So you’ve made the decision that you’re going to join the gym, good for you! Welcome to the gang.

Unfortunately, a butt load of people will be deciding to do the same come January 1st, many of whom will never make full use of it. So to keep you from signing up for a year of infrequent visits and increasingly guilt-ridden direct debits, take the time to choose the right gym for you.

1 – Take time to identify your goals

Before you even type ‘gyms nearby’ into Google, take the time to properly identify your fitness goals. What is your current level of fitness, what exercise do you do at the moment, what have you done in the past that has been effective, and most importantly what do you enjoy?

You should be able to weed out unsuitable gyms quickly, based on the physique you’re trying to build.

Training for a marathon and the gym only has 4 treadmills? NEXT.
Training to be a powerlifter and there’s no lifting platofrm? NEXT.
Looking to improve flexibility with yoga and they don’t offer classes? NEXT.

Remember, conventional gyms aren’t the only option. If you hate training solo and you’ve never been able to maintain your motivation, maybe you need something different like Crossfit classes, boot-camps or independent personal trainers that operate out of a PT space.

Consider all your options before you commit. However, once you do commit, you need to commit!

2 – Take inventory

When you do check out a gym, go with a list of requirements in mind and specific pieces of equipment that you’re looking for. What do you use most in your workouts and what’s important to your future goals? Most commercial gyms will cram in as many treadmills as they can, but how many benches/ squat racks/dumbbells/barbells do they have?

Do they have functional equipment such as a TRX or a set of kettlebells? Go through your workouts and make a list of equipment you’ll need and check it off as you look around.

3 – Take a test drive

When I used to sell gym memberships, we would give out guest passes like they were they were going out of style. So don’t feel awkward about asking for a free trial, unless it’s a ridiculously exclusive club they’ll be fine with it.

Go at peak times

Go at the times you plan to normally go, and don’t avoid the busiest times. If you know you’ll likely be going at 6pm on Mondays, then trial the gym then. You’ll want to know what it will be like when you’re a member.

Go with a workout plan

When you trial a gym, go and have a proper workout. There’s little point in going in to just have a look around, you’ve already done that. You need to know how easy and enjoyable it is to workout there. So go and workout. Is the equipment easy to use and adjust? Is there a good layout or does it feel cramped and you fear for your life when someone starts doing kettlebell swings?

4 – Take a look at the other members

And I don’t mean this in the creepy/stalker way (although a certain amount of eye candy is preferred). Are the other members actually working out or are they cruising/gossiping/texting? Is there an over-abundance of bros fist-pumping and talking about that girl on the treadmill?

A lot of people join the gym to socialise, and that’s fine. But if that’s not what you’re looking for, a gym full of meatheads and gossip will distract you and it may not be the best gym for you.

5 – Take a deep breath

And this isn’t just so that you remain calm when dealing with an over-zealous sales rep. When you walk into a gym, take a deep breath. Do you feel energised/calm/pumped/excited? Or do you feel dirty/stuffy/cramped? All things aside, you have to enjoy your time at the gym, otherwise you’ll find it harder and harder to keep going back.