With so many gyms and workout options in large cities, what makes you choose one over another?
There are the obvious decision points:
- Price/Contract Terms
- Size/Good Selection of equipment
- Availability of classes, personal training, etc.
- Amenities (locker rooms, pool, etc)
There are also some less tangible factors:
- Brand loyalty
- The gym’s feel/appeal (bare bones, high-end, body-builders, average Joe, women-friendly, etc)
I’ve had the privilege to teach for Gold’s Gym for nearly 7 years, in 3 major metropolitan areas (Richmond, DC/NOVA, and now Dallas). Gold’s has both corporate and franchise locations in each of these areas and often instructors teach at multiple facilities. I’ve probably taught at least semi-regularly in 9-10 different Gold’s. They all look relatively alike… Gold’s has a pretty standard modus operandi for their facilities and branding, and all of them offer a wide selection of Les Mills classes (BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, RPM, etc).
But for me, every location and experience can be radically different! And ultimately, it comes down to demographics and the resulting culture of each. I’m going to make a bold generalization, but all things equal, gyms seem to fall into 3 categories:
- Meat Market. It’s young, it’s hip, it’s hot. It’s close to the city center and generally has a high income level. It has a ton of traffic, and after work, you’ll be hard pressed to get close to a free treadmill. The BODYPUMP classes run out of equipment. Lots of people work with personal trainers. But it’s also uber image-conscious (see last post on Working Out Your Ego). It’s somewhat sterile (and not because of the steroid use). As an instructor, you are willing people to stop looking in the mirror and react when you try to engage them. But you have a room full of fit people and you will make them work!
- No-Man’s Land. These gyms puzzle me a bit. Maybe it’s the location, which is kind of close to the action but not in the suburbs. The group exercise classes are hit or miss. It’s transient, people don’t talk much. They probably come in, run on the treadmill for 30 minutes and do their circuit and leave. It’s just lacking character. These are my least favorite locations to attend or instruct. But if you put in the work, you can develop very dedicated followings and be content with smaller classes.
- The Burbs Phenomenon. These gyms are often newer. The chain has expanded with the population. The rent is cheap, so the locations are large. All this makes sense. What defines these gyms for me though is a RABID group exercise following. They have some of the highest GGX usages in the country (percentage of people who attend classes when they come to the gym). The population skews a bit older, but you see it all… young, old, incredibly fit, overweight, moms, college kids. When you get everyone together, it’s not about ego or checking out the hot chick on the hip adductor machine (come on… you know what I’m talking about… LOVE this post about it http://fit-geek.com/tag/hip-adductors/). It’s about camaraderie. Everyone wants to succeed together. This is a place where you meet great friends (I’m looking at you, Merrifield) and get fit together. It’s a different kind of social. The instructors know your name because you introduce yourself and ask questions. People aren’t afraid to sing-along, smile, and even shout out a WOO!!! when they’re really feeling it. I love these gyms, and I’m willing to sit in traffic, spend my money on gas and give up most of my evening to teach at them.
I’ve subbed a few classes here in Dallas lately, at gym type #1 and gym type #3 and wow, what a difference. The difference wasn’t just in who was standing in front of me, but also in how I taught the class. Same format, same exact music and choreography. But good instructors react to what’s in front of them. Having a variety of skill levels and participants that are open to you brings out the best in me… and I got some of the best class reviews I’ve ever had at gym #3.
I’ll often pick convenience over some of those intangibles, but it’s hard to match that feeling where you connect with members and feel like you made a difference to them. That’s why we do what we do!
What is the personality of your gym? Is there a gym out there that fits all of these needs?
A big shout out to my NOVA Gold’s folks… I miss you!!!