You’ve just changed job or moved house. All your routines are upside down. Even your daily commute needs careful planning. What’s more, you haven’t done any exercise in what feels like years.
You need to find a new gym and fast.
But how do you begin your search? Is a basic Google search going to give you the information you need? Do you need to dig a bit deeper? How do you know if a gym is going to suit you without parting with a wad of cold, hard-earned cash?
Do Some Research Before you Move
This seems obvious doesn’t it? Maybe it’s not at the forefront of your mind when you’re making a big career move. Maybe it should be though? Throughout the last five years, training and the weights room has been one constant in my life.
I’ve trained in several environments from a dirty damp basement to state of the art University gyms. Through blizzards, heatwaves, good times and bad, I’ve been in that weights room getting better every day.
If its important to you, you’ll make time for it.
Make time to research what gyms are in the area. Are there any near your new place of work. You’ll need to take into account for when you train. For me, it’s early morning or lunch break (if I get one). So I’m looking for somewhere on the way to, or close to my office.
You might train late at night so a local late opening or 24 hour gym is going to suit you better. As a Dad, time is going to be tight. You need to fit you training around bed times, bath times and marathon homework sessions.
You might train in your lunch break which means time will be really limited. You’ll need somewhere close to work to allow you maximum training time.
Don’t limit yourself to a Google search. A lot of smaller, independent gyms don’t even have websites. But they do have Facebook pages. Use all the tools at your disposal and you may discover a hidden gem.
What to Look for in a New Gym
I generally stay away from commercial gym chains. They are often overpriced and poorly equipped – unless you want a choice of 500 cardio machines. And a sauna.
For me a decent gym should have the following:
Olympic weights and a lifting platform
A squat rack or power-cage
A bench with fixed barbell rack
Dumbbells up to at least 40kg
A pull up and dip station
Machines, cardio equipment and kettlebells are all fine but I’m quite happy in a gym that supplies my 5-point wishlist.
Exercise efficiency is important for Dads – we’re not exactly ‘time-rich’.
You get more bang for your buck with 5 sets of 10 front squats than the same on a leg press. That’s something I learned from powerlifter Jim Wendler.
Make sure your gym is going to allow you the freedom to train the way you want.
Added extras like swimming pools, cafe, shops, squash courts (?) are just a distraction and all add to the cost of membership. I’ll steer clear of gyms that want to charge me extra for things I don’t want. Or need.
Good parking is useful but not essential. Right now I have a brisk 5-10 minute walk from where I park to my gym. It means I don’t have to do any banal warm ups when I get there.
Think Outside the Box when Looking for a New Gym
No, that isn’t a Crossfit reference. The most obvious gyms might not be the best. It’s worth having a look around local industrial areas as these are often places where awesome ‘spit and sawdust’ bodybuilding or boxing gyms hide.
I recently stumbled across an absolute gem of a bodybuilding gym just minutes from my house. It was tucked away down a lane in an industrial park with only a small white sign for identification.
Do you work or live near a University? Many will let you train there and even offer membership for public. Right now I train at a small College gym.
It has friendly staff, good equipment and is very affordable.
That’s the dream right there.
How to ‘Try Before you Buy’ at a New Gym
This is pretty easy. A lot of gyms will offer a trial membership for a few pounds (or even free). Others will have a ‘pay as you go’ rate so you can pay for a few sessions before you commit to a monthly members’ fee.
If you’re interested in going to a gym, they should be willing to offer you the opportunity to try out the facilities first. If not, dust of your heels and go somewhere else where your business is valued a bit more.
When you use a gym for the first time, be mindful of your surroundings. Ask yourself these questions:
How well equipped is this gym?
Is it clean – that goes for gym floor and changing facilities?
How friendly/helpful are the staff?
Does it have the kind of atmosphere I want?
Can I see myself spending a few hours a week here for the foreseeable future?
I really like basic, hard-core, lifters’ gyms. I get much more hyped than in foo-foo commercial gyms full of lycra clad gym-bunnies. Buy hey, it’s personal choice.
The important thing is that you feel comfortable and can get a good workout free from distractions.
Speak to regular gym users about their experience. This is a quick way to find out if there are problems under the surface or if its a great place to work out.
Friendly staff is a must for me. I have a good relationship with the staff at my gym and this will bring benefits to you too.
Do you like the atmosphere? My gym plays a mix of techno and hip hop on the stereo which suits me down to the ground. If you’re into metal, will that bother you? Either you need noise cancelling headphones or keep looking.
Wherever you go, treat gym staff with respect and be friendly. It doesn’t cost anything to be civil and friendly to people who don’t get paid very much to do a job that you hopefully appreciate.
Make Friends and Get to Know the Equipment
When you first start at a new gym, take time to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Try out the different kit.
Speak to people – especially the other gym bros. After all, the time may come when you need to ask them for a spot. And vice versa.
You might even meet other Dads who are as passionate about fitness and having a fit body as you are – they may even turn into training partners or close friends.
I generally steer clear of girls in the gym. They come under two main categories:
Automatically assume you are a big, big creep
Work out in front of you so you ‘notice’ them
If you’re in a relationship, give them a wide berth. If you’re single, do the same thing.
If she asks for a spot, go ahead but don’t use it as an excuse to be ‘that guy’ (You know the one. If not, he’s probably you).
P.S. I’d love to hear your gym hunting tips or more about your gym. Why not leave a comment or send me an email.