Given that we’re so close to the new year, and the high number of people who put “get fit” or “start working out” on their resolution list… I think this post has perfect timing.
I’m a big believer in the idea that the gym you go to will either make or break you if you’re just starting out. The atmosphere of that gym, the availability of things you need to be fit, the staff, their general business motto, etc. Your gym needs to fit you and your goals. If you don’t feel comfortable there, the relationship isn’t going to last.
So what do you do when you find that perfect fit of a gym — and it starts to go to the crapper?
I’m sure all of the fitness lovers who watched Planet Fitness haul out their squat racks, flat benches, then were told no more deadlifting etc… will feel me on this.
It’s frustrating as hell when your gym starts to implode around you. It’s been happening at my gym for a few years now. I’ve watched machines break and then take longer and longer to get fixed. I’ve watched the recent summers come and those air conditioning units take almost all summer long to get installed in the windows upstairs. I’ve watched as every rain storm the buckets on the first floor line up because that ceiling leaks.
Now, I’m going to pause here. Gyms promote health and fitness. You have a 2-story gym where the first floor ceiling leaks. Do you have any idea how badly the roof of the place has to leak to have a floor leak? The mold?!
Back on track… a new gym is opening up in my area. A annex of a YMCA in the town I grew up in — which is the next town over from my gym. Which means: Competition. Apparently, this isn’t concerning to the manager or owner of the establishment I call “gym”. Nothing is being done to fix the leaks, improve the overall space, draw people in by offering incentives or deals. Fix the machines that remain broken.
Last week, I was filling up my water bottle and walked by the pitiful excuse of a row cable machine. Being 30-weeks pregnant, I’d like to be able to use it again. I’ve been doing supinated rows at the tower cable machine, and it’s to the point now where, last night, using it — I said fuck it. It’s too hard for me to get up and down from the floor. Which is where you have to be to use that particular machine for a row at the proper angle.
I’ve watched other gym members attempt to use it for rows in a variety of ways. All of which are sketchy and not safe. And even then, we all question when one of the sides is going to let go. It snags and jerks, almost tearing your arm out.
Clearly I’m not the only one feeling that my gym is failing me. Last summer, four of the most used machines went unusable for more than three months. One even longer than that. Why? Padding. We came in one day and the pads were gone and the now familiar “Out of Order” signs on them.
Broken treadmills remain broken for long periods of time upstairs. Then mysteriously just disappear. If you want to run, you have only two options. The other treadmill doesn’t pace up fast enough — and will randomly stop on you.
I pay, along with every other member, pretty good money every year to use the facility. It’s one of the few in the county where if you want to lift heavy — you can. It’s only normal that we want machines and equipment that works. Or to be able to find items that were there just the other day.
My gym just doesn’t care. At all. About any of its members really. Yes, it cares more about the elderly crowd that comes in. That’s been made clear by the warnings about slamming weights (I’m surprised a Lunk Alarm hasn’t been installed like at Planet Fitness), vocally encouraging each other, etc. Basically, if you want to actually work out, you now have to follow a set of rules that just don’t belong in a gym, period.
So what happens now?
In my situation, I’m jumping ship. Because I’m a trainer and ordered a lot of smaller weights for my classes and to transport for home training clients, I get pretty great pricing through a distributor. And I’m taking advantage of that by setting up a gym in my garage finally. I only really do the Olympic lifts, and like the heavy weight, so I don’t need much.
But what if you don’t have that option? What if you use the treadmill? Or prefer the cable machines over free weights?
Look into the gyms around you. Look into their incentives for getting you to leave your gym and come to theirs. Gyms are becoming more and more like cell phone companies. They want you to come and give them your money, and they’re willing to offer you deals in order to rope you in. Shop around like you would when buying a car. You’ll be surprised at what you find out. And probably a lot happier.
What if you’re in a situation like mine? You’re in a hometown gym, and you’ve got options, but not many. Know what? Almost every single YMCA offers income based member fees. That’s right. Odds are, you’re paying out of your behind for that annual gym membership — when you don’t have to. My local Y is about $100/year on average cheaper than the gym I go to. $100 a year. That should be incentive enough to jump ship on your hometown gym if they no longer value your membership. And guess what? They’re machines always work. They have trainers on hand to help show you how to properly use machines or do exercises (did I tell you my gym no longer has that?). YMCAs, which are non-profit, even run specials. That’s right, a fitness center, run solely on donations, have deals every year where you can get membership for $1, or a different kind of deal.
My hometown gym, which is for profit, doesn’t even do that. It’s been years since they ran a “deal”.
The gym is where your fitness health starts. Make sure it’s a good fit, that you’re valued even a little bit, and you’ll go leaps and bounds (and sticking with that goal will be a hell of a lot easier).