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10 keys to choosing the right gym

Personal trainer Marcos Florez helps us make the right choice of gym

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Every year we make the same New Year's resolutions: every year we say we'll join a gym, lose weight and get fit. But the vast majority of us fall at the first hurdle, and by February there are very few who will be sticking to the plan. One reason may be that we simply sign up for the first gym we come across, or the one whose flyer lands on our doormat at the start of the year. We've been talking to personal trainer Marcos Florez, who's given us some tips about how to choose not just a gym, but the right gym. And we're hoping that this year it'll help stop us throwing in the towel too soon.

  1. Location The first thing to consider is location: it's best to choose a gym not more than ten minutes away from either work or home. Occasionally it may be better to choose another because it offers better services or other advantages but the farther you need to travel, the less likely you are to stick at it. 

  2. References Ask colleagues or friends where they go. Check with them for all the benefits – and the hitches – and take note of what they say. 

  3. Services Make sure you visit the different possible options and check out the range of activities on offer at each. 

  4. Schedule Find a centre that offers a wide choice, but do make sure that the activities you are interested in are available at times that suit you. And don't forget to check the level of the groups, not just the activities. 

  5. See for yourself When you go to ask for more information, don't be content with being given a leaflet: ask to see around the installations. This will give you an idea of the feel of the place and whether it really is right for you. It's best if you can do this at the time you are interested in attending.
  6. Equipment One of the things to look out for is the equipment. Are all the machines occupied? Are there signs up saying 'not in use' or 'out of order'?  Is the material well organised? There's little so annoying as only finding one of a pair of weights, and it's a good sign if the personnel take good care of the equipment. 

  7. Atmosphere Whether or not the centre is busy, try and gauge the atmosphere. Do the people there look like the sort you'd want to work out alongside? Is there background music and, if so, is it too loud? If you don't feel comfortable, it will be very difficult to stick to your resolution. 

  8. Cleanliness One of the most important general indications is whether the gym is clean, so, if possible, have a look around the locker room. You may not intend to shower there, but this is an area that reflects the attitude of staff and customers. 

  9. Price & conditions It isn't just a question of 'how much?' Check exactly what your membership covers and if there are any penalties or exemptions. Is there a trial period? What happens if you won't be using the facilities temporarily? Don't forget to check that they will show you how to use the different equipment and ask whether they will design an exercise program specifically for you. If they do this, will they then change it regularly, or are you going to need to pay for a personal trainer?

  10. Professionalism All the little details are relatively unimportant in comparison to the professionalism of the staff, particularly the coaches. Often the coaches are the ones who show new members round the premises, and if they stop to correct or help a client while they're doing so, that's a fairly good indication of dedication to customer well-being. If you know what activities you're interested in doing, it's a good idea to ask to speak to the trainer responsible – at the end of the day, that's who you're going to be working with.

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