Investment banker by day, gym junkie by night - but always a writer at heart.
Published June 12th 2014
Helping you choose the best gym for you
Let's breeze through the motivational talk about why you should join a gym so we can get to which gym to join.
We all know why we should stay healthy; the reduced medical bills and improved quality of life are pretty compelling. For some it's the connection between looking good and feeling good. For others, it's a way to earn a few more bites of cake.
The fitness industry is booming, and with so many choices it can be daunting for the relatively new to find out which gym to join. Having been invited to train and tour at several of these, here's my two cents from someone who has been training and trained others for 6 years.
This is the bare bones of the gym world, with just enough equipment but nothing that really stands out except for the powerlifting platform with Olympic weights. For those of you that don't know, this is basically a solid wooden platform to stand on with softer sides for the weights to bounce off if you drop the bar. It's great for deadlifts and other powerlifting exercises that require a firm footing. Unfortunately, it does not have a squat rack, which is a big red flag for serious weight lifters.
It has a more dark and grungy feel to it and is a predominantly a male gym for those that want to pump iron. The gym is open 24/7. Pricing varies and should be discussed to get the best deal possible. Expect to pay around $22 per fortnight, and less if you sign up with more people.
Similar to Snap but with a slightly more inviting and bright décor, Anytime Fitness is one of the most well-known 24/7 gyms. Equipment-wise, it is very similar to Snap, minus the powerlifting platform. I tend to find that there are not enough flat benches for bench press at Anytime Fitness gyms and the weights section feels small in proportion to the rest of the gym. Despite this, the gym's demographic still feels predominantly male.
Prices start around $18 per week, but can be talked down to $14 depending on your charm and who you're talking to. Again, it's always helpful to have friends sign up with you.
The Fit N Fast gyms offer a bright and inviting training environment, and are noticeably more spacious than Snap or Anytime. There's just the right amount of equipment so that it's busy but you're never waiting too long. Recently, the gyms have been adding more features, such as a virtual class (a room with classes playing on a screen that you can follow at any time), ViPR weights, and boxing classes (using targets not boxing bags unfortunately). You will generally see more personal trainers and there are more female members than Snap and Anytime. However, there is a huge drawback in that the dumbbells only go up to 30kg. This, combined with the minimal classes makes this gym neither a male nor female gym; it's more like a casual gym.
Fit N Fast is not 24/7, and opening hours are shorter on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Not for the late night trainer, but prices are reasonable at between $10-$18 a week and a possible sign up fee, depending on when you sign up (they often have promotions). Referrals also get benefits, so sign up with friends!
This gym is packed with equipment and has classes, but there's less open space so it feels a little cramped. The weights section is small and the assortment of weights seems mismatched and sparse. There's not a great range of equipment for weight lifting, so this combined with the classes makes this more of a woman's gym.
The gym does, however, have a swimming pool which is a nice addition, and it focuses more on personalised assistance with nutrition and fitness consultations. While these are a nice touch, I would always advise intellectual scepticism when told anything, especially regarding nutrition and fitness because of the large amount of PTs who don't know what they're doing, and the changing medical understanding of the fields.
It's quite an expensive gym, but the change rooms are nice and they offer you a washed towel upon entry in case you want to head to the pool. Unfortunately, convenience is also an issue as there aren't many of these gyms around. Prices will range from $20-$30 per week plus sign up fee.
Hard Candy takes the crown for the female crowd, with something like 70-80% female membership. Despite this, there is a wide variety of weights and equipment. My favourite thing about this gym is the boxing bag, powerlifting platform, and the rooftop gym, which is surprisingly rugged and manly with its ropes, truck tyres, and assortment of pull up bars. It's a bit unusual that the weights are denominated in pounds, but the heaviest dumbbells are a slightly light 45kg (100 pounds).
What's most impressive about this gym though is the many, many classes it offers. Attendance is quite robust and the girls look very engaged and cheery. The whole atmosphere of the gym is very welcoming, though slightly cramped when compared to Fit N Fast and Fitness First.
Prices range from $20-$35 per week plus an extra sign up and processing fee, but I did manage to talk this down to $17 once just to see how low I could get it (though I have a fair amount of leverage).
Possibly the best known gym around, Fitness First boasts some of the widest ranges of equipment and floorspace in the gym industry. There are also a lot of classes and personal trainers available. With different membership packages available, your access and price range is somewhat adjustable.
At the Platinum gyms, there are boxing bags, ropes, and assorted pullup bars. Other branches have smaller barbells and weights in the classrooms, and a hex bar (a hexagonal bar for deadlifts where you stand in the centre; arguably safer and better for your back). The dumbbells go up to 50-75kg and there's plenty of cardio equipment. The locker rooms are spacious and clean, with ironing boards, and blow dryers.
All in all, there's not that much lacking from a Fitness First gym, whether you're there for weights or cardio. The demographic is more evenly split between males and females, but leaning a bit towards the male side.
You get what you pay for. Hours vary depending on the gym and prices range from $18 to $30 per week, depending on your membership package and contract term, with an additional sign up fee.
As with anything in life, it depends. Always be wary of someone who arbitrarily decides things for you. Which gym should you join? Here's a mini questionnaire to help you decide.
1. What time is the most convenient for you to go to the gym?
a. Insomnia hours (After 9pm – before 7am)
b. Standard hours
2. What would you mainly do at the gym?
3. How advanced are you at weights?
If you answered mostly a's, you should be looking at Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and possibly Fitness First.
If you answered mostly b's, that doesn't narrow down your choice much because all gyms are open standard hours, all gyms have cardio equipment, and most gyms have enough weights for an intermediate lifter.
If you answered mostly c's, you should be looking at Living Well, Hard Candy, and Fitness First.
If you answered d, you should go to Hard Candy or Fitness First (as a guy), or Fitness First (as a girl) – and shame on you for being a distraction.
Always remember to negotiate your price. Your leverage is how many people you (promise) to join with you, and how long you are willing to lock yourself into a contract.
Be aware that you should not pay for extra and hope that by paying, it will somehow motivate you to go. It won't. Instead, having a gym close by, catered to what you need and enjoy, and open when it's convenient for you to go are far more important factors to boosting your attendance rate.
Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get healthy. Look and feel great.
you left a few gyms out.... curves and fernwood which is the one i use... 22 weekly fee with sign up and friendly fun with showers lockers hair dryers and basic morning cleaning items and lots of classes