Finding The Best Gym For You


When I say “It’s time to start going to a gym” – What’s the first things to run through your mind? 

I’ve tried it before and I never went.

I don’t want to be creeped on.

I don’t have time.

I don’t know what I’m doing so people will laugh at me.

Instead of coming up every excuse in the book why gyms suck and doing nothing is better, try to consider that maybe you chose the wrong gym for you.

And the room illuminates!

Patrick Idea Bulb

Yes, it is possible that gyms, in the traditional sense (free weights, cardio equipment and machines) is not everyone’s cup of tea.  I find that crazy because I think the traditional gym is Disney World for adults.

Well thanks to Capitalism and the undying effort to differentiate oneself, this has opened the flood gates of new types of gyms and fitness available to people.

You also want to consider that exercise is whatever you define it as.  I consider exercise to be lifting weights and playing sports.  Call me a traditionalist or old fashion.   You might like to dance and that could be your exercise.  I wouldn’t because I have 2 left feet and the rhythm of a Elaine.

Courtesy of giphy.com
Courtesy of giphy.com

But I digress.

So you’re probably saying now, “OK Dave you sold me.  I hadn’t considered there were different types of gyms.  I only considered lifting weights as my only source of exercise.  You are so wise and quite the salesman.”

OK the last part is a bit of a stretch, but let me blow you away with what I do on a Saturday morning.

Let’s assume (yes I know what it means to assume) that you are interested starting to go to a gym, where do you start?

First let’s look at….

THE TYPES OF GYMS

Yeah Capitalism!  Since we are all unique butterflies, here is a list with at least one thing that tickles your fancy:

  • 24-hr Gyms (24hr fitness, Boost Fitness)- Great for people with the “I have no time” excuse. You can find 20 minutes within 24 hours.  They have free weights, machines and cardio equipment.
  • Women Only (Curves)- For the women you doesn’t like to be creeped on while working out. They have machines and cardio equipment. This is the guy equivalent.
  • Old School Gyms (Old School Gym, Westside Barbell)- Think gyms in the 70’s. No TV, maybe some music. Just weights, grunting and some really strong dudes.
  • Specialty Gyms (Barre, Yoga studio, Kickboxing, CrossFit)- Class structure smaller size overall in terms of members and the facility. Usually bare bones in terms of amenities like tanning, massages, childcare or a juice bar.  Equipment is solely based on the specialty.
  • Sports Clubs– Typically more expensive, usually have pool, racquetball and basketball courts along with free weights, machines and cardio equipment. All the amenities childcare, tanning, massage, steam rooms and towels.
  • Gym – (World gym, Gold’s Gym)- These are the gyms that come to mind to most people when you say gym. Some amenities like tanning, juice bar and childcare.  Free weights, machines and cardio equipment.

Now you know about the different types out there, I suggest you click on the links and check out what specifically they offer.  Just don’t do it now, you still have some reading to do here.

PICKING THE RIGHT GYM FOR YOU

This is the important part.  There isn’t one shoe that fits everyone.  Browse their websites and pick a couple that you would like to check out.  Like buying a house, the pictures online are always better than in person.  I suggest checking it out in the time frame you think you’ll be going in.  So if you think you’re going to hit the gym in the 4-6pm time frame, check out the gym in that window too.  There is a whole different breed of animal in the 4-6pm window compared to the 12-1 pm window.  When you get there check these things out:

  • Atmosphere– Is it an atmosphere you’d thrive in? Will the clientele there allow you to excel or will you retract into your shell? Are you looking to work on some machines in a powerlifting gym?  Make sure the atmosphere fits to your goals.
  • Condition of Equipment– Check for “Equipment Out of Service” signs. Check the condition of the benches (no rips, leather in tacked) and especially the cables of the machines.  Poor condition of cables will cause them to snap while your using them and possible injury.  If you see this on multiple pieces of equipment, then the owners don’t give a shit.  Move on.
  • Type of People– Are you intimidated by the people around? Are there a lot of certified creeps?  Be honest with yourself and move on if you don’t think you can work out there without feeling creeped on.  I’ll get into the types of people you’ll see later.
  • How Busy Is It– This is why I suggest checking it out when you plan on going. 12-1pm busy is nothing like 4-6pm busy.  Can you deal with how busy it is?
  • Multiples of Equipment– Are there multiples of the same weight in dumbbells, cable machines, bench press benches, squat racks (please tell me there is no one doing curls in there either). You get the picture.  Check for multiple pieces of equipment to elevate traffic and wait time during the busy hours.
  • Locker Room Situation– What’s the condition of the toilets?  There is nothing worse than the toilets being out of commission when your pre-workout kicks in.  What’s the shower situation like?  Is it prison style or is it separate stalls?  Can you shower with a bunch of naked dudes right next to you?  Is there enough bench space?  Are there hooks in the lockers to hang up your dress shirts?
  • Membership Structure– Is it month to month with a start-up fee? Yearly commitment then month to month? What’s the cancellation policy?  Is there a free trial period?  Are there any add-ons like a towel service, tanning, free personal training session, massages etc.

