Choosing a Fitness Club

As 2012 got closer and closer, my husband and I decided to start looking for a fitness club to join. We had both been members of a local gym and had a personal trainer 3 days a week for the past 2 years. But in March of 2011, I thought I was 12 years old again and tore my achilles running 40 yard dashes with the high school kids. It took the whole year for my calf to heal. We’ve had a personal trainer for almost 10 years now and love having one. But we’ve decided to join a club where we can do more than lift weights and aerobic boot camp. So the last 2 weeks of December we started visiting local clubs looking for the right one for us.

What we were looking for was a club:

  • that had group classes
  • with a pool or lap pool
  • that offered personal training
  • that was clean and the equipment wasn’t worn out or old
  • that was open 24/7 so guests weren’t all forced into the same block of time
  • that wasn’t too expensive
  • that we could get out of contract if it didn’t work out
  • that was close enough that we would go
  • that had an energetic atmosphere (we’re mood catchers and we need energy from others to keep us going)

We checked out LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Lifetime Fitness.

LA Fitness had the pool, classes and trainers—but was old and dirty looking. Anytime Fitness had the equipment and trainers, but no classes, pool or energy. Planet fitness was basically a weight lifters gym, and totally dead. Gold’s Gym was OK, but just didn’t pull us in. Lifetime Fitness seemed to have everything we were looking for. So we got a one week free trial membership and a free personal trainer session to help us make our decision.

The facility is HUGE. It looks like an exercise mall more than a gym. There are 4 squash courts, 4 basketball courts, hundreds of treadmills, bikes, elipticals, and stair climbers, an olympic size pool indoors and out, a 6 lane lap pool, showers, spa, yoga, pilates, and on and on. We took total advantage of the trial membership and went 5 of the 7 days the week of Christmas. The trainer took us through our paces and I discovered I was really out of shape for endurance. We played squash every visit (we used to play racquetball, but they have squash because it burns more calories). We used some of the hundreds of weight machines and checked out the classes. We shot baskets on the basketball court. There were always lots of people there and we felt the energy level would be a real plus and keep us going—so we joined on Dec. 27. I decided we would come back on Jan 1 with renewed interest and efforts at getting/staying in shape and enjoying our new lifestyle.

HA! We we’re the only ones that made that decision. When we came back on Jan 1, we couldn’t find a parking spot. The place was packed wall to wall with people and trainers. And worst of all were the kids! Kids everywhere!!!! I felt like I had joined a nursery. Kids running in the halls. Two of the basketball courts dedicated to kids play. Squash courts taken by kids. By kids I mean 6-10 year olds. The kids under 6 were in a special area, but you had to watch out for them until they got to that area. Kids in the pool— the water looked like a choppy wake. How much pee in that pool?

On Friday the first week in January, we learned that once is a month is parents’ night out and parents are dropping kids off like flies. There were hundreds of them. Taking up all the courts and the pools. The second week starts the kids programs and courts and pools are shut down for kids classes. One night we saw a half of a basketball court dedicated to one fat kid and his trainer! How can one kid get a whole half a basketball court when guys are literally standing in line 10 deep for pick-up games?

I’ve also discovered that just about everything there cost extra. If you can’t do it alone, it cost extra. Classes are extra, lessons are extra. Pilates is not included. Cafeteria cost an arm and a leg. Personal trainers are $100/hour. Everything in the club is geared toward selling something once you get in the door. Heart rate monitors, fitness evaluations out the wazoo, lessons, training, even group exercise classes. But babysitting is free. Also, a lot of what you can do alone is off limits if there is a class. Certain areas of the gym are blocked off for classes which greatly cuts down on the available machines.

The website is terrible and hard to figure out how to use. There are so few classes each day it’s hard to find one at a time you can attend, unless you want to go at 9 pm when the kids are at home asleep.

We are going to give it a couple of months and see if the crowd falls off. If not, we’ll be looking again and know a lot better what not to get into.