Thinking of joining a health club? Here's how to find a gym that works for moms, dads, and kids too. Find a gym with something to offer the whole family, and everyone reaps the health and fitness benefits.
Start by compiling a list of possibilities: places you pass on your route to work or your child's school; clubs to which friends or acquaintances belong; places you've seen advertised. Then use the criteria below to zero in on the gym that's right for you and your family.
Find a Gym With Workouts You Want
What kind of exercise do you enjoy or want to try? Is a pool a must-have or a nice perk? What types of classes are offered?
Find a Gym With Programs for Kids
Will you want or need to bring your children to the gym with you? Do you want them to be able to take swim lessons or shoot hoops while you're working out? Are they the right age for a child care program, and if so, what are the program's hours and policies? Find out what kind of training is required of staff members who work with kids, and whether there are extra charges for child care. Visit the child care areas and make sure they are clean, safe, and stocked with activities that you approve of (i.e., make sure kids are not just watching TV in there).
Find a Gym That's Convenient
If your gym is too far away or you can never find a parking place, you may not use it. Location is really important, so try to find a gym that's close to home, work, your child's school, or wherever else you spend a lot of time. Check the hours of the gym and the class schedule. If the classes are great, but conflict with your schedule, see if you can do better somewhere else.
Find out, too, about other amenities that can make gym-going more convenient. This could include bike racks, locker rentals, towel service, and a snack bar.
Find a Gym You Can Afford
Fees can vary tremendously even at the same gym, depending on what kind of plan or contract you get. Look for deals for a family membership (sometimes kids 5 and under are free) and find out if your employer or your spouse's entitles you to a discount. Your health insurer may also cover part of the fee or help you get a discount.
Read the terms of the contract carefully. Is there a penalty for canceling? Can you put your membership on hold if you need to (say during the summer months or if you have a high-risk pregnancy)? Will the classes you really want to take cost extra?
Find a Gym Where You Feel Comfortable
Be sure to visit all the gyms you are considering and take a tour. Better yet, ask for a guest pass so you can try before you buy. Is the facility clean and well-maintained? Are members encouraged to spray or wipe equipment after they use it?
Is the staff friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable? (Ask about certifications and qualifications.) How about the other members: Would you feel comfortable exercising alongside them, or are they intimidating? Overall, does the place feel welcoming?