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5 Ways to tell if your gym is "right" for you

Working out can be a personal experience for a lot of people. It can take a bit of time to find the right environment. Somewhere you can challenge yourself, feel safe and free to be vulnerable. 

[I will add in here, I know personally it can also affect members of the LBGTQ+ Community and other marginalized communities for their race and gender, differently. If you feel you’re being judged based on your sexual orientation, gender or race, my opinion is bringing this to management and then maybe look at finding another, more suitable gym.

I would also recommend asking the gym before signing up, what their policies are in regards to patron’s being discriminated against or if it is a safe space.]

I remember while I was away on vacation, there was a gym 5 minutes from where I was staying. It was a familiar global gym and a convenient location. I thought that’s all I needed. I was wrong.

I went there twice before I realized it wasn’t the right space for me. I actually ended up traveling another 20-30 minutes to another gym, where I felt comfortable to get a regular workout in. Surprising to me, both gyms were the exact same brand name, but hosted completely different atmospheres.

After my two visits, there were a few aspects I acknowledged before I realized I had to change where I worked out:

I was uncomfortable.

Now, upon joining a gym there is going to be an initial period where you experience some discomfort. Change is a part of discomfort. But after a few weeks, or months if this doesn’t improve you need to look around. Generally, I just didn’t feel like I belonged, or that I was valued as a customer. The gym wasn’t clean, the equipment wasn’t well maintained, and the atmosphere didn’t vibe with me.

I was not having fun.

In order for you to remain consistent in your workouts, you need to be enjoying yourself. It’s that simple. If you are not having a good time, one of two things is likely to happen:

  1. You will either continue to pay a membership fee and rarely see those gym walls.

  2. You will drop the gym and working out altogether.

Our values didn’t align.

I have been a member to a few gyms where I literally felt like a dollar sign, or the environment ran off of fears and negativity, instead of aspirations and positivity.

For example, if you value self-improvement, safety, friendliness and education, and you get the sense that the gym’s values are too different from your own, you should leave. Which brings me to another point:

The staff wasn’t helpful or friendly.

Are you greeted upon entering/exiting the gym? Is the front desk helpful and communicate well with you? Are the trainers approachable and welcoming to everyone, not just to their clients? These are all questions you should be taking into consideration when choosing your gym.

With my previous example above, the staff and patrons held cold demeanors and were inconsiderate to personal workout space. To elaborate: I would be performing a chest press, when a stranger would stand over top of me to perform their shoulder presses. The staff wouldn’t answer phones. I’ve seen incidences where a client or staff member would say "hello" to another staff member, and they wouldn’t be acknowledged or a cold, “Hi.” was recipricated.

I didn’t feel like I was being heard.

You’re bringing up your concerns with equipment or structural safety of the building, but seeing no actions taking to acknowledge this. You’re asked to provide feedback, but feel no matter how many times you bring up an issue, management never seems to reach out or return your calls. These are all red flags.

Being heard is an important part of the human experience. At the end of the day, we all want to feel like our concerns, voices and vulnerabilities are warranted.

“The single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking every single day to people, was that there’s a common denominator in our human experience - we want to be validated. We want to be understood. I’ve done over 35,000 interviews in my career. And as soon as that camera shuts off, and inevitably in their own way, they all want to know: ‘was that okay? Did you hear me? Did you see me? Did what I said mean anything to you?'” – Oprah Winfrey

Now, this list isn’t conclusive. It pertains to myself, and maybe to you. What environment is right for you, could be different than what is right for me, or another.

We all have a list of needs and wants, and that list is arranged differently. Some people want an emphasis on cleanliness, new or fancy equipment or even a gender specific gym. But if you’re experiencing any of the five cases above, I suggest you take a better look at your environment. 

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