How to Avoid Gym Membership Scams

Deciding to get physically active and fit can be a very motivating and inspirational feeling.  Maybe you’ve been struggling with a tough schedule, finances, or just the confidence to get up and start working out.  Perhaps you decided with the advice of your doctor or a friend that getting fit was something that needed to be a top priority in your life and that you were tired of excuses.  That strong willed motivation and enthusiasm can be a great feeling –  Until you start looking for gym memberships. 

You may be one of the millions of North Americans that has fallen for those slick ads and “unbelievable deals” that get them rushing through the doors of their local corporate gym or fitness facility, only to find that you get scammed into expensive monthly fees and contracts, and angry over gym management that ignores your requests to terminate your membership or training.  Having worked in a corporate franchised gym, I have seen my share of the elaborate marketing and sales pitch that goes into getting people signed up.  Now I’m not saying that they have ill intentions when it comes to their members.  In other words, the success of their clients with weight loss or other fitness goals is also their success that they pride themselves on.  However, when it comes to these big fitness companies, there’s really only one area that they’re looking to trim down – your wallet. 

I want you to be physically active, and I encourage people to join facilities or clubs that promote good health and an active lifestyle.  Therefore, I wanted to give my readers some advice on how to spot a sneaky sales pitch, how to chose a proper gym, and how much you should or shouldn’t be paying for various services and facilities.

The first thing to take into consideration is location.  First determine how many times a week you’re planning to work out, and what time of day.  If you want to go to the gym after work, look for a facility nearby so that you can work out during rush hour traffic, and then have a nice drive home.  If you plan to work out on weekends, look for a gym that’s close to home.  Anything that’s more than a 10-15 minute drive is another reason you’ll skip out on workouts.

Next is to do the research on the gym memberships and people who work there.  Usually if you get a referral from a friend, take the opportunity to go in with them and request a free guest workout.  Almost every gym will allow you to test out their facility and will happily give you a tour of everything that’s available.  By visiting at the time you think you’ll be doing your regular workouts, you’ll get a sense of how busy it is, and how long you may have to wait to get to a particular machine or exercise class.  Also, make sure to examine their change room and washrooms to make sure they’re clean and well maintained.

When it comes to price there are two things to remember:  First, “limited time offers” are just a way for you to buy in a hurry, therefore never let them sell you on that (or any other promotion ie. two months free, free gym bag, free vacation, etc.).  What usually happens in this situation is that if you get two months free (or any other amount free), they take the cost of those months and add it to the rest of your monthly payments.  Secondly, everything is negotiable.  Some of the best deals and membership rates are given to students because they don’t earn a lot.  Therefore, if the sales consultant starts asking you what you do for a living, don’t tell them you work in a law firm and make six figures – they’ll never offer you a cheap price because they know you can afford it.  Don’t be afraid to tell them that you can only pay a certain amount per month and that you’re willing to shop around at different locations for the best deal.  Many of these salespeople are taught not to let the client leave without a quote, so make sure to get it in writing.  Also, NEVER sign a contract with the promise of an adjustment later on, or until you’re sure you’ve gotten the best deal.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about your membership is the cost of personal training.  Many people make the mistake thinking that their membership comes with free training (which is often mentioned as a “free consultation”).  The consultation is a completely different thing.  In a training consult, the consultant will take you on the floor and test your physical abilities.  Many times the manager will tell them to push you to your limits to show you how “out of shape your are” and hence convince you that you need personal training, otherwise you won’t reach your fitness goals.  Personally, I don’t feel that it’s right to push someone to that limit.  A person should understand the benefits of personal training because its like a workout manual to your body.  Therefore, I highly recommend that if you’ve struggled to see results despite working out regularly, it’s most likely because you’ve been working out the wrong way, or doing the wrong exercises for the results you desire.  Even if you workout with a personal trainer once a week, it is worth it. A good personal trainer will teach you proper technique and exercise concepts that you can apply to all your routines, and you will definately see a difference in the quality of your workouts.  Ask the gym if they offer a free training session so that you can see the quality of fitness training they offer.  You can then also ask the trainers some specific questions such as “what type of workouts are best suited for someone with diabetes” (answer is building lean muscle tissue to help increase metabolism) or “what kinds of exercises are best if I have a knee injury/surgery?” (answer is stability exercises that help increase the strength of joints and stabilizer muscles).  If your trainer can’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, they’re not the right trainer for you.

You should also consider the cost of a nutritionist.  Many people don’t realize that as you get healthier and stronger, the energy requirements of your body changes.  If you put water into a car’s gas tank, it’s not going to run.  The same concept applies to your body.  A better body requires better fuel.  Therefore, ask the gym if they have a nutritionist on staff and what the cost of nutrition is. 

By putting all these things together, you may find that the cost of a gym membership wasn’t the $25 per month that you expected.  It can go up to $75 – $100 per month or more.  However, the good news is that by investing in proper training and nutrition along with your memebership, you’ll know exactly how to shape your body and improve your health permanently.  This will also prevent you from getting frustrated with going to the gym and wasting an hour on the cardio machines for 3 months and realizing that you look exactly the same as the first day you walked in. 

The bottom line is, if you avoid the slick sales pitches and sexy ads, you can make a good investment in a membership, training, and nutrition.  Do it once – but do it right.

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