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So, you’re looking for a new gym.

Editor’s note: This post was adapted, in part and with permission, from a post by CrossFit 204. Thanks Mike! 

We have incredible members, who we love and have gone through this process (or earlier versions–after 14 years in business, we’ve got members who have seen every version under the sun!). Right now, we have a huge uptick in people interested in joining our community, so I figured I’d post this to help you in that quest. 

So–you’re looking for a new gym. Maybe quarantine helped you realize fitness was really important to you. Maybe you had a large gym membership before, and you’re looking for a smaller space now. Maybe it has nothing to do with quarantine–you’re just ready to make a change and finally become the version of yourself you’ve always wanted to be. 

First–let me say congratulations. You’re doing a wonderful thing! With that being said, we wanted to tell you what we think is important as you’re looking for a new gym. Remember–this might not be what you think is important, and that’s completely fine! 

  1. Your new gym should care first and foremost about your goals. 

When you get there, they should sit down with you personally and find out who you are and what you want to accomplish (this meeting can happen online, too). Before they throw you into a free workout, they should know your history and your goals. The facility is important, but most gyms have similar equipment and offerings–the difference is how they focus on you and your goals. 

At intake, the focus must be on your goals. Be selfish.But also, be honest. It’s hard to be vulnerable with a stranger who wants to sell you something. Any good relationship starts with a leap of faith–tell your potential future coach the truth about what you want, what you worry about, and how you’re going to judge your success. If any gym belittles or dismisses what you care about, it’s not the right fit. 

Here are questions you should be asked:

What have you been doing for fitness lately?

Any injuries or mobility issues we should be aware of? 

What was your most recent success and what are you working on right now? 

What do you want to accomplish? Why, and by when?

What do you need from a gym and its coaches? How can we help you succeed?

What has held you back or stopped you in the past from success?

Who is your support network?

It doesn’t matter what the gym looks like, how many bikes it has or if they have a “great atmosphere.” It’s all about you. Other gyms want you. Make them earn your business.

If you are not offered an appointment to talk about your goals, ask for one. Can’t get one, move on. If the coach doesn’t ask you a lot of questions in that interview, ask them yourself.

“I want to improve my strength. How can your gym help me do this?”

“I want to lose 5 pounds by July. Is that doable? How?”

And so on.

  1. Your gym should have a set of core values. 

Here are ours:

  1. Inclusion–it doesn’t matter who you are, or what fitness level you come in with, we can help you. The color of your skin, who you love, how you identify, and what you believe have no bearing on how much we love you–or how hard we’ll push you to get better. 
  2. Growth mindset–anything we care about, we can get better at. Failure is a good thing, and it needs to happen regularly in order to improve. 
  3. Positivity–life is better when you look on the bright side. Negativity is contagious. We build each other up. 
  4. Extreme ownership–it’s always on us. The choices we make inform the outcome of our lives. The hard road is the only road. 
  5. Constructive criticism–we charge a premium for coaching, and that means we’re going to tell you how you can become better. We’ll do it with love, we’ll celebrate all the awesome things you do, but we want people who want to be coached and corrected. 

Does the gym have one? If so, do its values align with yours? Not everyone thinks how we do–if you just want a place to sweat, without the coaching, you’ll be unhappy if you give us your money (and if you tell us that at the intro meeting, we won’t take your money.) Make sure you find a place that matches your own values. If a gym owner says “everyone is a perfect fit for us” that should raise a red flag. 

Does its group programming philosophy link up with your goals? (If the gym posts its workouts on a public website, review a month’s worth and feel free to ask your prospective coach what he or she is trying to accomplish with the workouts.) If a coach can’t tell you the why behind their programming, ask them if there’s a coach who can. If not, move on. 

It’s going to be busy for gyms, but we don’t believe any coaching relationship should start without a conversation. We don’t believe in free trials before a sit down chat or jumping right into classes.

3. The gym should take their time getting you into classes. 

The harder it is to join a gym, the more you should want to be there. 

Gyms that take their time getting you into classes do that to ensure they only work with the right people. They want to be sure they can help them in a relationship that lasts years, not weeks.

Do you have to meet with a coach first to go over your goals and the plan? Do they need to evaluate your movement in a personal session?If you’ve never done their method of working out, do they have you go through one on one sessions to teach you the movements and get you ready for classes? If so, you should be happy. That gym doesn’t just want your money. It wants you to succeed. 

Does the coach want to meet with you to ask about training history and injuries? If so, you’re in good hands.

Don’t be offended by barriers to entry. They are there to help you find success and protect the environment current members love.

If a gym rushes to sign you up and take your money, keep looking. 

4. There should be a clear standard of service.

Are you in a professional environment? You’ll know it when you are. If a sweaty coach meets you late and seems unprepared, that coach does not deserve your business.

Do you get an orientation package? Does the gym have a code of conduct? Are you told who to contact if you have problems? Is someone checking up on you regularly? Does anyone notice if you miss a class?

Before class, do the coaches explain the workout? Do they lead the warm-up? Are they engaged throughout the class? Can they tell you why the workout will help you achieve your goals? Are they eager to tailor workouts to you or do you feel as if you’re a burden because your shoulder is sore today?

You’ve also come to expect a class coached from start to finish. Are you getting feedback and coaching all class or is someone just cheering you on? You’re paying for coaching, not a fan club. 

The focus should be on you, even if the class has 15 people in it. You should receive regular direct interaction no matter how big the class is. No one athlete should receive preferential treatment—you’re all stars of the show. The equity in class should be palpable. 

5. Does the gym atmosphere make you want to be there?

Do people seem helpful and friendly or are they distant and cold?

You should be welcomed warmly by staff and members. In gyms where the staff make a point of smiling and welcoming people, a culture grows and everyone greets everyone. It’s self-perpetuating. 

You should make a few friends right away. Social distancing strains relationships, but laughs and jokes are more contagious than covid, and they’re present even with a mask on. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing about your fitness regimen is that you have fun. If group classes are what you want, a fun, welcoming environment is going to be important. 

  1. No phones in class.

During class, if your coach uses a cell phone for any reason other than coaching or celebrating you–filming your lift is OK—ask him or her what’s more important than the athletes in class.

It’s ok for the coach to be showing people video of a movement or providing a visual representation of the workout in these socially distant days, but scrolling through Instagram is unacceptable. 

7. No bad days.

Times are tough on business owners. That doesn’t matter. Times are tough on you, too.

You should be patient as gym owners adapt to adhere to public-health guidelines, but you should not expect a lowered standard of service or a grouch. 

Yes, things will be different with social distancing, and you’ll have to adapt. Be patient and helpful. Your new coaches don’t want to be traffic cops and cleaners, but they’ll do it for your protection. Expect some confusion in the first few days. 

But don’t lower your standards. When a coach walks into a gym, he or she should leave any problems at the door and give the clients the best hour of their day. If a gym chooses to reopen, it must not lower its standards. It must maintain them while adhering to all regulations.

8. They should have a clear, safe COVID plan. 

Does the gym have one? Is it clear?

Gyms were only allowed to reopen with strict restrictions, and if the gym does not appear to be following them, you should find a gym that will. Gyms that ignore the restrictions put the entire industry at risk of another shutdown, and they don’t deserve your patronage.

If you have questions or concerns about procedures, your new coach must have answers.

Gyms should also take into account that their members have had time off from working out. If your gym throws you right into 100 pullups the first week back, that’s a huge red flag–not to mention a big injury risk. 

When you’re looking for a gym, it’s ok to take your time and find the one you’ll want to stay at for years. If we seem like a good fit for you, then set up a time to chat now. 

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