How to Pick a Gym


The last few weeks I’ve been sharing behind-the-scenes details regarding my 50-pound weight loss journey. I was only planning on writing 3-parts but I received many questions regarding HOW to pick a gym.

But first, here’s a recap:

  • Part 1: An open letter to tired moms who are discouraged with their weight.
  • Part 2: I reviewed multiple gyms in my community. (If you live in the Santa Clarita Valley, check it out.)
  • Part 3: Explained the exact steps I took to prepare for this journey.

Questions to Ask Yourself

As I explained in part 3 – I purposely didn’t start working out until 3 months into this process. I wanted to focus on meal planning and my diet exclusively. After 3 months, I started looking into fitness centers to slowly introduce exercise into my daily routine.

I tried 17 local fitness center’s in 12 months. It was incredibly eye opening and I learned a LOT about my “gym preferences”. Before you start trying gyms you need to ask yourself three questions.

  1. What’s my budget?
  2. What’s my personal inventory?
  3. Do I have injuries?

What’s your Budget?

This. Must. Be. Your. First. Step.

Ultra gym fanatics will often say, “you can’t put a price tag on your health.” Stop it. YES YOU CAN. This statement is manipulative and pushy. Don’t fall for it.

There will be gyms out of our price range. Don’t let a 20-year old salesman pressure you into into a financial crisis. Figure out your budget BEFORE you start looking. It’s important to note, there are free options to get physically active. But if you want a gym location – there are gyms at every price point.

If you have limited funds there are free resources on youtube and very affordable subscription plans to work-out at home. Just make sure the instructor is competent and not peddling terrible (read: trendy) fitness / health advice.

What’s Your Personal Inventory?

By this I mean, what’s your style? Are you an introvert? Maybe working out at home works best. Do you like technology? Maybe getting a cheap Fitbit would motivate you. Do you hate technology? Then don’t get one!

Do you love structured group classes? Then find a gym that offers the specific class you’d like. Be picky! I found literally hundreds of options in my community. There were styles, themes and genres of fitness I never imagined. Do you like to dance? I found ballet, hip hop, latin and country line dancing inspired classes.

Fact: Ballet inspired fitness classes will DESTROY you.

These are important questions you need to evaluate when checking gyms. I want you to really evaluate yourself and YOUR personality. Don’t pick a gym because you know other people there. Really think about your personality.

Do you have injuries?

If you have any injuries there are classes and facilities that specialize in low-impact and physical therapy. Again – be PICKY. Many of the large chain fitness centers have “personal trainers” but they are young and inexperienced. Anyone can get a personal training “certification” for just a few hundred dollars. Be cautious and find a facility with experts who can prevent further injuries.

*Bonus* Local Gym Reviews

I published gym reviews in my local newspaper and they graciously gave me a huge spread to capture all the information. However, they didn’t have room for everything since I tried so many. So if you live in the Santa Clarita Valley here’s more information. There were two great ones…and two “meh” ones.

Total Women’s Gym & Spa:  This is a national chain with not great yelp reviews. I signed up for the trial and was told someone would contact me.  I was never contacted and had to visit in person for a meeting. The gym itself is very small. Childcare provided. Their trial pass was limited to 3 days and the days had to be consecutive. Because they had limited classes, I wasn’t able to test the actual fitness classes.

When I was getting a tour, a woman was at the counter cancelling her membership echoing same concerns as the Yelp reviews. There seems to be a lack of customer service and uninterested staff. The spa area was very clean and inviting. They give you a better deal if you sign a contract and use spa services monthly. The lack of classes and amenities wasn’t appealing since the price point was still high. Overall, they had a lot of customer service issues and too many hoops for my preference. But if you like a very quiet gym setting – this might work for you.

Iron Fist Kickboxing:   This is a program at the Iron Fist Martial Arts studio. The owners are local family with great reputation.   One of the most affordable kickboxing options.  It was an intense workout and moderate class size.  People with injuries should communicate their condition clearly and Master Patrick will adjust the move accordingly.  It was a fun and laid-back environment. Heart rate monitor available for $45 so you can see your progress.

The Ekata Martial Arts and Fitness: Self-defense and entire family focused.   Super clean facility.    It’s a high-end martial arts focused with direct ties to Bruce Lee and his students. Very engaged and knowledgeable management who are proud of their work. The owners were professional and impressed me with their attention to detail and commitment to their craft. They have amazing programs for the entire family.  Although it was the most expensive facility I visited – it was probably the most impressive.

Gold’s Gym:  My entire experience with Gold’s Gym was irritating. I paid for a month pass but they wouldn’t give me a tour without a salesman escorting me. They had numerous staff behind the desk but none were “allowed” to give me tour. They sent me home since a salesman wasn’t available. It made a terrible first impression. They have a lot of class options and amenities like pool, tanning beds and childcare.

The salesmen were super pushy and one landed an insulting “you probably are a disorganized mom” comment to close the deal. (It obviously didn’t work.) They offered one free personal training session but it was mostly talking and not much working out.

The classes are VERY fast-paced, but could be fun if you’re confident and OK with fumbling around for a few days. Teacher Ericka was the only instructor who tried to give personalized instructions and know people’s names. The gym itself was clean and offered a lot. But the staff was consistently rude, snappy and pushy. Classes always start late and parking is a pain.