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We asked fitness industry experts Ron Zalko, CEO of Ron Zalko Fitness in Vancouver, and Steve Hall, regional general manager for the Athletic Club Group in Ottawa, what information you should find out during your walk-around of the facilities. Here are 8 questions you should ask before joining any gym.
1. When should I schedule my visit?
Visit the gym the same time of day that you would be going there for your workout. That way, ''you can see what classes are available, how busy it is, what the environment is like and how many pieces of equipment are used at that time of day,'' explains Hall.
2. What is the front desk staff like?
You want to know that staff members are knowledgeable about health and fitness, and are not just salespeople. How can you tell? Knowledgeable staff will answer your questions with fitness information first and price second. If you ask a staff member what foods you should eat to keep your energy up and he or she answers correctly you're in the right place.
3. What things should I look out for on the tour?
You should be shown the entire facility on your walk-around, including fitness studios, exercise machines, changerooms etc.
''Everybody's needs are different, but you should look for a facility that has a wide range of services,'' says Hall. With a variety of classes and equipment, there's less of a chance of you falling into a workout plateau.
4. What is the floor like?
If you do high-impact exercises (ones in which both feet leave the ground at the same time) on concrete flooring, you could be doing serious damage to your body, says Zalko.
''On your tour, jump on the floor to see how cushioned it is,'' he recommends.
5. How accessible are the staff members?
Staff members should always be available to answer your questions or to help you with your workouts. In some gyms, you might be able to have one-on-one time with a staff member right away, while at other facilities you might have to book that time ahead.
''The gym should always have someone to interact with you for at least a few minutes,'' Hall says.
6. Is the gym clean?
On your tour, ask about how often the machines are disinfected.
''Larger facilities should have custodial staff, whereas a smaller studio may have one person doing multiple jobs,'' says Hall. Some community gyms may even require members to clean up after themselves.
7. Can I get a trial membership?
Most gyms offer short-term options so that you can see what the environment is like before committing long term. Even if you do sign up for the full gym membership right away, under the Consumer Protection Act you have a 10-day cooling off period in which you can make sure you're comfortable with the location and facilities.
Conversely, you'll want to know that the club will not be overrun with free-pass holders. ''Ask yourself, ‘Is this a place where anyone can walk in? Once I'm a member, will I be able to get into a class if they're giving out so many free passes?''' suggests Hall.
8. Where is the gym located?
Ideally, your gym should be close either to where you work or where you live – preferably the latter.
''Typically, you only get an hour break from work and you might be rushed,'' says Zalko, adding that if your gym is close to home you'll have the option to walk or ride your bike there – weekends included – which is not only good for the environment, but is also great for your health.