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 with some help from Tina Glass, an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and owner of Results by Tina Personal Training Studio in Little Rock.
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. Glass recommended visiting the gym you're interested in joining a couple of times, especially during times that you're considering training and peak times. "That will give you a better ideal of the type of members that workout there and if you feel comfortable working out among them," she said.
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. Consider what equipment you will will be using most often and if the gym houses it. "Make sure that the gym has multiple machines that you use," Glass said. "Most larger gyms also have more than one weight training machine. This will help keep you from waiting for an extended period of time to use them."
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 efficient, 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. For those looking to get serious about their workout routine, it might be necessary to get a personal trainer to help achieve personal goals. "Personal trainers help create a safe and effective training program that should help you reach your goals more efficiently than you would alone," Glass said. When they create an exercise plan, they typically go through an initial assessment to identify injuries, medical background and what your goals are. "Once you take that information into account it is easy for a personal trainer to develop a creative,effective training routine to help people overcome plateaus and reach their goals," she added.
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. It really depends on what you're looking for-- for some, group classes offer comradery and a sense of encouragement from others, Glass said, while others may prefer the individualized attention that you receive from private personal training. "I recommend finding your fitness," she added. "Find what is best for you. If you do that then you are going to be more likely to stick with the program and reach your fitness goals."
8. How far is the facility? Glass said it's very important to find a gym close to your home and work because the farther away a facility is located, the less likely you will be going on a frequent basis.
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)