It is a brand new year, and with all of the excitement one of the biggest New Years resolutions is to start an exercise and diet program and hopefully be able to stick with it. However, such a large percentage of people who either start a new routine or join a gym looking for help don’t get the help they actually need and deserve. Most often, you will see gyms and health clubs fill up in January and February, only to be empty again in March. Usually, the main issue is that many gyms aren’t set up with the members’ best interests in mind. Those interests should be YOUR goals and the results that you get from hard work, dedication and a good team around you.
What you are looking for is support, guidance and expertise. What you usually get is little guidance, cookie cutter programs, and little expertise. What you need is a gym that will be in your corner every step of the way, not just in January. So, before you sign up for that new gym membership make sure you ask each prospective gym the following questions:
- What are your goals?
This is actually a question that you will need to ask yourself first, then make sure that it is the first question that a gym asks when you walk in the door. In order to develop the most personalized plan to reach your goals, every gym should be asking you specifically what you want to accomplish.
Make sure once they have listened to your goals, they actually have a solution for you and what you want to accomplish. Whether it is for fat loss or muscle building, they should have your best interests in mind and know exactly how to get you there. If they don’t help you plan out the “roadmap” of where you are and where you want to go, consider this a red flag and move on to the next gym. Before you visit your prospective gym, do a little bit of homework and define what your goals are and what is really important to you.
Some areas that will help you best define some fitness and health goals:
- Fat loss goals – If the gym is more interested in the number on the scale and not your actual body fat percentage, or don’t have a way to measure this, they may not be the best fit for you if you are wanting to look more “defined” or want fit in your clothing better. Think in terms of body fat, waist and hip circumferences, and not just the number on the scale.
- Muscle building goals – If the gym doesn’t include resistance (strength) training in the workouts they provide, it will not be a well rounded option if you are looking to increase muscle or even want to lose body fat. Remember, any fat loss or muscle building program will include resistance training.
- Overall health goals – If the gym you are visiting doesn’t ask you about your current health status and has not asked you if you have any health concerns, they are not looking at the bigger picture. With a detailed screening, they should consider your current cholesterol levels, blood pressure, recent injury history, and anything else that would guarantee that you would have a customized plan once you started at the gym.
- Emotional health goals – If the gym you are visiting doesn’t ask and talk to you about your current stress levels and how you currently feel, they don’t have your best interests in mind with your overall health. Make sure they are asking you where your current stress levels are, as that can directly help or hinder your progress at the gym. Besides stress, make sure they are asking you about sleep habits and what you do at work as well. These two things can have a dramatic effect on the type of plan they recommend as well. For example, if you have a job that has repetitive stress involved, or don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep a night these things need to be addressed before an exercise plan is made for you.
- What is the gym’s screening process to identify your starting point?
Any gym that you seriously consider should have some sort of assessment that will guide them to build you the best workout program based on where you currently are at physically and what your goals are.
The gold standard assessment used in the fitness industry is currently the Functional Movement Screen. Make sure you ask what assessment they use, and if they don’t use the Functional Movement Screen, ask them how their assessment compares. The competency of the gym and your program will rely heavily on the type of assessment they use, as this will keep you at the apex of your fitness and health goals with a much lower risk of injury when getting started.
- What is the gym’s philosophy of training?
Now I know this can be a very broad question, but you can learn a lot from their answers here. They may just be a bodybuilding gym, or a machine based gym, or a cardio cinema gym. Make sure they can give you their philosophy on their training process, as well as what will be included in your program.
(you really aren’t killing two birds with one stone here!)
Some great things to look for as a part of a gym’s philosophy:
- They believe in total body movement patterns and taking the body through full range of motion safely and effectively. Some great examples are including the basic movements of the squat, lunge, bend (hinge), push, pull, carry and crawl. If they take you over to a great looking leg extension machine and tell you how well this will “burn your quads” it may not be a good fit for you.
- They believe in setting you up with the most appropriate exercise based on your ability level, then upgrading your exercise once you progress to the next safest progression. This should match very closely with the “one size does NOT fit all” philosophy. Not everyone should start out doing back squats, maybe a bodyweight squat or re-training the squat pattern is a great place to start.
- They believe in training smarter, not harder or longer. More is not necessarily better. Your workout should not take more than 45 minutes to one hour to complete. This should include many total body “big bang for your buck” exercises that are a good fit for YOU and what you want to accomplish.
- Will your program update every 4-6 weeks as you progress and get stronger? How do they track your progress?
Ok, so this is actually two questions but I wanted to make sure we cover all of our bases here. The body is an amazing organism and adapts constantly to the stress being placed on it. When there is a stimulus applied (new workout routine) adaptation will likely occur. If the stimulus isn’t varied enough, the body will reach a plateau and won’t change as we would like it to. So what do we do when this occurs? You can’t just keep increasing the stress (i.e. – load on the bar), there has to be some variation of exercises and programming already built in to deal with adaptation and to overcome those plateaus.
If there aren’t clear differences in the program actually changing every 4-6 weeks you will feel like your progress may be at a standstill, or worse yet, things just may feel stale at the gym. Changing variables in the program (reps, sets, load and exercise equipment used) is a large component of making sure the training stimulus is varied and will ensure you will reach your goals faster than ever!
You also want to be sure you ask how the gym tracks your progress. If they aren’t looking at your body composition as a guide for how successful your program is going, especially if you are a fat loss client, how will you ever know if the program is working and having the desired effect? Also, they should be tracking your movement quality to ensure that if you came in with any movement issues they are being cleared up within the first 4-8 weeks of your program. There should definitely be checks and balances in place to ensure that you are making progress in your program, and that they are measurable.
- Does the gym include nutritional support (nutritional journal, guide, etc)?
This is often one forgotten aspect of most gyms these days. Not many gyms offer nutritional support to get you started off on the right foot. Make sure you ask if they offer a nutritional guide so you can get a jumpstart with your nutrition. This could be something as simple as a nutritional journal with their expert guidelines that will get you motivated to start some new healthy habits. This may be as easy as writing in a nutritional journal and getting feedback from a qualified coach that can help you with any obstacles and roadblocks along the way. It needs to be sustainable and work with your lifestyle, of course! This is where making sure the feedback you are getting is individualized to where you currently are with your health and fitness journey and making sure the coaches are always “meeting you where you currently are at” in that regard.
I hope that you can use these 5 questions as you go out and interview potential gyms that you are looking to join. Or, better yet – you can take Epic Fitness for the test drive in our Complimentary Epic Fitness Strategy Session. We cover these 5 questions each and every time we meet with a new member, and make sure your experience is as unique as you are!
Even better, if you are ready to take action NOW you can apply for our “Spring Into Fitness” Program starting on March 13th, 2017. We are accepting only a few more applicants for this transformative 28 day program. To learn more about how this may be a good fit for you, check out all the details here!