Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Winter 2009
Demystifying the Health Club
|Have you been procrastinating about joining a health club because of the fear-of-the-unknown factor? There’s no doubt that the process can be intimidating to first timers—the lingo, the classes, the routine. Arming yourself with a little knowledge about what to expect when you walk through the door can help you find a health club where you’ll fit right in.|
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
Like hospitals, malls and grocery stores, health clubs have adapted to changing family structures, routines and expectations. Facilities in the 21st century are just as likely to provide personal coaching, medical-school-trained personnel and day care as they are to offer sophisticated workout machinery. Some facilities still cater to the toned-body set, while others pride themselves on family-friendly offerings. Every club has a different setup, classes and extras, which means you need to look at your needs and your routine. Is flexibility in workout times most important, or would the latest and greatest classes bolster your motivation? Do you require child care, or is proximity to work a must? Questions like these will let you come up with a short list of what you’re looking for in a health club.
But remember: A health club can’t help you get fit if you don’t have, or won’t make, time in your schedule to use the facility. Before you even begin a search, think about your life and mindset, and ask yourself: What’s kept you from exercising in the past, why are you committed to change now and how can a health club assist you? “We tell people up front, ‘Don’t come in unless you are ready to give us the time each week to help you,’” says Bill Higgs, general manager at Shula’s Athletic Club in Miami Lakes, Florida.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, the most important concern may be your physical condition. Some health issues, such as diabetes or joint problems, require your doctor’s approval and close attention from the club’s staff to develop an appropriate workout routine.
Two of the newest developments in health clubs are life coaching and medical fitness facilities. Life coaching pairs a health club member with a coach to set goals for nutrition and general well-being as well as fitness, says Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., a certified personal trainer and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Medical fitness facilities, typically run by hospitals, address physical issues for people with medical conditions, such as hypertension or cardiac concerns. “Medical fitness facilities can be a safe haven to individuals who are intimidated; they typically have degreed staff and provide support groups,” says Pillarella.
Even if you’re just sorely out of shape, there’s a club for nearly everyone on the fitness spectrum, and it should be a place that will make exercise both pleasurable and motivating, she says. “The environment of the club can go a long way toward helping someone’s self-concept.”
|TAKE A TOUR|
Once you have an idea of the type of facility you’re looking for, it’s time to do some legwork. Ask friends, family, coworkers and perhaps even your doctor about places they would recommend. Narrow the list by visiting websites to check out hours, fees, classes and equipment, then assemble a list of health clubs to visit in person.
Call ahead and ask the membership department to set up a tour (and remember to bring your checklist). If you receive any pressure to join on the spot, shrug it off. Instead, ask for a trial pass so you can sample the club’s offerings without someone looking over your shoulder. “Just as you wouldn’t buy a new car before taking it for a test spin, why would you join a gym before trying it out?” asks Pillarella.
Pay careful attention to how well the staff listens to your questions and how concerned they seem to be with improving your physical health. That means find out about employees’ credentials and fitness industry certifications, as well as their routines while at work. Pillarella suggests asking, “Will the staff sit at a desk? Will they circulate the floor area to see if members need help?”
If you’re unsure about additional costs, come right out and ask. For instance, if you really want to work with a personal trainer, find out if the club’s monthly fee includes that service. Sometimes there’s a charge after the initial consultation or the first few sessions, and it’s best to know that up front. Finally, make a second visit at a different time on a different day; the gym at 1 p.m. on Saturday may not be the same place at 6 p.m. on Monday.
Once you’ve picked a club, call back to ask about membership specials; many facilities charge a reduced fee at certain times of the year, while others may give you a discount for full-year payment. Be sure to take advantage of introductory programs, such as a fitness evaluation and equipment orientation, plus a set number of personal training sessions. Particularly if you haven’t exercised in a while—or at all—clubs should evaluate your health level and limitations and explain the basics of both cardio and strength training.
Take advantage of those sessions, suggests Pillarella. The one-on-one time can be key to creating a workout routine that you enjoy and will stick with. If you don’t feel like you’re clicking with your trainer, ask to be reassigned.
At Shula’s, new members meet with a certified trainer at least four times and are encouraged to attend group sessions to get to know other members. “We sit down and talk to you about what your needs are,” Higgs says. He also encourages members to consider investing in additional sessions with a certified trainer: “It’s money well spent. It helps you adhere to a routine and make it part of your schedule.”
Health club employees can’t wave a magic wand to transform members from sedentary to taut and toned. But a good club and a caring staff can make you feel right at home and work in tandem with you to help improve your fitness level.
LEARN MORE: For a suggested list of questions to ask when choosing a health club, go to healthclubs.com.
|12 Ways to Fit Right In|
You resisted the new-member sales pressure, now calm any nervousness you might have about attending your new health club. Although other members may look like pros operating all that heavy metal, remember that they, too, were new members once. Here are some helpful tips on gym etiquette:
- If all spots are taken on a machine you want to use, look for a sign-up sheet or a line and wait your turn. Stick to time limits for equipment use; an hour means one hour.
- Put away equipment and wipe down machines; most clubs have spray bottles and small towels or antibacterial gel specifically for this purpose.
- Ask if classes require sign-up or if they’re first-come, first-served. There’s no bigger bummer than getting up for that 6 a.m. spin class, only to find all the bikes reserved.
- Bring a towel if your club doesn’t offer the service.
- Keep grunts, yells and moans to a minimum when exerting yourself.
- If you don’t understand how to set up or program a machine, ask a staff member for assistance.
- Adhere to the club’s cell phone policies.
- Keep your locker clean.
- Avoid using heavy perfumes or colognes before exercising.
- Dress appropriately. Certified trainer Debi Pillarella suggests attire that’s comfortable and not restrictive for the activities you choose, “but not so revealing that your mom would be embarrassed.”
- Always wear gym or athletic shoes in equipment areas to reduce the risk of injury.