Do your homework when choosing gym or trainer

Do your homework when choosing gym or trainer (Jupiter Images Corp. / May 20, 2010)

Once you've made up your mind to go a little further in your quest for health and fitness and join a gym or hire a personal trainer, it is time to do some homework to make sure you are getting a good deal as well as the right fit.

Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, says research shows most people are only willing to travel 10 to 12 minutes to a gym so the top priority is to find several convenient to work or home.

Once several have been pinpointed it is best to pay a visit on a day and time that is your most likely workout time. Comana suggests looking at everything from parking, ease of check-in, equipment availablity, and how busy it is. Comana suggests talking to members and asking for pros and cons.

Kathie Davis, executive director of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, says to also look at group fitness schedules to see if classes will work with your schedule.

Another area to consider is your personal comfort level. If you are out of shape you may not feel comfortable in a gym where everyone is in tight spandex with bulging muscles.

"Check out the look, feel and smell," Comana says. "It has to be a place you want to be in."

Once the field is narrowed Davis says to workout on a trial pass.

"You can learn a lot from that one visit," she says.

Comana says not to be pressured by sales staff. Spring is a great time to get a gym membership because membership is slow and demand dictates prices. He warns never to pay enrollment or other fees and not to commit to a long-term membership. He says given the statistics that show how few people keep up with their gym memberships, he suggests a three or six month membership.

"Consumers right now have the upper edge," Comana says. "You should be negotiating."

Once you've found the right gym, you may be looking for someone to help you with a fitness plan or challenge your workouts. Just like shopping for a gym, Comana says it is important to do your homework on fitness trainers such as asking others using a trainer for information. Checking credentials is important too. Comana says all the letters and acronyms may be hard for the public to differentiate, and suggests writing down the trainer's credentials then checking to see if the credentials are part of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. "It tells you a standard of excellence they need to achieve," Comana says.

The key, Comana says is to find someone with whom you feel comfortable, who will listen to what it is you want to achieve and can offer solutions to your challenges. While most gyms have personal training packages and will give you a better discount the more sessions you purchase, Comana says a better approach is to start with three sessions.

"One session is not enough for the trainer to showcase what they can do or for you to try everything," he says. ■