First off, it seems like all I have written so far is diet and specifically ketogenic diet related.  Not that I don’t like writing about those things, but I just happen to have been writing specifically to provide some content for a keto group I manage and give information for.  While keto is great when accompanied by sufficient nutrient density, I don’t want to give the impression that I am just the keto guy or that I think everyone needs to be keto (though many could reap some benefits).  Enough about that, let’s get to today’s topic.

Should you consider paying more for your gym membership.

Who doesn’t love cheap stuff?  It seems that so many companies across markets have gravitated toward providing a cheaper alternative to their competitor.  McDonald’s built it’s empire on quick and affordable food, Walmart was able to beat competitors by focusing on lower price points through shear volume (though other competitors are catching them in a lot of ways), and now we see gyms offering memberships for $10 per month.  As a consumer this should be a no brainer, right?  We get the same thing for less so what else is there?

 

I want to preface this by being straight up with readers.  I work at a gym that is pretty affordable, but quite a bit more than the low ball gyms.  I am also a serious lifter when I feel like it (I admit that life gets in the way sometimes).  The latter and not the former is actually the main reason for my opinion that more expensive gym memberships are better than cheap ones.  When I go the gym I am not paying for the ability to workout or even for the experience (though this is a big draw for some and something to consider) as some niche gyms offer.  I go to a gym for the results.

That means I don’t want to pay for a cheap gym that locks me in to a 12 month contract only to realize it’s too busy to work out at or I can’t train a certain way within reason (I don’t think a gym should let you string expletives to hype yourself up for example unless your small group of friends are the only ones there at the time).

I want to be able to go into the gym and know that I can do the workout I have planned out safely and as efficiently as my schedule requires.

This means a few things need to be met:

  • They need to have the equipment I require to do my workout.
    • I can make variations work for the majority of general and accessory work, but I know that I will need a place to do bench press, deadlifts, and squats.
    • An enclosed power-rack is by far my preferred equipment of choice and a bad alternative is the number 1 reason I will leave a gym.
    • The ability to do Olympic lifts is a huge plus as well, but is secondary to the powerlifts as I prefer Olympic lifts to improve speed and explosiveness and powerlifts for overall strength.
  • The equipment needs to be available.
    • The gym having a power rack does me very little good if I have to wait hours for someone to finish their sets to use it.
    • A good gym culture can also help with this issue as it is easier to work in once you build rapport with other members, but there are still issues of height difference and work weights that limit how much this can help.
  • Accessabilty
    • It needs to be open or have access when I am not working and be consistent.
    • Luckily so many gyms are 24/7 making this issue slowly disappear.

 

I though the simplest solution to this was to by the basic equipment I needed and build my own home gym.  I did this and it worked out pretty well when I had a garage and a lifting partner as it created a regular schedule and accountability between the two of us.  Weather became an issue at times, but it was worth not having the monthly expense of a gym membership in my mind.

I later ended up moving and getting a little different equipment set-up as my new place had a low ceiling so I needed a short rack.  My new gym was in my bedroom which gave me availability whenever I wanted.  Unfortunately, this also made it so much easier to reschedule workouts since I was working out on my own.  In short, it worked well, but my consistency was actually less then when I had to take the time to get up and go to the gym.   I am sure I could have increased accountability a number of ways like posting my workout log and making goals public as this seemed to work very well for my bacon challenge, but there was just something about having a gym and even just seeing others hit goals that increases my drive to improve making a gym beneficial for me.

If I am being completely honest though, I would like to have access to more equipment as well.  If money wasn’t an issue, I would take at least 500+ square feet to build a home gym that I really wanted.  This would include the room needed for functional training of course if things like sprint and running could be done outside.   Even though 80% of my training can be done with a barbell in a power rack I would like a few machines I can do traction based work, a platform I can do Olympic lifts on and bail safely, cable machines for pulling exercises, body weight rigs for functional training, and the list could go on.  The reality is that I can’t really afford that on my own and even if I could it would actually be cheaper to find a good gym than to just cover the value of space and utilities in the long run.

Why is a higher price better even if the equipment is similar?

  1. A good gym cares about their members

A good gym should want above everything else to get their members results.  What most people don’t realize is that the majority of members at your budget gyms rarely step in the door.  They see the sticker price and then go sign up in January if they are a real go-getter or more likely March as most people start their new years resolutions two months late.   This usually results in them choosing a 12 month commitment for a lower monthly price.  They workout a few times when they are still motivated then they miss a month or two, but are okay with this as it’s only $10 or $15 bucks or some other low price.  Eventually, they call to cancel only to be notified of some strict cancellation policy and either have to wait, pay off the contract, or cancel in some weird specific way like cancel via haiku written on an origami swan sent via Fed-Ex (okay not that weird, but there are some places that require in person cancellation which sucks if you have moved or certified hand written letter).  All they care about is taking your money and could care less if you have a heart attack a year later.  If you can handle working out in those kinds of gyms then go ahead, but if these gyms were to put serious gyms out of business (they won’t) I don’t want to imagine what the health outlook of the US would become.  Don’t get me wrong higher priced gyms are okay people paying not to come as it still helps their bottom line, but at the end of the day they are there to serve first and making money is a way for them to be able to do that.

If a gym is charging you out the you know what and they have little to offer that is also a problem, but if a gym wants members to show up and to have access to quality staff and equipment it is going to cost you a little bit.  While it would be great for a gym to offer everything you could dream of at a low price the reality is that everything about running a gym is expensive.  The high ceiling and large space cost not only a good amount in rent, but utilities come out much higher than most people realize especially as amenities like showers, internet, and in person or electronic classes all come with extra costs to the club itself.  Good staff is going to also cost a pretty penny, sure they may pay for itself in member retention and keeping equipment in top shape, but if you want a good one on one or group trainer don’t expect to find one working anywhere close to minimum wage unless they are just getting started (and they won’t stay there for long).

As a gym rat that works at/ manages a gym I get to see both sides of the spectrum more than most.  I know exactly what I would add to a gym if it was 100% up to me and money wasn’t an issue, but I also know how much we need to bring in to make all those changes.  I also realize that we need to improve in the areas we can to increase the value of our gym and to bring in new memberships.  It will take some time to grow, but I take training seriously and want to have the best gym both overall and in terms of value.

I guess the long and short of it all is this: Ultimately, when choosing a gym you will get what you pay for.

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About Roger James CSCS, NSCA-CPT

I am a trainer (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer®, NASM Golf Fitness Specialist), coach (USAW Sports Performance Coach), and now blogger with a passion for fitness, health, and performance. My love for the gym began as a way to get stronger and better at sports. While my early training packed on strength it also packed on unhealthy weight. After a pectoral injury made strength training take a back seat, I focused on my health and losing weight to go from 270lbs to 200 in about 3 months time. I favor evidenced based training and lifestyle choices to build not just the body clients want to see in the mirror, but that have the strength and ability to live life as actively as they desire. This site is a way for me to help others on their health and wellness journey.  It is my goal to provide quality material to help educate and expand peoples thinking about fitness, health, and wellness.  I am not a doctor and do not claim to be.  The information provided on my site is there as an educational tool so that others can make informed decisions about how to live their life.

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