Gyms Exposed: The Secrets Fitness Centers Don't Want You to Know

By Michael Kasian
A7yv Xhqkzjoczje2670oqtiph6fcrzlqejs1dp9e Dgx Fqtbpd7g1mvdpl F5xn8yfvb0eyifsztrbt7zpwjn9 Crtnhlktovjdyi85xunsvyulcid Zi0 Cwmzb Egt9l3doo0shdkvnugg
Photo Courtesy: Danielle Cerullo/Unsplash

These days, Americans are more conscious of their health and are working out more than ever before. In 2018, almost 54% of Americans met the U.S. government’s aerobic exercise recommendation. With new fitness crazes popping up every few months, it’s no surprise that America is starting to focus on fitness on a much larger scale.

Of course, every new trend comes with a lot of money-making schemes to capitalize on the quest for improved health. Don't believe it? Check out these secrets big-box gyms and fitness centers don't want you to know before heading out for your next workout.

Advertisement

Cardio Equipment Is in the Windows on Purpose

If you walk past a gym on the sidewalk, chances are you'll see some treadmills or ellipticals in the windows. Big-box gyms put cardio equipment in the windows instead of weightlifting machines and other devices for a reason.

Wgzcfmw8jwcnte4knde Oduwsxymolspuoutzlocwmcsobmehu0g Ojhv7ctvpcavdbqnzirmyu5eseuvbqrjjzzs4fej0ad9pzfdirrvo2czw54msszxf Gsrskr8onbu1bk60icpbtwv4 Lg
Photo Courtesy: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

To successfully attract newcomers, gyms know they can't intimidate people as soon as they approach. Running on a treadmill looks far less intense than lifting heavy weights, so that's why treadmills are featured in windows. Additionally, treadmills are recognizable and used more by gym-goers, so giving them the window treatment makes the most sense.

Don’t Automatically Pay the Initiation Fee

If you're going to sign up for a gym membership, be sure to negotiate the terms. Gyms are always looking to sign up new members, and they are more than willing to cut deals. The initiation fee is one of the easiest fees to negotiate.

23wkpv Kbm3hdhiasc0ivumbwfdx2plv5aeago5h6otu5n4wxfojuztalwrcmwrkaxb3toifsvhyfcnarccb Tcmm3crxrm3zbppzl9emvik7pglvs6x5cyjgfd5vzwpnidmlytsn0gfhvi Fq
Photo Courtesy: Helloquence/Unsplash

Gyms would much rather have you pay an annual fee instead of a one-time fee at signup, so try to talk it down. If they're unwilling to cut the fee entirely, see if they can offer a free month or other freebies instead.

Get a Membership in the Summer, Not the Winter

Almost everyone wants to start a new year with a commitment to focus on health and wellness. Gyms are well aware of that. As a result, membership rates are often much higher in the winter than in other seasons.

Wbmyxf3yrcpepugj1s Itig9bxqdi4d19hbvmmtgchp1rcop3x9zqxw Hscc3ydwch Vi6dbcj54760mcqpwkapgi Egykjktxwhnz27onhrclflcydkdqvatxsw6iaedwzkfkfbnmh8 53w
Photo Courtesy: Alora Griffiths/Unsplash

Keep the summer in mind when you sign up for a new gym membership. Enrollments are far fewer in the summertime, and employees will do almost anything to sign up new members. That could include offering discounted rates you could never get around New Year's Day.

Advertisement

It’s Often Cheaper to Pay as You Go

While we're on the subject of negotiating, think about how you want to make payments. Gym membership fees are often paid yearly or monthly, but if you can, try to pay by the visit. If you can work that out, it could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Lclpi4vmupkv2rkffgncjdzexqw8aginer2dcvrnpn5qhfe Iyw9dzpgur9omb8kw2c0zovge7r4un4kfetmbhfhck8n8yhc2u8g0dr8fyy8op34 Hdnbgkad2uayfbltklp2p5em4pjmguacw
Photo Courtesy: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images

Let's be real, it's very unlikely that anyone is going to the gym 365 days a year. If you can work out a deal where you pay for each visit, you could cut your gym payments way down.

