I joined a gym back in 2018 when I realized I didn’t feel my age. My body ached and I was always tired even when I didn’t do anything the whole day. My after-work routine was usually just me lying down on my bed after dinner. I knew something’s gotta change.
So I quit my sedentary lifestyle for an active one. I started going to the gym by paying around RM150 per month. I’m not gonna name the gym I joined for obvious reasons if you’re to read this to the end.
In hindsight, I wish I didn’t rush into it the way I did.
Things to consider before signing up for a gym membership
If you’re a beginner in the fitness world and you’re considering joining a gym – by my experience, these are the things that you should consider. In other words, learn from my mistakes.
1. Your fitness goals
First of all, please know your fitness goals. Have a clearly defined goal. What do you want out of subscribing for a gym membership?
As for me, I didn’t actually have any clear goals. I just wanted to get out of the slump and stop feeling tired. I wanted to be fit. I wanted an active lifestyle. After the first few months of joining the gym, I could feel the difference in my stamina, strength, and spirit. I love the changes and that motivated me to keep going. I fell in love with the gym routine.
That’s why I believe it’s important to have your own fitness goals. Please do not go because your friends are going. Do it for yourself. You want to lose some weights, put on some weights, be more toned, be fit, whatever it is, have your own fitness goals. That way, you can work towards those goals, and see the difference in yourself.
A caveat though – do not feel demotivated if you don’t see progress. If you manage to maintain that healthy habit of exercising and sweating yourself out – that should be a big achievement already.
2. Enrolment process and fees
Let me tell you how I got myself enrolled in the gym. Long story short – the gym person brought me around the gym and said, “Well, if you join today, you will get this special rate. You won’t get this tomorrow”.
And just like that, I said yes. Ah, how do I survive life this long is a wonder.
So, please take your time before you say yes to any gym offer or any offer for that matter. Look around the gym, ask about their free trial sessions, compare with other gyms, consider everything before saying yes. The gym people are trained to sell their membership to you, don’t be as gullible as me. Don’t get easily influenced by any promotion or free sign-up gift without doing thorough and proper research beforehand.
The gym that I went to charges an enrolment fee that you have to pay on top of the monthly fees. The enrolment fee itself amounts to hundreds of ringgit. Yes, their facilities and classes are arguably more interesting than other small gyms but do you really need that? Is the enrolment fee justified? Ask yourself that before saying yes.
And, ask for and join free trial sessions or free sessions with the gym’s personal trainers. Try to experience it for yourself whether you like it there and whether you can see yourself going as often as you would like.
3. Membership contract
This is the most important thing here and this is my biggest mistake. I signed a one-year contract and subsequently renewed it for my 2nd year without ever reading the contract properly or even took a copy home. I never had access to the contract and this wasn’t how it’s supposed to be.
So if your gym provides for a contract, please:
- take time to read the terms and conditions
- don’t sign it immediately
- take a copy home
- read the fine print
- know what you sign up for
From your contract, you should know all about the fees and payment, suspension and termination, and any refund policy.
4. Lock-in period
When I terminated my membership due to COVID-19, I was charged a penalty for terminating it prematurely. It’s quite ridiculous that not only I paid every month, I also paid to enrol and quit. And that’s why it’s important to know the terms of your membership contract.
Please understand the termination terms – when can you terminate, how can you terminate, what will happen if you terminate, do you have to pay for any penalty if you terminate.
If I were to sign up for another gym membership in the future, I would prefer to go for one without any lock-in period contract, or maybe not as long as one year. I’ve seen some gyms have the monthly or every 3 or 6 months renewal terms and I think that’s better options.
This is especially important if you’re just starting out (and for now relying on sheer motivation and willpower to workout) or you’re not very certain with your job or housing situation (there is a possibility you will change workplace or move place).
If none of the above, oh you know – there could be a pandemic.
5. Monthly fees
Now that I think about it again, I just realised that the gym I went to has never been very clear with their monthly fees. They do not have their rate printed out anywhere. If you go there to consider joining them, they will sit you down and write the figures on a blank sheet for you. And you can actually negotiate with them and ask for a discount. But as you never know their real actual standard rate, you don’t even know whether what they offer to you is their lowest price.