Don’t get overwhelmed, these are all things you can pick up on a quick tour.  Take a pdf of this along with you if you need it.

OK so now you found a gym that meets all your criteria to excel.  Your ready to go for the first time but you’re still uneasy like the first day of high school.  Here is what to do when..

GOING TO THE GYM FOR THE FIRST TIME

This can be an uneasy experience for you and some people might skip it, but not you.  You went through all this work to find a good gym and now you are going to get your monies worth rather than just blindly pay their rent.

I’m going to focus on gyms here and not specialty gyms here.  Specialty gyms have the class structure and usually a beginner’s program to help guide you in.  For the rest of us, we are left to our own devices to succeed or fail.  But don’t worry I’ve got your back.

Before you hit the gym you should have some sort of workout plan rather than just blindly sampling each piece of equipment.  (Next week I’ll give you a beginner’s workout to take with you.)  Just like your first time having sex, don’t expect your first gym session at the new gym to be good.

The first time at a new gym is the test drive, if you work up a sweat or pump that’s just an added bonus.  Your main goal is to learn the lay of the land and get familiar with the ebb and flow of the crowd.

Ebb and flow of the crowd?  Yes, if you go to a gym enough you notice patterns of how groups exercise and when they use certain pieces of equipment.  A majority of the gym will use a bodybuilders method where they follow this schedule:

Monday: Chest

Tuesday: Back

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Shoulders

Friday: Arms

This means that the bench press on Monday is damn near impossible to get to.  So out smart them and do back on Monday.  Crazy I know, but we (meaning me) think outside the box at Aesthetic Physiques.

When I go I have a plan each day with barbell work, dumbbells and then machines.  However, I can’t always do it in this order.  Sometimes there is a log jam in the dumbbell area so I’ll go over to machines then when the dumbbell area clears out I’ll tackle them.

Make yourself flexible and move on to the next thing if a certain area is jammed up and go back to it after.  After a while you’ll notice the flow of the gym and you can program your workouts to reflect that.

A little too far down the rabbit hole but it’s good info none the less.

So you’ll take the workout I give you and now what?

WHAT TO WEAR

Well unfortunately or fortunately you can’t go to the gym naked.  You need some proper clothes to wear.   Gyms don’t allow jeans because the buttons might rip the benches.  Since you can’t wear your super fly new skinny jeans here is what you can wear as an alternative:

Men and Women:

  • Comfortable sneakers or running shoes. Please don’t wear work boots, heels or dress shoes.  Cause for injury and ridicule.  Opt for the sneakers.  Also get some athletic socks, you’ll ruin your dress socks before you can work up a sweat.
  • T-shirt or tank top. Under Armor and Nike makes some good moisture wicking shirts for $20-30.  Or you can stick to traditional cotton.
  • Shorts or yoga pants – Men please don’t wear yoga pants, no one wants to see your moose knuckle. Go for athletic shorts or an elastic type pant to allow for free movement.  We don’t want you splitting your pants squatting.
Courtesy of vh1.com
Courtesy of vh1.com

Ladies, opt for a sports bra.  I don’t care if you have bee stings or the biggest boobs in the world.  You need protection up there.  I will laugh at you if you give yourself a black eye when you run without one on.

Now that you are properly dress, it’s time to go.

WHEN TO GO

Different times bring different numbers and different types of people.  Here is a quick breakdown assuming a 5am – 9 pm business hour place:

  • 5-7 Older Crowd– typically retirees and some crazy dedicated people. Crowd size is usually small.  Pretty much whatever you want is available.
  • 7-9 Professionals – Your lawyers, business people who work your typical 9-5. Crowd size is the largest of the morning.  Still able to move around freely.
  • 10-3 College kids/ stay at home parents/ retirees– Since everyone else is working besides these groups the gym is pretty empty. Pretty much have free reign of the gym.
  • 3-7 People leaving work – People start leaving work and showing up at the gym. This is where the gym turns a little different.  Between 5-7 is the peak hours and everyone and their momma is there.  Good luck trying to get a piece of equipment for yourself.  Crowd size is ridiculous.  Lot of tough guys at this time.
  • 7-9 Night people – Between these hours are the stragglers leaving work late or want to avoid the 5-7 rush. Crowd size usually equivalent to the 7-9am crowd.

