November 27, 2016
When you’re ready to commit to getting fitter and healthier by joining a gym, the big chains may seem like an obvious choice. They’re the ones that are in your face, with splashy advertising campaigns and killer deals. But before you rush off to sign on the dotted line at your nearest Gold’s or Bally Fitness, take a moment to consider the downsides of joining a big box gym. It may just lead you to bypass the big guys as you seek out your friendly local health club.
photo credit: Richard
Big box gyms are popular, which means they are crowded. Your first challenge when you turn up at the gym is parking. Once you negotiate that challenge, which can often take 10-15 minutes, and are actually in the gym, now you’ve got to actually get on a piece of equipment.
At some of the big chain gyms you actually have to add your name to a waiting list in order to get on a treadmill. And, when it comes to weight exercises, like the bench press or squat, you’ve got to sit around waiting for the gear to free up. That will kill the flow and intensity of your workout. And it will leave you extremely frustrated.
Smaller, local gyms don’t have these problems. You’ll generally find that there is ample free parking. And, once you get inside, there is plenty of gear for everyone to use.
At every big box gym I’ve been to – and I’ve been to a lot – I encountered instructors who were totally disengaged from what their members were actually doing on the gym floor. I used to think this was just my bad experience, until I read a survey which showed the exact same thing as a common situation.
It may be a cliché, but the big box gyms, in general, are cold, impersonal and disinterested. I can’t recall how many times I’ve watched a personal trainer doing an exercise in a wrong and even dangerous manner, while an instructor stands just a few feet way ignoring them.
Let’s face it – the big box gyms are meat markets. Their interest is not in your success, but in your failure. If they can get you to sign up for monthly payments and then give up after 3 weeks, they’ve got it made. Your floor space can now be taken up by a new gym sucker – meanwhile they’re still getting your monthly payment.
What this means is that the instructors have absolutely no incentive in helping you to succeed – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Your local operator is different. He’s not interested in getting as many people in and out of the door. He knows that his business is built on word of mouth and membership retention. As a result, you’ll find personal trainers and instructors who actually care and will give you the personal attention that you deserve as a valued member.
The big chain gyms are like McDonalds when it comes to fitness. They will offer a range of classes and equipment that follow a standard pattern throughout their entire empire. That means that there is no room for individuality or customization.
Contrast that to your local gym. They don’t have to follow a set script or answer to anyone higher up the chain. That gives them the freedom to provide new and cutting edge programs, group exercise classes and equipment whenever they want to.
In a recent survey conducted by ConsumerReports.org, it was revealed that customers were more satisfied with smaller health clubs than their large chain competitors. One of the most cited problems with the big guys was problems that people have had with their contracts. The biggest issues related to unexpected hiking of the monthly membership fee, the inability to freeze the membership event though this was allowed on the contract and difficulties with canceling membership. In fact, 38% of respondents who had canceled their membership at a large gym chain, were still billed after they had put an end to their contract.
Having a problem with the financial side of your contract is frustrating enough. When you’re dealing with a large corporation, however, the real pain begins when you try to get it sorted out. If the experiences of survey respondents are anything to go by, you can expect to be hung up on, ignored and given the run around in a multitude of ways.
When you join your local gym, it couldn’t be any more different. You are dealing with people who work and live in your community. They have a personal vested interest in providing you with the very best service possible. And, if you do have a problem, the top guy is never very far away.
Big gyms are impersonal and often, cold and sterile, environments. Yet, for many of us, the gym is our ‘third place’. After home and work, it’s where we go to meet up with regulars who know and appreciate us. You will not find that kind of caring environment art a big box gym. But it is evident at many smaller, local health clubs. They’ve created a sense of belonging and comfort that turns the four walls of the gym into much more than simply a place to do squats and run on a treadmill. It has become the ‘third’ place’ for their members.
Yes, the big box gyms can offer cheaper prices. They may even have more shiny steel things in them. But, if you’re prepared to look beyond the façade, you will quickly come to the realization that your locally owned and operated fitness center is where it’s at if you want real results and real attention.