You can spend anywhere from $10 a month to more than $200 to get your daily sweat on. So how much money is reasonable to be putting toward a gym membership?
The first thing to consider is obviously: How much can you afford? If you’re broke and $10 is all you can swing each month, end your search immediately and join the cheapest gym you can find. Don’t even bother looking at the more expensive options, because you’ll only be sad that you can’t enjoy a cold eucalyptus towel and a steam after your time on the treadmill.
But perhaps your budget allows for more than $10 a month. The next thing to take into consideration is how often you’ll use the gym. If you’re the type to join a gym because you think spending the money will make you go, think again. People throw money down all the time saying, “Well, now that I’ve paid I definitely am going to go!” But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, your same old excuses for skipping the gym will come back and you will be tossing money down the drain.
So think realistically about how many times you plan to go to the gym each month. Based on that, calculate the cost per visit. If the gym’s membership fee costs $180 per month and you plan to go six times per week, that’s only $7.50 per visit. Sounds like a good deal!
But if you’re paying $180 a month and you only plan to go only twice per week, your per visit cost just went up to $22.50—not so great. You might want to look into cheaper options.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fanciness or perceived convenience of a gym you’ve got your eyes on, but sometimes amenities can oversell a place. Think seriously about which ones you’ll actually take advantage of. The gym has 40 spin classes a week? That’s awesome! Oh wait, do you even like spin? If the answer is no, put it out of mind.
If classes are something that motivate you to work out and you’ll take a few a week, make sure the gym has good schedule for you—check class times as well as just the types of classes offered. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to the front desk and find out if classes fill up easily (what good are a billion class options if you can’t get into the ones you want?). There’s nothing more awkward than getting shut out of a full spin room in your padded shorts and clip-in shoes.
Another aspect that can make or break your gym experience is the locker room. If you go home immediately after your workout, then you probably don’t need to worry too much about the locker room; but if part of your routine is showering at the gym and then going to work (or out), make sure it’s up to your standards. I’ve had some locker room experiences where I feel cleaner NOT showering after working out! If you plan to use the locker room regularly, take a look before joining and make sure the floors are clean, the towels are plenty, there are hair dryers or electrical outlets, etc.
Once you’ve narrowed down your gym options to a few you like, can afford and will use, request a one-week trial pass. This is the best way to find out if a gym is right for you in all the little ways: Are there treadmill lines when you get there at 6 a.m.? Is there a wait for the shower? Are the classes challenging enough?
Ultimately, it’s best to stay within your means and opt for the cheapest gym that meets your needs. You can always work your way up if it doesn’t work out, but it’s much harder to go from working out in complete luxury and being forced to downgrade than the other way around. If you can’t commit to a membership just yet, head to the nearest park for a run, or check out pay-by-the-class studios in your area (less cost-efficient but also less financial commitment).
You’re sure to get a good workout no matter what gym you end up at, so don’t get too stressed about figuring out which to join. Join a gym you can afford, make sure you actually go and it will be worth the money, however much you end up spending.