Get to know gym before moving in

Gym owners urge prospective members to ask questions, find a good fit

Gym owners urge prospective members to ask questions, find a good fit

January 07, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Though the post-New Year's gym rush is good for business, local health and fitness professionals are urging consumers against going with their guts when it comes to picking places to exercise.

"Do your homework," said Heather O'Neill, personal trainer and owner of South Pointe Fitness Club south of Hagerstown. "I'm surprised at what people don't ask."

Traditionally, the hordes that typically crowd into gyms in January with hopes of making good on their New Year's resolutions have translated into dollar signs for gym owners, according to local health club owners and industry research.

January is the biggest month of the year for new memberships, according to data from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a Boston-based trade association that serves 8,500 health clubs worldwide.


Still, local gym owners and personnel say New Year's resolution-makers don't give enough thought to where they plan to work out, resulting in a doomed marriage between the gym and gym-goer.

Asking the right questions

O'Neill said gym newcomers don't ask enough questions before they sign up for memberships. They don't ask about certifications or sign-up fees, or whether or not the health club provides personal training services or day care.

"It's important. You're working with people's bodies," O'Neill said.

Brian White, wellness technology coordinator at The Wellness Center, an exercise facility open to the general public at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., said he's surprised at the number of new exercisers who don't ask whether or not their personal trainer is certified.

"I don't think people know to ask," White said.

Unlike doctors and nurses, personal trainers and other health club personnel do not need to have particular degrees or licenses in order to work, White said. But there are several organizations that issue certifications to fitness professionals to ensure a basic level of competency, White said.

He said the American Council on Exercise, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine are reputable organizations that offer various certifications.

People should also ask about safety ? like whether the gym has a defibrillator on hand in case of emergencies, White said.

Comfort is key

Comfort is another thing to consider.

William Bowen, who co-owns the Gold's Gyms in Hagerstown, Charles Town, W.Va., and Chambersburg, Pa., said the trainers and staff should show that they are competent and should be able - and willing - to answer questions.

"If you're not comfortable there, you're not going to keep going," Bowen said.

Matt Kessler, 19, of Hagerstown, said fear of looking silly was what kept him from working out in the past.

"I always wanted to be active," said Kessler, a student at Hamilton College in central New York. "It can be embarrassing at times if you don't know what you're doing."

Kessler said the personal trainers at Gold's Gym in Hagerstown made him feel comfortable in the weight room. When he's in town, he works out there four times a week.

Kathy Boswell, manager of Curves off Robinwood Drive, said she first started going to Curves as a client in 2005 because she felt uncomfortable working out around men.

"I guess because I was out of shape, overweight," Boswell said. "I didn't want people looking at me."

Boswell, who's been managing the Curves for a little more than a year, said many women will try to start memberships over the phone. She said visiting the gym is the best way for people to gauge comfort level.

"You have to get up and look at the environment you plan to spend an half hour to an hour of your day in," Boswell said.

Also, schedule a visit for the same time you plan to workout.

"If you plan to work out at 6 o'clock on a Monday night ? probably the busiest time of the week ? you don't want to schedule a visit for Sunday afternoon," O'Neill said.

Assess your needs

Sharee O'Haver, membership director at the Hagerstown YMCA, said people with children have other things to consider when picking a new gym ? like whether or not the health club offers children's activities or day care.

"If you're a single person, there will certainly be more environments that are conducive to (single lifestyles)," O'Haver said.

Crystal and Darryl Anderson, who work out as a husband-and-wife team, said they picked the Hagerstown Y because of its family activities.

Their three children ? ages 9 months, 6 and 7 ? are served by the Y's day-care facilities; the older kids participate in the facility's youth programs, Darryl Anderson said.

"They're over in the day care now," he said on a recent weeknight between sets on the leg press machine.

Anderson said he wanted his children to grow up living an active lifestyle.

"It teaches you values," he said. "When you're faced with adversity, you already know you can push through it."

Tonya Sodergren, 21, of Maugansville, said her reason for working out at the Hagerstown Y was simple.

"My job's paying for it," said Sodergren, who works at Williamsport Retirement Village.

John Carr, 73, of Maugansville, said he started working out at Gold's Gym in 2005 because it was nearby and because he's become less active since he moved from Frederick County, Md.

"I'm not here trying to build my body," Carr said. "I just need something to keep me going."

The gym's location is another factor when choosing a workout spot.

"If it's not close, you're not going to go," said White, the wellness technology coordinator at The Wellness Center.

Minnie Manspeaker said she works out daily at South Pointe Fitness Club because it's a three-minute walk from her house. She used to exercise at Hagerstown Community College.

"This was closer, so I came here," Manspeaker said of South Pointe.

"I want to be healthy," she said. "I'm over 50 ? well over 50."

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