My advice is to hit the gym in the morning.  That way you don’t have the excuse you’re too tired or it’s too busy.  Hang out with the old people and pump some iron.

An important part of being at the gym is “gym etiquette”.  Yes, there are certain unwritten or written rules you should obey to ensure smooth sailing.

GYM ETIQUETTE

On The Gym Floor

  • Respect the headphones- easier than wearing a Do Not Disturb sign
  • Wipe down the equipment
  • Save your Facebook updates for later
  • Talk when you done your set
  • Don’t hog equipment
  • Rack your weights
  • Person carrying the heavier weights goes first
  • Don’t cross in front of someone doing an exercise in front of a mirror
  • Say thank you
  • Share
  • Ask before taking
  • Don’t stare
  • Wait until people are done their set before walking by them (fear of hitting arms, barbells)
  • Give people some room
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom
  • Don’t commandeer too many pieces of equipment
  • If your filling a water bottle, let the person getting a sip go first

Locker Room

  • Keep the eyes up (no giving the up and down)
  • Use a towel to keep your shit to yourself
  • Rinse the sink after shaving and brushing teeth

PEOPLE YOU’LL SEE

Image by Adam Medders Photography for The Dapper Style
Image by Adam Medders Photography for The Dapper Style
  • Social Butterflies– The gym is social event for them. A simple “Hi” could turn into a 20 min conversation about God knows what.
Courtesy of calorieking.com
Courtesy of calorieking.com
  • Obnoxiously Loud Drill Sargent– Usually a personal trainer or someone that thinks they are that yells to motivate. Think of your middle school gym coach.  Odds are it’s the same person.
Courtesy of paintingyourselfpretty.com
Courtesy of paintingyourselfpretty.com
  • The Cougar– Middle aged woman who gets all dolled up to workout. Hair done, make-up on fleek to catch her next unsuspecting 20 something.
Courtesy of metalmadefitness.com
Courtesy of metalmadefitness.com
  • The Creep– The male equivalent of the Cougar. Will creepily stare at you until you leave or punch him in the dick.

best gym

  • The Grunter– Some people are loud having sex other people are loud when they lift weights.
Courtesy of flexoffense.com
Courtesy of flexoffense.com
  • The Jacked Person– They do competitions and are constantly tan.
Courtesy of lockerdome.com
Courtesy of lockerdome.com
  • The Gym Bro – He could still wear Zubaz. Otherwise they just look like him.

best gym

  • Selfie King or Queen– For them the gym isn’t about working out it’s to make duck faces in the mirror or show off their asses.
Courtesy of livelifeactive.com
Courtesy of livelifeactive.com
  • The Updator– Facebook and Twitter would cease to exist if their every second updates weren’t posted.

best gym

  • The Innovator– You’ll see this person in every gym and you just ask yourself “What the fuck are they doing?”
Courtesy of fitnesseagles.com
Courtesy of fitnesseagles.com
  • The This Is How Much I Know Person– This person will go up to anyone and try to “show them the correct way” of doing the exercise. 100% of the time it’s unsolicited and wrong.

Since you’re just starting off, most gyms offer personal training and some offer a free session to hook you.

But do you need one?

PERSONAL TRAINER OR NAH

While I can’t give you a definite answer, I suggest you take them up on the offer of a free session if available.  It’s one session and there is no monetary commitment so far, so really there is no down side.

There are situations where I think a personal trainer would be a good investment:

  • If you are a beginner in every sense of the word to exercise, then I would suggest getting a personal trainer. They can help you with form and put some structure into your workouts.
  • If the personal trainer has a specialty that aligns with your golas. For instance, if the trainer competes in powerlifting meets then they would be a great resource for getting tips on improving your bench or squat.
  • If you’ve exhausted other avenues to get in shape and you just need some guidance. Rather than quitting exercise all together, invest some time and money into getting a personal trainer.
  • You have a competition type goal. Bodybuilding, powerlifting or sport related training is better left to the pros.  In this instance I would opt for a specialize personal trainer.

Other than these examples everything can be learned through videos and reading super sweet websites like this.