Big-Box Gym Brands Are on the Outs

In the last decade, boutique studios have popped up and taken the fitness world by storm. Classes like SoulCycle, Barry's Bootcamp and Orange Theory are posing a major threat to the success of big-box gyms.

3dgasgiq7netd8jazvh4s0yaz1vxmdah9lybsqurjdsp55gdfcs5awsun0tovujkkjegfwvxiz6z5qjrhdva Iiw3ki 7knexm3fan2fk3phxmpcaimafnhczrymsee2c78urdvyh Lkp0erg
Photo Courtesy: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

With each new boutique studio craze, people are dropping their gym memberships in huge numbers. This mass exodus poses a major threat to big-box gyms, especially since 40% of gym members ditch their memberships each year. These numbers are more threatening than ever before to the big brands, making their next chapters very questionable.

Check That Cancellation Policy

Gyms are notorious for making it difficult to cancel your membership. Leaving a gym can be almost as difficult as using some of the equipment correctly. In short, they load their contracts with fine print that requires you to jump through a dozen hoops before ending your membership.

04utidkrnuvxadw 7whbcnmw2e6zzd5 S9 Vb2zqwiyc8al3i0ohtpai54ywbfv5lzquvbd8cc8wgfbm Twwrkhc J12t6d Dg2lpqvkeh2mzcepuub 1jt9btqawspwoui8zyke Eqqdkq2q
Photo Courtesy: Mari Helin/Unsplash

Some gyms will only let you out of your contract if you cancel in person, which then becomes an in-person interrogation. Other gyms claim there is a "waiting list" to get your gym membership canceled because they are backlogged with requests. Not exactly a great selling point, but it stalls your cancellation.

Advertisement

You May Continue Getting Billed After Quitting

It's almost expected that you'll continue to see charges on your credit card after you've left the gym. With some cancellation policies, you could end up getting charged for the rest of the year or until you move to another zip code.

Yud9 Ylbrmhdlq8vvnd198l5xzogmkd0y3174t85yvebjbyzkcswh Yjw Jddu0m9bhlbkcywyykrnbhx64tictwjfyadctoih5dsclqv9hurr Kq5bc0nuqo89paodqedhpnrimjyqwrkqm4a
Photo Courtesy: rupixen/Unsplash

That fine print is small for a reason. Before you sign up for a gym membership, make sure you know everything about the billing procedures AND the cancellation policy. They are way more intertwined than you may expect.

Employees Are Watching You

If you're trying to keep to yourself at the gym, keep in mind that you're still under surveillance by the staff. Employees keep their eyes on patrons to make sure they're using equipment right, but that's not the only reason.

Otu9do0oidwsu4wlb8u1n9fhyffrpxtgk8h1d2r4dxqh Aloxvsopth4mjkhavskxzxxs6apvudgmnqs0nw0zzjsj 0spfnipgaohi9x1lu Vgolmfby8ax5r1sdhjstqimldkrywqsxlldfhq
Photo Courtesy: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Getty Images

The staff also tries to make sure it's a safe space for everyone. The gym often sees a lot of cruising between patrons, and employees want to make sure no one is being inappropriate to other patrons. It happens way more than you may think.

Gyms Have Bad Air Quality

Those big air vents in gyms may look like they provide great airflow, but it's quite the opposite. In general, gyms display high levels of airborne dust, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde. The concentrations of these substances exceed the standard for indoor air quality.

7kcvbdeduugig C7fc5cmltleee1zgjd 0heqwe69g1ic4ka2umu7oobyulwjv 2xbw08ztln316eczywd Enu Sogjyld Tq Tu4ehf58jk6aoxyfudcoiaok0wt7qccsk4khuxnbeimumfq
Photo Courtesy: Phil Walter/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Formaldehyde can contribute to asthma and other breathing issues, and breathing it in is never a good idea. If you think about the kinds of rigorous physical activities you do at the gym that lead to a lot of deep breathing, this should be very concerning.

