view of a spacious gym
Inside The Gym

A Beginner’s Guide to Selecting a Gym

6 min read

Selecting a gym that’ll become your home away from home is an essential process to one’s fitness journey. Yet, despite how common it is, if working out isn’t part of your lifestyle it can be tricky to figure out what to keep in mind when trying to choose a gym. Lucky for you though, that’s where this piece comes in.

Despite the title, this guide is intended to give anyone (not just novices) an idea of key things to lookout for when they’re thinking of joining a gym. Give it a read, keep to mind the bits you relate to, and happy (gym) hunting.

The Distance …

This factor can be a friend or foe depending on your goals, or how you manage the situation.

Normally, a close gym is preferable because you save time and it’s less of a hassle (especially for those of us going against traffic). However, if the gym is far, you can use the distance as a chance to jog or cycle to the venue and warm-up before arriving, or if you must use transportation then use the time traveling to prep (for arrival) or winddown (once leaving).

Availability (and Variety) of Machines and Equipment …

It’s important to know if a gym has the equipment and/or machines you’ll need. Alongside this, it’s also a bonus if the establishment has different versions of equipment (remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat).

Equipment such as rowing machines, squat racks, and spin bikes are not readily available everywhere, because when purchasing equipment most gyms invest in the popular machines as opposed to trying to cover all body parts.

For this reason, it’s helpful to have an idea of what exercises you’ll be doing before joining.

Range of Weight Sizes and Types of Weights Available …

This is one of my pet peeves.

Firstly, before joining a gym, make sure that the weights available start at a low enough mass for you, and end at a high enough mass (I’ve been to a couple of gyms that didn’t have dumbbells exceeding 25kgs/55lbs – it was tragic). Then, check that they have a good range of weights between the lightest weight to the heaviest weight.

After knowing you’re in the clear for the above, the next important thing is to make sure they have different types of weights such as dumbbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, plates, bars, and so on. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t have them all, but you need to know what works for you (and your routine), and what doesn’t.

Availability of Coaches/Trainers …

Does an establishment offer coaches, and what is their policy on bringing through your own? Is it allowed or not?

It’s normal for some people to join a gym with a knowledgeable friend and that friend oversees their training while said friend does his/her own workout, but some gyms frown upon this, and personally, I don’t think a gym that will only allow me to use their coaches is worth my business.

Operating Hours …

Is the gym open every day? And if so, what about weekends and public holidays?

I prefer establishments that open early and close late because I never know what kind of day I have ahead of myself and when I’ll be able to do my workout. Alongside this, the only day I’ll calmly accept a gym being closed is on Sunday – otherwise, I get pretty nasty.

Floor Space …

Until you’re in the situation, you don’t truly realize how important floor space can be; when a place gets busy can you still comfortably navigate around or have elbow room to workout? Also, what about the availability of particular machines or weights? Must you wait your turn or is one or more readily available?

Normally, to avoid this, I try to arrive at a gym when it’s least busy, but this only works if you have a flexible schedule. Alternatively, you can train body parts on less popular days (like avoiding the popular International Chest Day [that’s Monday, btw]). But the sure-fire way of avoiding problems is inspecting if a gym is large enough and has enough equipment to suit your needs.

People Traffic …

After gauging the floor space, the next important thing is knowing how busy a place can get during peak times (especially on a weekend). All sorts of people join a gym, and it’s not nice being cramped next to the person that grunts, or even smells.

Again, you can avoid people traffic by organizing your schedule around the slow time slots, but it’s nicer to know you can turn up at any hour and know you won’t be cramped or waiting on the availability of a weight or machine.

It’s probably also worth noting that there are elite gyms out there that pride themselves in having wide spaces, several machines, and little to no congestion. Normally, you never need to bring this up, they’ll make sure it’s brought to your attention themselves (since it’s a great selling point).

Extra Facilities on Offer …

Not all gyms are created equally. Some come with facilities, classes, extra commodities, products for sale, and some come with nothing at all.

It’s best to know beforehand what YOU require (as opposed to desire). I’ve got friends that won’t join a gym that doesn’t have shower facilities, and I’ve got other friends who’d rather shower back at their homes.

Opportunities for Variety …

This works in a number of ways: (1) are there classes on offer, (2) does the gym have different sections, (3) what equipment are available, and (4) does the place offer promotions?

The above are just examples and the idea with these questions, is that it can get boring falling into a routine, and it’s an opportunity to shake things up if your gym offers you options to do things differently. For example, I don’t care for classes but if there is a promotion for one, or my gym is offering for free, I’ll definitely check it out.

Cleanliness …

I don’t think this requires explaining because you’d think it’s logical, but I’ve come across some filthy places, and inevitably passed on them. I guess, if you’re a gym owner then check on your establishment.

The Clientele …

Who is going to the gym? Not a lot of people think about this, but clientele matters. A lot of people don’t want to feel awkward or out of place, and would prefer a location with other people that’d make them feel at ease.

This is especially true for women. I’ve got a few friends who’ve passed on a gym simply because they didn’t see enough women at the fitness center. Now, some females aren’t particularly bothered about this, but when you get all types of creeps joining gyms – for those that do care, I get it.

Membership Options and Payment Schemes …

Be aware that depending on the scale of the gym you are considering, there are potential membership options, payment schemes, and promotions available to select from. You can take advantage of payment schemes or promotions with all sizes of gyms.

Usually, the chain (elite) gyms are rigid with their payment schemes but they makeup for that with promotions and opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere.

Whereas with smaller gyms, although they may not have extra facilities offered, you can usually find different payment options available (such as paying per visit, monthly memberships, or even personalized payment schemes).


A writer, gamer, geek, and gym rat all packaged into one. I'm a certified personal trainer who writes about the things he loves and I enjoy sharing them with others all on MXFitness.