Essential steps for choosing a gym

This is a sensitive topic because a new job has forced me leave the best strength gym in the GTA, leaving me to shop for a new place that is willing to accommodate my obnoxious grunting.

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Proudly represented my gym’s logo at my first powerlifting meet.

I doubt I speak only for my suburban neighbourhood when I say there is definitely no shortage of fitness facilities. Some busier than others, some have corporate discounts, some are small, and some are borderline country clubs.

Price, location and cleanliness all play a part in choosing a gym; however, I strongly believe considering the following essential, yet overlooked, criteria will help you take training to the next level.

Step one: Find a gym where you don’t stand out

It’s like taking a high school student and expecting them to thrive in a grade 6 classroom. It’s uninspiring and, sure, you feel really smart for a week, but how do you improve? There is nothing to look up to, nothing to humble you. It will either leave you with an inflated ego, or boring you to death. Sticking out like a sore thumb also leads to cringe-worthy conversations with those who don’t understand what or how you do what you do.

Having quarter-squatters and bench-bouncers mansplain exercises is a sure-fire way to have me regret my membership.

Step two: Find a gym with members and staff with similar training styles

If everyone around you is focused on weight loss, and all they talk about is rice cakes and PB2, you’ll fall in the same trap even if your goal is to gain strength. Also, having staff that trains in the same way is great for when you need constructive advice from an experienced person.

It’s like asking for something dairy-free at Dairy Queen, even if they want to help you, they can’t. 

Step three: Find a gym with the right equipment

If you have a plan in place, but can’t execute it efficiently, start shopping for a new gym. An absence of power racks, glute-ham raises, rubber resistance bands, platforms and open space to warm up, are a big no from me. It’s not safe to be deadlifting in a tiny space between dumbbells and machines, and if there is only one power rack it will be an hour by the time one frees up.

I presume bodybuilders are only concerned with the amount of mirrors in the facility which explains their ability to adapt to most gyms. 

Step four: Find a safe space

Unfortunately, finding “inclusive” fitness spaces is still a challenge.  I have been faced with inappropriate behaviour just for being a woman, never mind being a visible minority or LGBTQ+. Call me a liberal snowflake all you want, it does not offend me, what offends me is the inability of the basic, white, “fit” woman or straight, “hardcore” man to socialize with anyone who doesn’t look like their clone.

Repeat after me: It is not “normal” for anyone to be followed, have sexual advances made at them, or be subjected to racist, sexist or homophobic commentary inside of a gym.

Lesson: Take your choice of gym seriously

If your aim is to be a regular, you should choose your facility wisely. They are not created equally, and oftentimes the most expensive ones, with the most amenities are actually the worst places to train in.

Find out what your options are, do a free trial, and see whether the gym is enhancing your love for exercising, or putting a damper on it.

**Note: If  they have a dog you may sign up immediately, it trumps all criteria**

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