It’s a little hard to believe that I never had a paid gym membership until last week. This is because my gym-going days have either been when I was in school (and had access to a campus gym) or when I was lucky enough to have a gym in my apartment building (as was the case when I lived in Philadelphia). Since taking up running again at the beginning of 2013, all I did for exercise was running. And aside from when my work travels took me to a hotel with a fitness center, all of that running took place outside. When all of the schools and city offices were closed due to a freeze warning in February, I still ran outside. So when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture and had to take several weeks completely off from running (and, more recently, re-start the running very slowly), I knew it was time to suck it up and start going to the gym again.
My requirements for a gym were pretty simple:
- It has to be open early in the morning.
- It shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes driving distance from my apartment (maybe 15 minutes in heavy traffic).
- Reasonable supply and demand. I don’t want to wait forever for a cardio machine.
- I don’t want to pay very much money.
A quick search on Google Maps showed that I live pretty close to a lot of gyms. I ruled out the Cross-Fit boxes and $$$ personal training centers and ended up trying out a total of 4 gyms. I managed several weeks’ worth of workouts using free trial passes, and I could have gone even longer if I’d been willing to drive a little farther. But honestly, after 4 gyms (5 if you include the one we went to in Florida), I was sick of listening to pitches from gym managers and just wanted to fork over some money (but not too much), plug in my headphones, and ellipticize away while ignoring everyone around me because I’m an antisocial loser.
Generic Chain Gym #1
- Pros: 24-hour access. Close to my apartment. Lots and lots of machines and stuff.
- Cons: Lots and lots of college students in sorority t-shirts. Practically no natural light, which reminded me of a casino. When I went in to activate my free pass the manager pressured me to sign up for a membership because they were having a “one-time deal that ends tomorrow!” This was before I’d even had a chance to use the gym. And in the span of the next 24 hours I received multiple emails, phone calls, and text messages alerting me to this “one-time deal”.
The Gentleman’s Gym
- Pros: Pretty nearby. No one tried to get me to immediately buy a membership. I got to workout in proximity of the Gentleman, which never happens because usually he hates running and just lifts weights and I hate weights and just run outside .
- Cons: Almost entirely focused on weightlifting. Seriously, there was one functional elliptical while I was there. It was a cool place– I can see why the Gentleman likes it–but it’s not for me.
- Pros: 24-hour access, convenient location, nice staff, good amount of machines, towel service.
- Cons: At first glance, seemed way out of my price range…
Generic Chain Gym #2
- Pros: Much better vibe than Generic Chain Gym #1. I got 1 or 2 emails bugging me to buy a membership but it was nothing like the onslaught I got from Generic Chain Gym #1. Good amount of natural light. Pretty diverse clientele, including a guy who looks like Idris Elba. Getting to ogle Guy Who Looks Like Idris Elba.
- Cons: Farther away than the other gyms. It took me over 15 minutes to get there in rush hour traffic one day after work. I know that’s not a terribly long amount of time in the grand scheme of things but I didn’t want to do that on a regular basis. Machines were a bit old– the bikes in particular were rusty– though they’re building a new space nearby and will supposedly have all new equipment in a few months.
After my free pass at Generic Chain Gym #2 expired, I wasn’t sure what to do. The only gym I’d really liked was Fancypants Gym but it seemed way too expensive. While whining to the Gentleman about this last week, he asked me exactly how expensive. I checked the website and realized that the super expensive option was for an unlimited selection of classes in stuff like barre method which I will likely never do but that I could pay a completely reasonable rate to get 24 hour access to the gym and a limited selection of classes. I’d completely convinced myself that Fancypants Gym was completely out of my budget and was thisclose to joining Generic Chain Gym #2 for the eye candy.
But then the Gentleman saved me from rusty bikes and nasty traffic.
So I went over to Fancypants Gym last week and got my very first gym membership. And I’m pleased to say that the novelty of keycard access and towel service hasn’t worn off yet.
What do you look for in a gym?