health club

Finding a Health Club That’s Right For You

Some people are self proclaimed gym rats.

Others would be happy to never step foot in a gym. Either way, many people see the benefits associated with a fitness club membership. The International Health, Racquet Sports Club Association reports that nationwide 21 million Americans currently belong to health club of some type. This figure is projected to reach 40 million by the year 2010. If you are one of the 19 million who will join a health club in the next four years, there are some simple criteria and steps that will help you make the right choice.

Criteria For Choosing A Health Club

1) Location

– Choose a health club that isn’t too far from home and work so that you don’t have an extra excuse not to go. Think about how far you are comfortable driving for other tasks in your life such as the grocery store or the dry cleaners. Choose a club that is located within your driving comfort area, and you’ll be more likely to add a trip to the gym into your daily or weekly routine.

2) Programs

– Examine your fitness goals and preferences, and choose a club that offers what you desire. If you need to lose weight, choose a club that offers programs on weight loss and nutrition. If you enjoy swimming and tennis but don’t want to perfect your dead-lift technique, a local swim and tennis club or YMCA might be right for you.

3) Staff

– Find out if the club hires professionally certified fitness instructors. Also, if you are interested in nutrition counseling, massage therapy or physical therapy, see if the club offers trained professionals in those fields.

4) Equipment

– Choose a club that has a wide variety of well-maintained equipment. Consistent fitness often relies on variety, and you will want access to several types of machines and workout tools such as mats and fitness balls.

5) Maintenance

-The entire club should be clean and safe. Make several visits to the club to see how well-lit the parking lot is. Examine the locker rooms to make sure they are well staffed and cleaned regularly. The club should provide cleanser and towels in the workout area so that members are encouraged to clean up after their workouts.

6) Contract Terms

– Health Clubs vary greatly in their contract offerings. While some clubs will ask you to sign a contract for a year (or more), many clubs offer month-to-month memberships if you sign up with an automatic monthly payment. Determine what your ideal contract term would be before signing on the dotted line.

7) Child Care

– Many clubs offer free child care. If this is a concern for you, choose a club that hires trained child care professionals, and has a clean, well-maintained child care facility.

8) Hours

– Many clubs are open 24 hours a day, and offer discounted rate for those who will come at off peak hours. Examine your schedule and determine when you are most likely to work out. Visit the club at several different times during the week to determine the busiest hours, and whether there will be a wait for equipment.

Steps To Take To Find A Health Club

1) Research

– Ask your family, friends, and co-workers about their health clubs. Does any club stand out with a good or bad reputation? Also, conduct an internet search on health clubs in your area. Are there any new, innovative clubs? If you prefer a national chain, is there one nearby? If you prefer a small, locally owned club, where might you find one?

2) Prepare A List Of Questions

– When you go to visit the gym for the first time, make sure it is clear that you are interviewing the sales person and not the other way around. The following list was prepared by Mayo Clinic for prospective gym members. Don’t be shy about asking the following questions:

a) How old is the exercise equipment?

b) How often is the equipment replaced?

c) What type of continuing education is provided for or required of staff?

d) What are the busiest times? What fitness areas are most crowded? At what times?

e) Are class sizes limited?

f) Are any additional fees imposed, for example, for towels or the swimming pool?

g) Does the facility offer amenities such as free parking or on-site child-care services?

h) Is entertainment available, such as televisions or personal music stations?

i) How many interactions during a workout can you expect from staff?

j) What types of personal consulting services are available? For example, are there personal fitness trainers or nutrition consultants? What qualifications do these staff members have?

k) Is the facility equipped to handle emergencies? For example, are staff members trained to give first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation? Do they know how to use an automated external defibrillator?

l) How much does membership cost? What are the opt-out policies? What are billing cycles?

3) Get A Temporary Pass

– Most gyms will grant a two week pass upon request. Get as many days as you can for free, and use the gym just as you would if you were a new member. Does the location work with your routine? Are there any pieces of equipment you wish you could use? Are there classes that fit your schedule?