If you are going to commit to a personal trainer, then here is a list of what you should ask and known before you sign up.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PERSONAL TRAINER

  • Are they currently certified through ACE, NSCA, IDEA, ACSM?
  • Are they currently CPR and AED certified (expires every 2 years)
  • They are working for you, not the other way around. You decide what you want and need rather than them telling you.
  • Do they have any schooling other than the certification? Like Kinesiology or Exercise Science?
  • How they motivate- drill sergeant, kind hand on the back?
  • Their hours
  • Preliminary plan for you. Listen for how your workouts will progress over time.
  • Personality- if you wouldn’t be friends with them then it wont work
  • Looks- Shallow I know, but would you put more effort in if your personal trainer was good looking rather than an ug-mo? I rest my case.
  • How often would my workout change
  • What they specialize in (athletes, moms, post surgery) if they don’t have a specific group they are either a) new to training or b) suck
  • Client references
  • What kind of packages do they offer?
  • Cancellation or missed appointment policy
  • Individual sessions or multiple client sessions
  • Refund policy
  • Installments or up front or back end payments
  • Package expirations
  • Do they work with any professionals (nutritionists, doctors, Physical Therapists). Good ones will.
  • Fitness assessments available (look for body fat caliper measurements) Bioelectrical impedance handheld devices are about as accurate as guessing by looking in the mirror.

There are 2 huge red flags and you should find a new personal trainer immediately:

  • Pushing supplements on you
  • Giving you a diet plan. Legally only Register Dieticians can give diet plans.  If they are a nutritionist ask to see their certifications.  They can give advice, like food choice, avoid this and that, but as far as scheduling your meals and writing a formal plan is illegal. If they give you more information regarding nutrition then you would from my site or in a book then they are over stepping their limitations.

Almost done I swear.  This whole thing would be useless without these last 2 points.  OK, maybe just this next point.

EXPECTATIONS

Just starting off, the first 6 months you will notice a rapid strength increase.  Unfortunately, that is just your nervous system making more muscle nerve connections to increase the amount of muscle used.

Strength in generated first by how many muscle fibers you have firing.  More connections = more strength.  Then when your saturated the amount of muscle-nerve connections then the muscle gets bigger to continue getting stronger.

Like with doing anything you’re not used to doing you will be sore.  Be prepared.  It won’t be the end of the world it’s just your body adapting.  Make sure you get proper sleep and nutrition to help elevate the soreness.  Don’t skip a workout because of soreness.  Work another body part or go light to help flush the lactic acid from the muscle.  Movement will help you recover faster than laying on the couch.

Don’t let soreness be the measuring stick for a good workout.  Once you progress or do different types of training you might not be sore, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get a good workout.

In regards to fat loss, don’t expect to lose 30 lbs of fat in 2 weeks unless you get lipo.  Give yourself time.  Consider how long it took you to get to the weight you are now, what the hell would make you think it would be quicker to lose it?

Now this last section is specifically geared towards the guys.  But ladies if you want a good laugh at the mental anguish that men feel at the gym, feel free to read on.

LETTING YOUR FLAG FLY

Yes, I’m going there.  Showering at the gym.

We’ve all seen the movies, the laughs, the jokes, the stares, the towel whipping.  It’s enough stress to rationalize smelling like a homeless guy all day.

But honestly, it’s nothing like that.  Except for that one time when I got the up and down while getting ready to go in the shower.  I kinda felt like I needed a shower after that.

Besides that one-time no one creeped me out.  I’ve showered in stalls and prison style and I can honestly say that I have no more trepidation about it.  I have enough shit to worry about then some guy getting an eye full of me in my birthday suit.

So how did I do it?

Well being in locker rooms enough you’ll notice people around you and the total lack of a reaction to the nakedness and clothing.  I’ve seen more older men walking around and talking to their friends than I care to admit.

So one day I decided to go for it.  Hell, if these old guys with their saggy skin and old balls can do it then why can’t I?  So I dropped my draws and walked into the showers about 10 ft away with my towel in my hand and my junk in the breeze.  No on whipped me with a towel, no one laughed, no one stared.  Honestly no one gave a shit.  They continued to do what they were doing before I took my big walk.

Really?  This is what was making me anxious?

So after that it’s never bothered me.  In our heads we tend to think we are a lot more important and the center of the universe then we actually are.  But in reality we are just another guy with a fear of showing our hang down.

  • Don’t think you can take the plunge and go full monty?  Then start slow and progress.
  • Just wear your athletic shorts and underwear to the shower and get undressed behind the comfort of the curtain.
  • Then after you get comfortable, just wear your underwear to the shower.
  • Then, progress to wrapping your waist with the towel and removing your underwear at the locker.
  • If you made it this far then just be proud of what you have and revel in the fact that you’re not the guy in the worst shape in the locker room.  Drop your draws and just go for the shower.
  • You have a lot more important things to worry about than who is checking your boys out.

I wouldn’t have wasted 430 words on something that didn’t mean anything.  Just don’t have a boner when you do it, that’s awkward for everyone.

Ron boner

Dave

 

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Featured Image courtesy of exercise.com