Joining a gym for winter? Essential checklist on choosing the right one

Make the most of your membership with these six trainer-approved tips for finding a fitness facility that will suit your needs

Choosing a gym


Each week personal trainer Barb Gormley answers your most pressing fitness questions.

I’m thinking of joining a fitness club. What do I need to know to make a good choice?

Joining a fitness club can be a fun way to get fit and meet new friends. It’s a big decision, so shop around to find a club that you’ll look forward to visiting several times a week. Here are six key areas to consider.

Do an Internet search to see what people are saying about the club in blog postings and magazine articles, and always check its rating with the Better Business Bureau.  Most importantly, talk to current members. I would never join a club unless its members told me they really loved everything about their club.

Poke your head into the locker rooms and showers (even if you plan to shower at home). The best clubs know that women are turned off by moldy shower tiles and dust bunnies under the benches. I give bonus points when the cleaning staff sign a posted sheet each time they clean the locker rooms (like at fast food restaurants).

Friendliness and staff qualifications
Does the front-desk person greet you with a smile when you visit for a tour? Are the other staff members friendly, helpful and non-intimidating?  Are the fitness staff trained and certified? At a quality club, the manager will always be welcoming, accessible and available for questions.

Location and hours of operation
You’ll work out more often if the club is close to your home or workplace and if its hours sync with your schedule. If it’s a 24-hour club, ask if it’s staffed during the off hours. If not, what security measures are in place?

Equipment, classes and extra services
Are there a good choice of cardio and weight training equipment? What about childcare, personal training, fitness classes or other services you might require in the future? Beware if you see members lined up for equipment or “out of order” signs on equipment (top clubs have their equipment repaired ASAP).

Don’t be rushed into signing a contract. Read the fine print, and take it home if you need time to think or talk about it with a friend or your partner. Find out about the laws governing fitness club contracts in your province. For example, you may have up to 10 days to change your mind after joining.

Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at