I just googled it up and I read in forums how different people are paying differently for this same gym. Oh boy. So lesson one, know the standard rates. Better, opt for gyms that have their rates printed out and publicized clearly.
Lesson two, this is another financial commitment that you have to make every month. Please do not commit to this if you can’t afford it. Joining a gym is not a necessity, it is optional, even a privilege for most. There are other alternatives to living an active life than joining a gym. So please look through your monthly expenses and consider whether you can add another financial commitment without sacrificing other categories, e.g. savings.
Lesson three, get the cheapest rate according to your needs. You want to get as much as you can from the sum that you pay every month. Look at the facilities and classes that they have, will you utilize and join them? Look at your schedule, will you go as often? Compare with other gyms’ fees.
Then, do your own calculations. Let’s say you are paying RM150 per month and you normally go to the gym twice a week. That’s 8 times a month. So you’re paying RM150/8 = RM18.75 per session. Worth it?
6. Gym facilities
You’re at the gym mainly for its facilities, so this should be one of your main considerations in selecting the best gym that fits your needs.
If you’re a beginner, you might not know most of the equipment that they have, so don’t be shy to ask the trainers or the staff members to show you around. Or you can just google them up.
Ensure they have the equipment and facilities that suit your fitness plan. To be honest, if you’re going to the gym just to run and jog on the treadmill, I personally don’t recommend that. You can do that for free out there in the park or at your neighborhood.
7. Fitness classes
Despite everything else, I actually enjoyed my gym experience for the fitness classes that it has. I’ve tried and joined so many classes and I truly enjoyed my experience in each of the classes.
Classes and group workout sessions really help for total beginners, because often using all the equipment and working out on your own surrounded by the regular gym-goers can be a bit overwhelming.
There are many types of fitness classes; zumba, martial arts, yoga, bodypump, HIIT, pilates, you name it. So check out the fitness classes that the gym offers, I’m sure you’ll find classes that you like.
Also, you have to check the schedule of the classes. You want to make sure that the classes fit into your schedule.
The operation hours of the gym is important so you can see whether it fits into your daily schedule. If you intend to go in the morning before work, look at how early it opens. If you intend to go after work or have night workout sessions, look at how late it stays open.
9. Location and parking
Ideally, look for a gym near your home or workplace. You don’t want to be driving out of your way to get into one. Because trust me, there will be days that you just can’t be bothered to exercise, let alone drive yourself to the gym. So you want to find a place as near as possible that you can’t give any sort of excuses.
Some gyms also have all-access membership, which means you can access every branch that the gym has, but at a more expensive monthly fee. This is great if they have branches at the places that you often go to. For example, one near your home, one near your workplace, one at your favorite shopping mall. But whether you really need this, really depends on yourself.
Parking is the little thing that actually has an impact on your gym selection. Trust me, I think I’ve paid hundreds of extra ringgit these 2 years just to park my car for the gym. You don’t want to be paying for parking and you don’t want to be spending your time going around the block looking for a parking spot. So consider this as well.
10. Atmosphere and environment
Personally for me, a gym should be a place where you can relax and be comfortable but at the same time motivates you to do better. That’s why you should also consider the atmosphere and environment of the gym, depending on your own needs and wants.
Some gyms cater for all types of gym-goers, some cater for specific fitness goals (muscle-building, martial arts etc), some do not have many women-goers (if you’re a lady, this may be an important consideration for you), so choose one that suits you.
All in all
I honestly enjoy my gym experience. At first, I felt overwhelmed. I was scared that people would judge me as I didn’t know most equipment there. Heck, I even embarrassed myself many times having to ask for directions on how to use certain equipment or having people come to me to correct my form.
Anyway, I found so many new things that I actually enjoy through the many fitness classes and group workout sessions I joined, or just by myself trying and figuring things out. Now I realized that working out is not just weight lifting or running on the treadmill. I also love the differences that I can feel in myself, I become more energetic, less tired – overall, I feel good!
But in hindsight, I would consider everything listed above before paying for a gym membership. So should you.