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Which is the Best Gym for me?

woman in gym

So, you’ve decided to get off your duff and start working out. Yay!

But, you don’t have any gear at home and you’re feeling the need to join a gym. How do you choose the right one?

This can be tough. But before we even get to that, let’s talk about you and your possible motivations, to make sure we spend your money wisely.

The gym business model is based on understanding the guilt factor among people who enroll. The bulk of new members join in late winter, after New Year’s resolutions have been made. Lots of them will never go back to the gym again and roughly 80% of those will quit within 6 months.

Don’t be that guy.

photo-1434847868581-86e8a2b8e7a3More than 45 million Americans belong to a gym, but gym owners work on the premise that less than 20% of their members will show up on a consistent basis. If not, the walls would implode because there are far more members than space.

According to a 2014 survey by Credit Donkey:

“The average monthly cost of a gym membership was $41 as of 2014. That’s a decrease of $8 since 2009, but still equates to nearly $500 a year, a hefty sum if you don’t go often enough to the gym to feel like you’re getting a payback.

That results in some serious revenue.

Getting in shape usually comes with a pretty decent price tag, and the gym industry is definitely reaping the benefits. The gym, fitness and health club market is valued at around $27 billion in the U.S. Globally, health clubs raked in an astonishing $75.7 billion in revenue in 2012.”

Here are some additional facts from Statistic Brain:

  • Average Monthly cost of a gym membership: $58
  • Amount of that cost that goest to waste on average due to lack of use: $39
  • Percent of people with gym memberships that never use them: 67%
  • Annual industry revenue:$21,800,000,000
  • People who use a gym at least occassionaly, annual:58,000,000

Ok, enough of the warning stuff. I don’t mean to discourage you at all. I just want you to make the best possible choice — and use it. Before you sign up with any gym, follow these rules:

  1. Try it out first:
    • How are the people? Is there a good vibe here? Do you enjoy the place?
    • Is it clean? Is the equipment well maintained? Is there enough to go around?
  2. Steer clear of long-term commitments. Do not let anyone pressure you with upsells.
    • Start with a month-to-month (or weekly) deal and decide later if you want to commit longer.
  3. Do the basics work for you: Hours of operation, proximity, etc?

Here are a few gyms to consider. All prices are best estimates and can vary wildly over time and with seasonal special deals.

planetfitness Planet Fitness:

Cost: As low as $10 per month with an annual fee of about $29.

If you’re new to all this, or if you are concerned about feeling intimidated, check into Planet Fitness. At around $10 per month for the basic package, it’s pretty much the cheapest option out there and it’s available in many states.

And this is the place that advertises the “Lunk Alarm” where they promise to throw out people who are too vigorous in their lifting. I’ve heard they won’t even allow certain types of lifts. Frankly, I find this goes a bit too far, especially since I occasionally grunt a little when I exert myself (ah-hem).

But these people are geared toward creating an environment that is friendly to the novice and shuts out any hint of bullying no matter how passive.

Here is the Planet Fitness Mission Statement:

“We at Planet Fitness are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone – and we mean anyone – can be comfortable. A diverse, Judgement Free Zone where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built. Our product is a tool, a means to an end; not a brand name or a mold-maker, but a tool that can be used by anyone. In the end, it’s all about you. As we evolve and educate ourselves, we will seek to perfect this safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected. We are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that’s what you need.”

Me: Hey, that last line sounds a bit rough… where’s that Lunk Alarm button?

Snap Fitness is next up in the national chain price ladder:

snap-fitness-logo$34.95 per month and up depending on location, with an initiation fee of $99 in some locations.

Snap is a 24-hour accessible chain that is in most U.S. states. And it is much bigger than many of the other chains, with more than 1,100 locations. So, if you move around a lot or travel, you might prefer this option.

24 Hour Fitness is just a few bucks higher:

24hrfitnesss$39.99 per month and up depending on location, upfront charges in some areas.

This gym’s claim to fame is that it’s open 24 hours per day, so no excuses around schedule. Cost ranges across the country from around $30 to $65 per month depending where you are. There are upfront charges, too. Typically first and last month’s fee. Has month-to-month option so you don’t have to sign up forever.

Many offer group classes and training. Check your local branch for the details. Unfortunately, this gym is not in every state. As always, try it out first.


$34.99 monthly with a $149.99 initiation fee.

Curves is famous as the women’s only gym, although some locations now do allow men. With more than 3,000 locations in 85 countries, Curves is almost everywhere.

Other Gym options go up from here and are typically in a much larger footprint with more amenities. If you’re more experienced and committed to using a gym membership, you can check out:

goldsGold’s Gym

$34.99 per month with $149.99 initiation fee.

Gold’s Gym is huge, literally. With more than 3,000 locations in 85 places around the world, there is likely a Gold’s somewhere near you. Gold’s credits much of their popularity to the programs offered to women in its gyms. It is also holds a high-pedigree in the weight training world and, like Powerhouse Gym, ties back to the old pioneers of resistance training and bodybuilding.

powerhouse-logo_fullPowerHouse Gym

$24.99 per month with up to $94.99 in initiation fees.

Powerhouse is almost everywhere in the U.S. and in 17 locations around the world. Founded by serious lifters and catering to serious lifters. But it is also quite modern and offers a wide variety of health and fitness options for both women and men. Big with traditional Power Lifters and Cross Fit.

la-fitness-logoLA Fitness

$29.95 per month with a $25 and up initiation fee (as of 11/2016)

Big, bright and upbeat. These clubs typically offer more than 20 regular classes in just about everything you can think of. Check them out online and see if there’s one near you. Big, well equipped and an almost spa-like feeling.

Ok, so now what?

There are tons more gyms out there. Some national chains, some regional or local. Regardless of which one you might consider, be mindful of the steps and try it on for size first.

If they won’t let you try it out and put pressure on you, walk out and try the next one. Only accept financial terms you can handle and an environment you feel positive in. If you don’t feel comfortable, odds are you’ll be one of those people who fails to go.

For still other options to consider, check out my post on Resistance Bands. For under $50, you can buy an entire home gym that fits in a small bag. It’s worth considering if you’re on a strict budget and you’d rather work-out at home. And they are just great to have even if you belong to a gym. My wife and I use ours all the time.

In a future post, we’ll explore building out a home gym. It can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a solid, multipurpose stack machine to thousands for a variety of gear, depending on your budget and needs. Mine grew over decades and includes a wide variety of great stuff for both resistance and cardio.

Please come back again soon! And feel free to leave a comment or a question below. I’ll gladly answer all. You can also email me at