but they are great for the budget conscious self starter who really doesn’t want to be bothered by class schedules or dealing with other people. These are often national chains which have gyms in big cities. Many Big Empty Box gyms don’t have contracts so you just pay month to month, and they are pretty insistent that this is an automatic payment every month. As convenient and inexpensive as this might seem, it’s astounding how many people sign up for Big Empty Box and never go there. They probably have the lowest use rate of any of the gyms! So, know yourself. If you need the prick of expense or dedication to work out, Big Empty Box might not be for you.
The National Chain has the features of being a big box full of equipment and machines for you to use when they are open. They often have a swimming pool, saunas, squash and basketball courts, yoga and pilates (as well as cardio) fitness classes, nice changing areas, and free parking. They always offer expensive personal training, which you might need especially at first. Now you will find National Chains which will offer you month to month deals and not make you sign a contract. However, if you want to make this your most inexpensive deal, ask about multiple year pay-in-advance plans. You will have to fork over a pretty good chunk of change all at once BUT you end up paying peanuts every day if you use the National Chain every day. I use my gym daily (that is right, every single day) and it costs me 75¢ a day to go there and work out! If you are a gym rat, this is a very good option to investigate.
The Boutique Gym is a specialized workout establishment. For guys it can be a place which is bare bones, run by a very muscle bound crew, where you work out on tattered well oiled machines and are offered concrete balls to pick up. You get the feel of the sweat and testosterone kick just by walking in the door. Everything about the Meathead Boutique gym shouts,”This place is NOT for sissies!” On the other hand, there is a ladies’ boutique gym which is usually locally owned and specializes in things: pole dancing, ballet/barre, special pilates, the latest in weightloss/toning workouts, hybrid yoga classes. These are usually quite expensive, don’t have many locations around town, and likely to tailor a class or workout just for you. If you have special needs/wants and like to be part of a seriously devoted fan base, a boutique gym may be the best choice for you.
The Yoga Studio-of all the workout areas popping up over the past 5 years, yoga studios are the most varied of all. Hot yoga, yin yoga, power yoga, Tri yoga, aromatheraputic yoga, Indian yoga of all types, highly meditative yoga, flow yoga, pre/present/post pregnancy yoga, yoga with baby, and all sorts of yoga has blossomed in every city and whistle stop in America. Usually, these are local establishments run by earnest local people. However, there are some national chains (like Bikram Yoga) and you would find a standard sort of workout across the US with them. You really have to do your research because what you need and want is so very personal that one man’s meat is another’s poisson here. I found I needed to work on keeping my hips open and take special care to slowly stretch my muscles frequently and so I buy extra Yin yoga classes which help me immeasurably. If you have particular needs, you might be wise to supplement your workouts and gym trips with specialized yoga to keep from needing physical therapy. Frequently you buy blocks of classes and use them one by one.
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