4) Follow Through

– Once you have signed up for your membership, it is your responsibility to get yourself to the gym. Some clubs offer buddy systems, personal trainers or group classes that will keep you motivated to work out. It might be worth an extra initial investment to ensure that you will visit the gym regularly once you are a member.

One reason gym membership has soared in the past few years is that there is a wide variety of fitness clubs. Some clubs are small, neighborhood establishments with a more cozy setting and back-to-basics equipment. Other clubs offer such varied amenities as SPA treatments, gourmet meals, child care, rock climbing, squash and tennis. The sky is the limit with today’s facilities. The hardest part of your new workout many be narrowing down the field and finding the club that’s right for you. Ask the right questions, and you’ll soon find your match.

How Do Gyms And Health Clubs Work?

The title may sound like a foolish question, but a little more thought starts to trigger all sorts of concerns in your mind about the possibilities regarding the running of a health club facility. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of running such club. But, you’ll find some essentials that occur with each one.

A business Plan

First of all, it’s quite important to remember that although a ‘sport health club’ seems like the place where you go to so that you can exercise and relax, it is still very much a company at its center. In order to be a successful company you need a business plan. The business plan for a fitness club consists of several aspects that define the way the company will operate, but mainly outlines the fact that a health club offers a service to its customers, of which they pay for the service on a month-to-month foundation. These monthly fees finance the business and help predict future financial success.

A Franchise Or A Chain?

Once a business plan has been established for the up and coming gyms, the next thing is to determine whether the business will create facilities for itself to run, or whether the health club brand and business plan will be sold-out as an element of a franchise. This is a main decision that must be decided in the beginning as it’s going to significantly impact such business.

A franchise is helpful for a start-up health center that wants to expand its brand as quickly as possible, with the least expensive capital investment necessary. The investment will come from franchisees, who wish to buy-in to the business, and they will also bear the health center’s branding and adopt its business plan.

A health club chain is a likely approach for companies or large groups of investors wishing to start a fitness club business. They’re the only owners of the business and reap all the profits while putting of all the investments required.

Marketing And Advertising

The marketing budget for a brand new fitness center chain or franchise should be large enough to finance considerable initial marketing campaigns. Promotions are run to attract new customers to come and sign up for the club, with the possibility of lower membership fees so that you can undercut your competitors and consequently ignite interest in the fitness center being created.

The competition for health club facilities is on the rise so you want to make sure your ad campaign is imaginative.

Available Services

The services that fitness clubs offer should be hospitable in their very nature. Customer service is at the forefront of any business that handles, and provides services directly to, the customer. Whether or not you are a start-up health club or one seeking to retain customers you need to bear this in mind.

There are many diverse types of services that a fitness center can offer its subscribers. Things such as weight rooms, spa areas complete with saunas and massage therapy, gym facilities, and even a cafe with health food. The purpose is to make such a business a one stop health and fitness center.

With a facility this size offering this many services to its customers it’s understandable that you are going to need a big staff. You’ll need everything from fitness trainers to workers to man the front desk. As a result, staff expenses are one of the biggest long run costs for the business.

Gyms and Health Clubs – 5 Pitfalls To Avoid

If you are contemplating joining a gym or health club, you probably have many choices. Here are a few of the secrets you should consider when narrowing down your list and finding the one most beneficial to you. In one sense, I hate to cover these points because they do not apply to all gyms and health clubs – but I have experienced enough of these over the years to know that they are a major concern for the novice getting ready to join.

