Finding the right gym for you is a journey of self-discovery. Don’t think about what promotions or discounts this or that gym can offer just yet. Just think about what you want to achieve first. Think about what you’ll need to achieve this. And think long-term, not short-term.
Ultimately, this is about you, your health and well-being. Hence, you’d want to look for value, not cost. It may seem like a daunting task, but here are at least three things to helping you navigate your way in this journey.
Firstly, it’s essential to know the difference between what constitutes as “sport” and “training.” It may seem elementary, but really drawing the line between the two can make a world of difference, especially when dealing with variables of safety protocols and risk-taking.
The essence of sport relies on competition, which is why you have point systems, time periods, and a winner. Training, on the other hand, is supposed to prepare you for sport. In essence, there are no point systems nor winners in training. True, you can look at it from the standpoint of competing with yourself or having a semblance of a point system through personal records. And there are also several modalities of “training” that are more sport-oriented, rather than training in concept. What is important is to know where in the spectrum of sport to training it lies in. That way, you can properly weigh the risks involved.
Conceptually, sport has more inherent risks involved, while training does not (and should not). Because of the competitive nature of sport, you can easily overexert yourself with all the adrenaline rush without being fully aware of it. You don’t really think of paces or timed intervals in the heat of sport. Training, on the other hand, is in a controlled environment, programmed, timed, and measured. Its goal is to make you stronger, faster, healthier, better for your sport, or simply just better in general. If your “training” is the one causing the injuries, you have got to reevaluate things.
There are gyms that are sport-oriented and there are gyms that are training-oriented. Know what attracts you most and weigh the variables. Know that to solely rely on sport as your conditioning has its risks in terms of overexertion and injury. It may be wise to even enroll in these two separate gyms if you are serious about your sport.
Secondly, train with intent. You must know what you are training for, long-term. This goes beyond the summer bod you’d like to get for your next beach trip. Go deep within yourself and ask why this is so important to you. Then find that gym that will educate you and empower you– a gym that teaches you things about your body and yourself that you can carry with you for a lifetime.
The gym should be a place of education. Gone are the days where those who frequent the gym are “all brawn, no brain.” The human body is a complex thing that science is still continuously discovering things about. That makes the gym essentially a laboratory for the human body. So find that gym that teaches you, that educates you, that empowers you. And it’s not just about the equipment; it’s about the passion of the people running the gym that reflects on the coaches and staff.
Thirdly, find a gym that will make it convenient for you to show up and do your thing. It’s inevitable that you’ll have countless excuses and barriers stopping you from training. It’s difficult enough just to commit, so you will have to ensure that you’ve got all the other excuses covered. If it’s about unusual work schedules and time—then consider choosing a 24/7 gym. If it’s about unwarranted social pressure—then consider a gym with a supportive and welcoming environment.
Oftentimes, what you might also need is a gym buddy. You’ve got to prepare yourself for those days where you just need someone’s help to haul you off your bed and get things done. But if you don’t have any, find a gym where the staff are more than eager to motivate you to come to the gym—staff that aren’t selling you things, but who genuinely believe in you and want to see you achieve things. Find a gym where the community is fun and inspiring—a group of people who won’t judge you and who will appreciate you for the progress you’re making, no matter the pace.
It’s better to do your research and prepare well for this commitment, as it will all be worth it in the end. A bad experience in the wrong gym can potentially turn you away from the gym for a very long time.
Take advantage of gyms that offer free trials. Take them, observe, and feel the atmosphere. Just blend in and try not to ask for all the freebies and special treatment. Engage the other members and staff, and ask them about their experiences in the gym and why they do what they do. That way, you can truly feel what its like being a regular member in that facility.
At the end of the day, it’s essentially the people behind the gym that matter. Facilities can have all the fanciest equipment, but if the place is lacking in good culture, a community spirit geared towards health and camaraderie, and a solid passion for fitness and innovation, all you’ll have left is a cold place filled with steel and sweat.
I invite you to start in this journey of self-discovery. Always remember that the gym is a place where you work for improvement. There is no shame walking in a gym weak and looking soft. That is precisely what gyms are for— just as hospitals are for the sick, and churches are for the repentant. Find yourself, find your gym, and start. To quote Zig Ziglar, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”