Living in Madison, WI has a lot of advantages when it comes to fitness. We are consistently voted one of the healthiest cities to live in, we are lucky enough to host huge events like the CrossFit games and the Ironman, and we also have a large and healthy choice of restaurants to dine at when the hard work is done! We are a city filled with Health Clubs, Fitness Centers, Gyms, 24 hour facilities, you name it! So you definitely have your choice of where you can go. For some, Price might be the determining factor, for some it might be personal attention or coaching, for some hours of operation, and hopefully for most, a clean facility with well maintained equipment.
But I believe there are some key things to look for when choosing the right facility for you. Let’s go through the list and see what might be missing from your current Gym.
1.) Culture – In My opinion, this should be the number one thing that people look for in a gym. The culture of a gym starts with the owner and goes right on down. Is the owner present? Do they take care of the facility they run? What about their members, do the understand and help promote the proper culture. The culture of a gym should be visible in every member who works out their. Do they appreciate and take care of the facility, do they put their weights away, do they clean up after themselves. Or is it a place where the equipment is as dirty as the floors, and between the clutter of gym bags and spilled protein shakes, there might be a place to actually work out! My belief has always been that you can have a “Hardcore” or “Hardwork” Gym with out having to be a run down dump with members or even worse owners who don’t care about their facility.
2.) Equipment – What are your goals? Does the Gym you are joining have the right equipment for those goals? It’s no secret that programming for workouts can vary widely and if your trainer knows what he is doing, he also has a pretty specific list if equipment for you to use with your workouts. You can find a bench press or squat rack in most places, those are tried and true pieces of equipment. Beyond that there is a myriad of equipment choices you can find. Most “neighborhood” gyms and 24 hour gyms will have a pretty specific group of equipment that everyone is used to using. But the fitness industry has come a long way and there are lots of new and different pieces of equipment you may have never tried before, that may change the way you think about fitness. One example we have at our facility, is the belt squat. This piece of equipment can be used by the heaviest of lifters to the most novice lifter. Still relatively unknown and not available in many gyms, this allows you all the benefits of the squat with out spinal compression and risk of lower back injury. As a matter of fact, many studies have shown it may actually decompress the spine! Tour the gyms you seek to join and ask about their equipment. You never know what you might be missing out on.
3.) Cleanliness – I’ve touched on it several times already, but I find this to be very important. Again, I don’t believe that hard work and cleanliness need to be at odds with one another. I’ve worked at both kinds of gyms. Gyms that were kept clean and well maintained, which I always found more professional, as well as places where nothing was kept up and you would trip over gym bags and equipment on your way across the gym floor. The latter always rubbed me the wrong way. You owe it to your members to have a clean facility, with well maintained equipment. Their dues are paying for use of that equipment so both the owner and the gym member should be invested in taking care of it. Again, culture!!!!
4. ) Members – Do you find the other members approachable? Or do they yell at you for getting in their way during a set, maybe not understand that they don’t own the place or that you may be new and not understand gym etiquette? Do they appear to care for the facility? Are they willing to offer assistance to a lifter in need. Nobody likes unsolicited advice, but sometimes you can clearly see someone struggling and it is always polite to ask if they need help. Do they smile? At the end of the day, we want to work hard but we want to try and enjoy it as much as you can. In our gym, some of the people who move the most weight, are also the biggest teddy bears. We love it. If everyone has a great attitude, it makes the suffering of a hard work out that much more enjoyable!
Mark Plavcan is Co-Owner of Twisted Fitness Gym, CrossFit Mata Leao, and Alliance BJJ Madison
He is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Black Belt, a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and has over 20 years of experience
in the Gym and Fitness industry.