Advertisement

Avoid Food and Beverage Options in the Gym

After a tough workout, it's natural to crave something to eat. Gyms are aware of this and offer juices and smoothies to help maximize your workout's impact. Too bad sugary drinks and smoothies are not recommended after a challenging workout routine.

81ujiio9qodwjewxgtgl0b2tvlkblxrps2yvjyigvzc6pmdw3olhfh1h34pozfcbosyhhakmfxfd4nbsps Jsvq5rzvill5h2iyidxkrtyapaksin4k0yg V0qpbap4we7rbseu7uxj2y0cbg
Photo Courtesy: Gideon Mendel/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Your digestive system is in hyper-speed, so it's actually the worst time to drink something full of sugar. That sweet smoothie could lead to pretty uncomfortable digestive issues. It's best to avoid the gym's juice bar and drink water immediately after your workout instead.

Take Your Own Yoga Mat to Every Workout

Ever since Pilates and yoga broke into the mainstream, fitness mats have become gym staples. However, you should really take your own mat to the gym if you can. According to The New York Times, the fungi that lead to athlete's foot and plantar warts are regular guests on gym mats.

Dnzpearxgpjmccgjkc5ougmppkd2epabafnidiv Kodystgymn0pywg1f Fwrgxiyikysj0rxdfc8bbofosjdnh3 6kr9cwayvjrvsyr1y9cwgzilxgrmubzxjbpw44 Sc6aqahp6iwnltvttw
Photo Courtesy: Anupam Mahapatra/Unsplash

If the mats aren't wiped down after every workout, they become a breeding ground of bacteria. Gyms aren't required to clean mats daily, let alone after each workout, so do yourself a favor and take your own mat.

Always Use Your Own Disinfectant Wipes

A study conducted by FitRated discovered that gym equipment has 362 times more bacteria on it than a toilet seat. Let that sink in. If you want a really clean workout with limited interaction with bacteria, you better take your own antibacterial wipes to the gym.

T4nlcf Etpqzh3j3vqh052yhtrhefavbebztak T7zu36gaexarrdeen7erk35g81hjdjtjqcwfon9jlgchx Bn6utx5ikpbbu943uonvuavzgsqhcm2hihdmkmrj3yg8edexxxbvyzpzkwoaw
Photo Courtesy: Rodrigo Sarsfield/Unsplash

Pre-saturated disinfectant wipes provide a much more effective cleaning agent to help remove germs. The wiping action is what really gets the job done, of course, and while you may look a bit odd to the other patrons, you will be safer and healthier for your effort.

Advertisement

Gym Cleaning Products Aren’t As Helpful As You Think

Taking your own wipes to the gym becomes an especially good idea when you consider how risky gym cleaning products can be. The gym staff probably uses some kind of high-potency cleaning agents, but they can be just as harmful to you as the bacteria they’re trying to remove.

Wdast09ys93 Zutoagway2pe5r0 S4dxbfktiuc1 Ja69y Bkx0i Uo9ngaxgdhjltp3j7fkszytw7hs8qltehnvgfnojc6dt 9o7g2ne Qhxfh0plmn4kkwipjtcfrffnryuk24tpa0ku5jag
Photo Courtesy: Crystal de Passillé-Chabot/Unsplash

A whiff of these cleaning agents can cause headaches or worse during your workout. It's also worth it to consider how infrequently their cleaners are even used, but when they are, don't get too comfortable around them.

Keep Your Sandals On in the Shower

Whenever you step into a gym locker room, be sure to keep your shoes on. Even when it's time to head to the shower, don't forget your flip-flops. Seriously, this is important. Dangerous bacteria are all over the shower floors, and they are very rarely cleaned for how often they’re used.

Flp3cwzz25fpsj4fqqba99clzrpjp Pdbr9x4zqrdcqv4owdnyndon4rlqhdgnx2civd6i R3vs7ap9drne3 Kd9oj2qxm5qlaqfqqlgklxvqzgvgxymcd 1b4d86xlm997mdnbeztfpktkpdg
Photo Courtesy: Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Foot fungus and athlete's foot are common bacteria found on gym shower floors, but it gets worse. Studies have even found human papillomavirus by the drain. That's without even considering what other fluids gym-goers leave behind.

