Pete McCall by Pete McCall
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Do you have a goals related to improving your health and fitness this year? If you’re one of the 80 percent of Americans who don’t belong to a health club and you want to make fitness a priority, you may be considering joining a health club or fitness studio. 

The first and most important point to consider is the type of fitness experience that will work best for your needs. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you want to join a studio that focuses on one format of exercise?
  • Are you interested in paying for an unlimited number of instructor-led workouts?
  • Can you afford to have a personal trainer come to your home?
  • Do you live in an environment that supports exercising outdoors?
  • Do you want to pay the monthly fees and join a commercial health club that offers a variety of different fitness solutions? 

Health Clubs

If you find yourself in the market for a health club this year, keep in mind that there are many different types of options to suit your individual needs. Here are some pros and cons of health clubs that can help you identify the best one to meet your needs. 

Pros

  • Most health club memberships include amenities like full-service locker rooms with showers and towels so you can clean up after you workout.
  • Health clubs typically include a wide variety of equipment such as treadmills, elliptical machines, resistance-training machines and free weights so you have numerous options to meet your fitness needs. Larger health-club chains have the resources to purchase the latest equipment.
  • If you enjoy group workouts, many commercial health clubs offer a number of scheduled classes that are usually included in the cost of the monthly membership.
  • For the most part, health clubs only hire qualified, certified personal trainers and group fitness instructors, so you can be sure that you’re working with someone who has the qualifications to help you meet your goals.
  • Many health clubs are now offering fee-based small group-training programs, along with a variety of equipment and locker rooms with amenities like towel services, saunas, whirlpools and snack-bars that are simply not an option at most studios.
  • A number of health clubs offer memberships that can be cancelled with 30-days notice, but these are more (sometimes significantly more) expensive than a membership with an annual contract. Here’s a little secret: A club can only claim the revenue for the contracts on hand, so the more year-long membership contracts it has, the greater the revenue on the books. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to have members on an annual contract because month-to-month members only provide 30 days of membership revenue.
  • Joining the right health club (often a more expensive one) can provide significant networking opportunities that can help you both professionally and personally. 

Cons

  • Staff turnover can be high at health clubs, so it’s likely that your favorite instructors or personal trainers will move on to their next employment opportunity.
  • Health clubs can be extremely crowded during peak times, making it difficult to access your favorite equipment.
  • There has been a lot of recent activity in the mergers and acquisitions of health clubs, so the club you join today may be sold or purchased in the near future, which can change the entire experience for the end-user.
  • Because health clubs buy new equipment on a regular basis, your favorite piece could disappear without any notice.
  • Due to the nature of exercise, specifically sweating, and the high usage of health clubs,  cleanliness and germs may be a concern. 

Fitness Studios 

Fitness studios provide a wide variety of exercise options that have traditionally not been offered by commercial health clubs. These studios offer a specific type of workout led by a dynamic instructor and are a great option for people who enjoy different workouts without the commitment of paying a monthly membership fee. 

Pros

  • Many indoor cycling, yoga or Pilates studios charge a fee per class with the option to reserve spots and pay through a mobile app making them convenient for people who live their lives through their phones.
  • A majority of studios that offer a specific format of exercise like CrossFit or other forms of instructor-led circuit training workouts, charge fees of $150 and higher per month. However, this is for an unlimited amount of classes led by an instructor trained in how to deliver that specific format. While the price point might seem high, you receive customized group workouts under the supervision of an instructor and you can attend as many workouts as you want per month. That means the more you go, the less you pay per visit.
  • If you attend classes at a consistent time, you will usually work out with the same people, encouraging new friendships and helping you to expand your real-life social networks. This can also help you stay committed to your goals.
  • Some class-based studios, like CrossFit, offer open-gym time when you can come in and use the equipment for your own workouts.
  • Many studios provide social opportunities for their members outside of workouts by hosting education events or happy hours.
  • If you feel strongly about supporting local businesses, studios are often locally owned by one of your neighbors. 

Cons

  • Studios often have limited locker rooms, with few to no amenities such as towels, and many only offer changing rooms with no showers.
  • Fitness studios often charge rates of $20 or more per class, which can get expensive rather quickly if you take a lot of classes.
  • It’s important to know that most studios strictly enforce a 24-hour cancellation policy, so if you make a reservation and pay for a Wednesday class on a Monday, but get stuck working late you are also stuck paying for a class that you can’t attend.
  • Space can be limited. If you love a particular yoga instructor, chances are that other people do, too. This means that the class you’re paying a premium price will be extremely crowded, which can detract from the experience. 

Both health clubs and studios offer fantastic options for getting fit and enjoying exercise. Only you can decide which of these options will meet your needs. For example, if you enjoy a variety of instructors and spaces then by all means go the studio route. As you start the shopping process, be honest about what you can afford and what you want to receive for your money. 

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