Resolving to get and stay fit is a New Year's cliche. But you might make it happen if you join a fitness center that's right for you. Here are some ideas on what to look for when shopping for a fitness facility.
1. Atmosphere -- Does the facility feel comfortable? If it's intimidating in any way -- too crowded, too noisy, too much grunting, too much Spandex, sullen staff members -- it's not for you.
2. Hours of operation -- Is the facility open when you want to use it? You shouldn't have to modify your schedule to fit into that of your gym.
3. Locker rooms -- If you intend to exercise before or after work, make sure the facility you're considering has a clean, comfortable locker room with showers. Towels, hairdryers and grooming products are nice additions (but don't assume every gym has them).
2. Weight training equipment -- Look for lots of free weights (even if you don't start out using them, you'll want to eventually) and benches with which to use them, a wide range of operational (not broken) resistance machines and weight training machines, and bonus stuff like Swiss balls, medicine balls, yoga mats, stretch bands, etc.
3. Even if you're a dedicated outdoor runner, there will be rainy/sleety/miserable days when you'll go crazy if you don't get in a cardio workout. That's when you'll be happy that your fitness facility has a sufficient quantity and variety of cardio machines including ellipticals, treadmills (the kind that incline), stationary bikes (upright and recumbent) and stair climbers. The facility gets bonus points for rowing machines and spinning bikes.
4. Treadmills and other cardio equipment, although efficienrt, can be awfully boring, and if you can read while using them, you're not working very hard. Are there TVs to entertain you? Do they accommodate headphones, or do you have to turn up the volume to hear them?
5. Want to swim? Only a few facilities have lap pools, and they can be crowded at peak hours or filled with swim classes. Ask about the pool's open hours before deciding to join.
6. If you think you'll want to use a trainer, take a good look at the ones hanging around the facility. Are they in good shape? There's no point in getting fitness advice from someone who isn't fit.
7. If you're highly motivated, you might not be interested in classes. You might want to join a facility that doesn't offer them as it will probably save you some money on monthly fees. If you do want to participate in classes, take a long hard look at the schedule to see if they're available when you are.
8. Ask for a complimentary workout. I'd be suspicious of any facility that won't grant you a free workout (or several). It's really useful in figuring out if you feel comfortable there.
Some of our favorite fitness centers in central Arkansas are:
Members Fitness Club, 2516 Cantrell Road, Little Rock
Revolution Fitness and Health, 4910 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock (formerly BodyShape)
Health & Fitness in the Heights, 5116 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock (open 24 hours)
Jim Dailey Fitness Center, 300 S. Monroe St., Little Rock (has a lap pool)
Little Rock Racquet Club, 1 Huntington Road, Little Rock (has indoor and outdoor tennis courts, lap pools)
Thinking of getting a personal trainer to whip you into shape? Here are some of 2012-2013 Little Rock Beauty Black Book's Best of Beauty Winners for Personal Training in central Arkansas who can help: