Putting a gym through its paces

So you’ve finally gotten around to sticking to that New Year’s resolution to lose weight or just get fit – it’s time to pound that pavement and find a health club to suit your needs. This is a serious commitment you’re about to make – just think of the number of hours you and your new club are going to be spending together – so take a few moments to find out what you should check out before laying your money on the table.

"The first thing you should notice is whether or not you’re taken care of," says Debbie Jackson, who has worked in the luxury club industry for fifteen years in places as diverse as Italy, the UK and Hong Kong. She now manages the Sukhothai’s health club. "You should get a full tour of the facilities, see a list of classes, notice what level they’re offered at. Ensure that you are given a fitness test, otherwise the club can’t give you a personal programme."

According to Jackson it’s also important to find out whether the instructors are qualified. "I would certainly ask. And check to see whether the club offers personal trainers. These are a good asset for clubs, as they’ll give you individual attention and keep you motivated."

Furthermore, Jackson suggests talking directly with the staff. "A lot of the time a manager will show you around, but what you want to make sure is that you like the staff – they’re the ones who will be answering your questions once you join. So go up to the staff, and check their ability to communicate."

Piyapong Limpipipat, managing director at Body System, says that an individual’s choice of a health club really depends on what that particular person is looking for. "You need to consider both the value for money offered, and what the gym offers to suit your needs. Both factors are equally important. For instance, some people really like to work out using weights, but other people find that boring. Those people need to look for a gym that offers other facilities."

Jackson agrees. "The club needs to suit your individual needs. If you’re happy to go into a gym and just do your own thing, then go somewhere no frills, without the luxury locker rooms. Low budget gyms can be good value. The luxury gyms offer a more personalised service – you don’t need to bring your own towels, shampoo, and so on. Some people can be put off by the price, but they don’t take into account the services being offered."

Piyapong suggests looking at your budget first up. "Clients need to consider how much they are willing to spend. If they want to spend less, they might need to go to a small establishment. Larger establishments might need to charge more because of the services they provide."

Checking out the overall staff-to-client ratio can be a reasonable indicator of service levels, but Jackson says that it’s even more important to actually check out the club at the times you would normally expect to be working out there. "You don’t want to be disillusioned when you do start going and find that you have to wait to use the machines you like."

Finally, Jackson suggests that you make sure the club you’re checking out takes an interest in the latest fitness trends and ideas. "Many gyms are a bit stale and don’t offer newer classes, such as cycling classes, power yoga, cardio-combat, Pilates and so on. Salsa classes are becoming popular in gyms now too. You want more than the standard step and hi-lo impact classes – these are still good, but look for more than that." Classes should also be on at convenient times.

Joining a health club that manages to satisfy all of these criteria will mean you’ll have absolutely no excuses for not being on your way to that new you.

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