Avoid Public Pools in Gyms

When you walk by a gym's pool, you can't help but notice the overwhelming smell of chlorine. Chlorine is fine for cleaning a pool, but not when it's mixed with sweat, urine and whatever else inconsiderate gym goers leave in the water.

9f5 Hc8miqf9qt Qpkre0klso24kni1jxdjgkr5fz8fvda3bl6ub4dz69i0ecldq1p1omyp0ak8p2lokvnl0hduh93oczrynhs7fhktcm9t3sorynwp4o96kbeetsazuoptu37ck1wiztkddng
Photo Courtesy: Mark Peterson/Corbis Sport/Getty Images

When chlorine mixes with other fluids, it has the potential to cause damage to your skin's cells. The water becomes mutagenic, and it's not recommended to spend any time near those harmful agents. Do yourself a favor and stay above water at the gym.

Advertisement

Don’t Go to the Gym Every Day

If you're trying to get the most out of your membership, you may want to go to the gym as frequently as possible. Beware: Going to the gym too much can be dangerous. In reality, working out every day isn’t the best way to get fit.

6wv60zixo6z8qe3lzuu7kz41xuijyqbc2gihkh Euzub37tgyb442tq3pcl9ikdvackcu8zxjbhgv9d3dhn8t9tx23xvqesivcsxgxnflpb2eeuv4fik5qcm3yncamda1rzg2cqn6iw1elwama
Photo Courtesy: Inspired Horizons Digital Marketing/Unsplash

If you engage in a solid 90-minute workout, your body needs time to rest before doing it again. Your immune system is weakened, so allow yourself some time to repair. Too much time at the gym could do more harm than good.

You May Be Using the Treadmill Wrong

The treadmill is one of the most recognizable machines at the gym, but many don't know how to use it right. If you lean on the machine when you increase the incline, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Duyp4pos2c0rtkpydczy4oco4e8ap Urlouafualerx6oqjf6wjycbblzh0x0yxejpb453valrkudojzcsnivhc539oaxgzvtscbaikjbnxmf 30 Zz1icvudbjjwf 71nphodxtsq2aatslsa
Photo Courtesy: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Leaning on the treadmill reduces the number of calories you burn. On top of that, it's a pretty unsafe practice. Employees are aware of this common mistake but don't correct people for fear of causing an injury.

Fancy Weight Machines Won't Do Much to Help You

If the look of those big weight machines overwhelms you, fear not. You can have much more successful workouts without ever laying a finger on one. Weight machines focus on training individual muscles, which is not helpful for building overall strength.

Tjdrpwlz7v16drvecmbspkguh5xqaeevshvsu9kmeb40rn1t9j Yr3temiacd8ivqdcvzwncdqvto55oa9ty8 Aljkxmroduddzp0dso4mq8o22e8pwc0nng7h Tlpnax Wt87fvstu0gak04g
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Pyle/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Gyms are aware that free weights are better for strength training, but they still have those giant machines. People injure themselves far less often on the big machines, and they're easy to use. To gyms, that’s two great reasons to keep the machines.

Advertisement

Gyms Hope You Don’t Show Up

As long as you keep your membership active, gyms would prefer you not show up to use their facilities. In order to pay the rent, they need about 10 times as many members as their space can legally fit, which means they need a lot of no shows.

Jgmrf1vgvz7jmfooa2xsdp08j1ujbvp 6r4eerdxb9d7lau6rcxqxmijw8 Dfh3lfyyehgrstevn83wyczcwvpwsg4pf 1afjrnddxlo C4t6ek9ydxhjgwcwzyojwqgdfhqmoiz0izhniqaq
Photo Courtesy: Christopher J. Morris/CORBIS/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

It's no surprise that weekends are a madhouse at the gym because more people have time to go work out. Despite the overflowing weekend crowds, that's only a fraction of what could happen if all the members tried to show up at once.