  1. Overcrowding As with almost all US businesses, gyms and health clubs operate with the sole purpose of making a profit. Unfortunately, many businesses take this to excess so that it conflicts with the health/fitness and safety of its members. One sad statistic that most gyms and health clubs operate from is that only 10-20% of it’s membership uses the facilities on a regular basis (3-5 times per week). Thus memberships and profitability are based on totally unreasonable membership enrollments of 1000-5000. Can you imagine if/when large numbers show up at the same time? The risk is total chaos – not to mention the lack of adequate instruction, etc. So ask how many members the gym has and whether they work on the 10-20% rule.
  2. Inadequately Trained Staff Another issue arising from the focus on profitability is that many owners hire sales oriented staff that look good, and can talk anyone into a membership, but when it comes to a true working knowledge of fitness and health safety, they fall alarmingly short. Be sure to confirm that the instructor that works with you has a minimum of a national certification from a respected association such as the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) or the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). Ideally they would have a 4-year B.Sc. in Physical Education from a good college or university.
  3. Appearance Versus Ability Beware of placing your health and fitness routine/instruction in the hands of the best looking champion bodybuilder/athlete. Most of us automatically assume that, if someone excels in his sport or looks like a champion bodybuilder, he can help us to achieve that kind of shape also. In many cases this is not true. Some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable experts that I met looked nothing like athletes. One in particular was one of the most dedicated exercise physiologists I ever met. She worked in research at a medical center and spent most of her time studying the impact of exercise on diabetes. She ran marathons and weighed all of 90 lbs. In fact she was probably anorexic. If you met her at a gym or health club you would almost certainly choose the other instructor (you know, Bruno the Greek god, who just won Mr. Olympia). But in reality the 90lb marathon runner/researcher has probably forgotten more than Bruno will ever know or understand about how to set up programs for the average person. The main ingredient that sets an elite athlete or bodybuilder apart from the average human is genetics. They were born with a superior set of genes for their given sport or competition. So although all competitors have to work hard, if you have the genes to begin with, you progress and achieve at a much higher level. Does that mean an elite athlete won’t be a good instructor to the average member? Not at all, but the instructor will have to step outside of what and how they trained themselves and individualize a routine that works for you. Nothing is more disappointing to me than seeing an out of shape middle aged man or woman trying to keep up with a routine designed for them by an elite athlete or competitive bodybuilder that is probably more harmful than beneficial – not to mention that it greatly increases their chance of injury or cardiovascular accident.
  4. Hygiene Most gyms and health clubs are conscientious about maintaining and sanitizing their equipment. But, to be safe, when you take a tour of the facilities before you join observe any pieces of equipment that look old, broken, or really dirty. Ask how often the equipment is sanitized and maintained. Watch how the members treat the equipment. Do they carry sweat towels to wipe up after they get done on a piece of equipment? Are there signs reminding members to put their weights back after use, and toweling off sweat when they are finished with a piece of equipment? A good gym or health club will not tolerate sloppy members that don’t do their part to keep the equipment clean and in its place. Ideally there should be bottles with sanitizing solution at various stations so that members can wipe a machine off before they use it as well as after. Staff should be seen wiping down and sanitizing equipment at least once a day. Likewise, check whether the restrooms and showers are clean.
  5. Long Term Contracts If a gym or health club pushes you toward a contract of more than 1 year there is a very good chance that they are cutting corners in many aspects that will affect the quality of your experience and instruction. When a gym or health club sells you a 2-3 year membership, they put it on a finance contract. And guess what they do with that contract? They sell it! If it totals up to $1500 for 3 years they will probably sell it at 80 cents on the dollar. This means they get their money up front. And rather than put this money in a savings account and pull out your monthly fee each month and apply it to their operating expenses, they put the whole amount in the operating expenses. Now guess what the incentive is once they have your money up front? They go on to the next unsuspecting prospect and work on selling them a 3-year membership. The focus moves from getting you in shape to making the most money that they can in the shortest period of time. So, logic would tell you to sign up for a minimum term (1-3 months), to see how you progress. Anything more than a year membership and in most cases you are asking for trouble. Many things can happen in 3 years e.g. you can relocate, the gym or health club can go out of business, etc, etc.