You’re not working out enough, and like any mature, self-aware person, you suspect it’s your gym’s fault, not your own. So you start browsing other options, but you’re also reluctant to shell out more cash. Though the employees pitching you on a shiny new gym will be trying to sell you a new “lifestyle” altogether, in reality, it’s mostly a change of scenery. Say, from a pungent, colorful basement that that looks like a pizza parlor crossed with a Mario platformer; to a sleek, 4-story, monochrome Batcave where the average treadmill rivals your net worth.
Is it worth it to switch to a fancier gym? This may not be an easy calculus. Let’s examine some of the decision-making questions at hand.
- Should I upgrade because spending more money will make I feel guilty and thus more likely to go? Nope. This rationalization is bizarre— it might guilt you into shelling out some extra cash, but won’t guilt you into doing the actual exercise part that justifies it. On the day-to-day level, it can be hard to feel the weight of wasted dollars—maybe on some days it even feels worth throwing out the extra $1.47 (or what have you) you’re paying to go to some particular gym just to slump in bed for another hour before work. One factor that is quite pressing on the daily, though:
- Is it convenient? If your gym requires a journey in and of itself, you’re that much less likely to go, especially in unsavory weather, or when you’ve got places to be post-workout. If, for example, you like showering after, and don’t love the facilities at your gym, that necessitates a trip back to the apartment for cleanup. All these little sources of friction add up and make the gym trip seem all the more futile. Location is everything, and you’re best served by sticking with a place that’s convenient.
- Is it clean? It’s tempting to join a gym where you have to don’t fear for the well-being of your foot soles on the shower tiles. Or where the bathrooms are plentiful and without queue. Or that hasn’t received a sketchy health inspector rating. (I only recently learned that gyms even had health inspections.) If the gym feels like a place for rejuvenation, a reliable serotonin release followed by cleansing shower, you are much more likely to go.
- Is it crowded? A uniquely wack feeling: having to wait around just to lift a large object that’s gonna make you feel pain. Sure, you can loiter nearby the machine you want to use—in the weird islands of gym-floor not occupied by exercise equipment—but this tends to unnerve both parties; you can try a different exercise than the one you wanted, but you’ll be constantly swiveling back around, distracted by the prospect of someone poaching your prize. Trendy gyms may be overrun by rippling yuppies, especially during post-work hours. It’s worth using scouting out traffic during your desired gym hours before committing.
- What’s the vibe? I’ve seen gyms with plenty of unabashed ogling, as if dudes were about to break out into sidewalk-style catcalls in the middle of their squat. Or performative bro-horses who need everyone in the vicinity to know how strenuous their Ninja Warrior training is. These goons could easily alienate many potential gym goers, who might prefer fellow exercisers to keep to themselves, use equipment in a safe and timely fashion, offer a helpful hand when you need a spot, exchange a friendly line or two where appropriate, etc. Make sure you’re comfortable with the clientele, because you’ll be doing a lot of intimate stuff (changing, grunting, sweating, bathing) there.
- What are the perks? Do you like distraction during your brutal cardio routine? Make sure there are TV screens in front of or embedded in the treadmills. Do you like music but hate earbuds while you exert yourself? Make sure they play tunes to your liking. Some gyms also offer classes for members, so you can get into kickboxing, perversely hot forms of yoga, barre, whatever you’re into. Don’t let the cosmetic perks sway you beyond reason, but they do factor into the psychology of making the gym seem like a welcoming, non-terrible place, which is what actually matters for your attendance, and in turn, wellness.