download (10)The biggest surge in Fitness Club memberships is always January! After resolving to become more fit and healthy, many people will rely on the assistance of a health club to help get in shape.  Unfortunately, according to IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sports Association, 35% of people who join a fitness club quit each year with the most common reasons being the gym is overcrowded or they are not satisfied with the staff or the programs. So…choosing the right gym makes a huge difference!

Here’s some tips to help you when making your decisions so you are a user not a quitter!

  • Take a tour or ask about a trial workout. Shop around. Don’t just join the first gym you visit – take your time, do your homework and make a wise decision

Equipment usage:

  • If you notice every piece of equipment is being used and there are lots of line-ups, you may want to consider shopping around.  Find out if the gym is always overcrowded or if there are times that are not quite as busy that fit into your schedule.  Also observe the state of the equipment.  Is it properly maintained or are there out-of-order signs posted on numerous machines?


  • Since the top reasons for leaving a club relate to the staff, pay attention to how they treat you during your first introduction to the club.  If they speed through the tour, not paying attention to you or your needs or they don’t even offer you a tour, you should be concerned.  If you feel at all pressured in your initial visit, it’s a good bet they’re more interested in getting the sale rather than keeping you as a member.  The staff should encourage you to use the facility, not just belong.  They should ask you questions regarding your current fitness level, health history, goals and interests and they should point you towards programs that will help you achieve your goals.  Check to make sure that a certified fitness trainer will be available to show you how to use the equipment – after all, you won’t get much benefit from equipment you don’t know how to use.  On that note, ask about the qualifications of the trainers and fitness instructors.  They should all be certified through a nationally recognized organization – look for framed certificates on the walls. Staff should also be trained in CPR and Fitness First Aid.  It’s also a good sign if a club belongs to a professional fitness organization like IDEA or IHRSA – look for stickers on the front doors.  While you’re touring, keep your eyes on the fitness trainers and instructors.  Do they appear approachable, personable and qualified?  Do they seem to offer alternatives for different people?  Overall, you should feel welcomed right from the beginning and you should notice that this sense of service is extended beyond the initial visit.

Members and Atmosphere:

  • Take a look around. Will you fit in? Do the members appear welcoming and fun? Are you comfortable with the common attire and sound level? How does the facility look, feel and smell?  Would you enjoy coming here on a regular basis?


  • Are the classes or programs you’re interested available and scheduled at times that are convenient for you?  For example, if you love to swim, a pool would be an important feature to ask about.  If you love basketball, make sure they’ve got some hoops.  If you like outdoor activities, make sure they host running clinics, snow shoeing trips, hiking treks and outdoor muscle and cardio circuits.  If you want to work on improving your flexibility, be sure to ask about Yoga and Pilates programs.  Create a detailed list of questions to ask.

Get references and testimonials:

  • Ask current members how happy they are with the customer service, how long they’ve been a member and whether they enjoy the programs and equipment available.  Long-term enrollment typically indicates happy members.


  • Find a facility that works into your budget but as with all purchases, don’t just make your decision based on price.  Some fitness facilities’ business model is to attract a high volume of members and therefore can provide lots of equipment at lower rates.  Other facilities offer a more boutique-style experience and rates can be higher.  Determine the maximum dollars you can invest in your health and then choose a facility that will be able to deliver you results and provide you with exceptional service.  Be sure to ask questions regarding upfront fees, monthly dues, minimum agreement terms, cancellation policies, and money-back guarantees.

Overall, your club should provide you with lots of top-notch, well-maintained equipment, personable and educated staff, cleanliness and a variety of excellent fitness programming.  You in turn must take the responsibility to use the facility and its services. Spend some time and energy looking for the right facility and it should make achieving success a lot easier!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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