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Professional Gym Choices: Optional, Bad or Good?

May 25, 2008
Gyms can offer pretty amazing benefits, both psychological and practical. However, take care to keep a few things in mind before you sign up for one.

Few could afford to buy the variety of equipment that gyms typically offer. Multi-station weight machines are just the beginning. Most gyms have treadmills, stationary rowing equipment, stretching bars, and more.

Many also have racquetball and tennis courts, and may even offer squash or Jai Lai courts. If you haven't heard of Jai Lai, it's a game of Spanish origin that is played in a court much like racquetball, with a curved racket; however, it's played at a much faster pace than racquetball. Some gyms also offer saunas, swimming pools or even climbing walls for those who are rock climbing enthusiasts.

Unless you have almost unlimited funds at your disposal, there's no way you can duplicate the space or variety of equipment available at your local gym.

Then there's the expertise you'll find at a gym - both from the trainers and the other members. Gyms frequently have professional trainers on staff that can answer just about any question you have. They provide weight-training guidance, health tips and even dietary advice.

Gym members are sometimes more knowledgeable than the professionals. People dedicated to optimal fitness often take the time and effort to study the field. You'll find fitness fanatics, aerobics instructors and medical doctors among the clientele.

Besides access to proper gear and a whole body of specialized knowledge, gyms provide people with a chance to interact - this is good because exercise routines can be quite dull. Talking to your neighbor while you both are working out is certainly more stimulating than mindlessly staring at a TV.

At a gym, you'll make social contacts, will be encouraged, and can get into a regular workout routine that you just can't duplicate at home.

However, gyms do have certain disadvantages.

A gym membership can be expensive. Most offer different payment plans, such as per visit, month, or year, or as a lifetime membership. If you pay by the visit, this is usually pricey, although it's a good option for you if you're just traveling and have a one-time visit in mind. Paying for a gym membership per month is often your best value, but prices will still roughly average between $30 and $300 a month. Many gyms offer trial memberships, either free or at a significantly reduced rate for the first month.

Do remember that paying for membership and then not attending sessions is a completely waste of money, so that's one big disadvantage of a gym. It's hard to work up the enthusiasm to go and work at something that is really more a chore than anything else, and sometimes it's a lack of time that makes us miss gym workouts.

Gyms can be messy. Most gym members are conscientious about wiping down the equipment, but it only takes a small number to spoil a gym for the majority. Alert staff can help keep those occasions few and far between, so look for a gym with staff that cares.

Also, the atmosphere in a gym is not very hygienic. The presence of many people, the heat and the humidity all combine to provide a good environment for the passing on of colds and other air-borne or contact diseases. Shower taps are one such area likely to spread infection.

Only you can weigh the pros and cons and make a final decision as to whether or not you want a gym membership. It may be that if you're not lucky enough to find the right gym the first time out, you'll need to try a few on a trial basis before you join a gym long-term.
About the Author
Kim Archer writes about women's wellness. She is publisher of The Internet Spa, where you'll find up-to-date information to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
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