Gyms Are Full of Equipment on Purpose

Have you ever bumped into some gym equipment by accident during a workout? You're not alone. Gyms fill their spaces to the brim with workout equipment, not just to keep their members occupied, but because it makes them money.

F4etshaohzq6iq7oh83lf I4f0hbnm5ibpd6s7yg1mnd7uufhaz0cdnccdcp1pijuiuxgdtpdaig17mdkjd81pxxknczs Cvhibggtnh11 Rpfrubhgz4lyv14ltwm7hrijequuezi6vyq6qoa
Photo Courtesy: Peter Kovalev/TASS/Getty Images

Most franchise gyms get a payout for whatever equipment their gym purchases. They can earn upwards of 10-15% of the cost of the equipment, so as far as they're concerned, the more equipment, the better. Be sure to watch your step.

Check Your Trainer’s Credentials Before Working with Them

Certified trainers at gyms can offer you a personal workout, but their rates can be more than $100 an hour, so it's quite an investment. The cost makes it all the more important to make sure the trainer you choose is actually qualified. More often than not, trainers aren't as certified as they claim to be.

Pvhmxb7cqmscwsxip On3rn Mmhsomgk4uz9pjptda4hathtjgphqffwuacqzg7vzmltxo4bez3fwcqx9eyl Fx7cm8ty9stgwhd6j2xo60xi6wm2guwkiq0iehh2p9pff5cnrll5mkuryqwjq
Photo Courtesy: Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star/Getty Images

They may look like they're super fit, but knowing their background is important. For starters, ask them if they're certified with the National Federation of Personal Trainers. A trainer who has taken a few online courses on working out is not worth your time.

Advertisement

Training Sessions Should Be Longer Than 45 minutes

Trainers make their money working with clients, so the more clients they have, the better. This is why training sessions often only last from 45 minutes to an hour, on average. If that's the case, make it a point to make the most of that time.

4ymn4wovcpgclnyl5yh9brki9d684ede7njyvxcng Oenjzfgl2zcmfizgo3huyjlpeu Qn595yonhixczesznxaalkqrxegbsxtsnlyo1fajcsnpmvubytxbuadhvehfhkugsdzfvd1inkizq
Photo Courtesy: Nicole Weingart/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

For example, if you want to get your money's worth, get your stretches in prior to training. Stretching often takes up the first 10 to 20 minutes of a session, but if you stretch prior to your start time, you can get more time devoted to a good workout.

Trainers Are Human and Have Limits

Trainers and fitness instructors can have it rough at times. People want to get their workouts in before or after work, so trainers need to make themselves available both early and late. That probably means waking up at 4:00 a.m. every day, which is far from ideal.

Rveg Zoburfurxudqooadvgocxe8hdm2axpeycajf5ypjxf7qovkebcsrbrmvgxpizdadi9lwdi16hb7pbtvvfdoc2uvthrq511dc Pgtb2 Id06moewvthc5mely431n4qpvb73gcrx4poysq
Photo Courtesy: Sandy Huffaker/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

If they instruct a class that requires a lot of activity, they have to do it 10 to 15 times a week at times. That can be incredibly taxing on the body, no matter how fit you are. Regardless, trainers can't show weakness.

Trainers Don’t Make a Reasonable Wage

As hard as they work, trainers often don't make a lot of money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for fitness instructors is a little over $39,000 a year. That's roughly $19 an hour.

U0xa Jp5ltqiifnbrt Lfbq5jeduromzfhkpjcbbzorkyhbagkusehsjayg6 M9jzcimeusmoz8pvqspygnn21 Nhu Spagz0zbmvfcdcvp9axridhkz1ynwyzz Ng9dqf403gnttq3hqyl4ww
Photo Courtesy: Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Celebrity trainers obviously make much more, and trainers with certifications can up their pay grade as well. However, for the majority of fitness instructors at gyms across the country, the income is far from desirable.

Advertisement

You’re on Your Own If You Get Injured

Gyms will go out of their way to avoid taking the blame if you get injured. Their contracts are jam-packed with liability waivers to keep their hands squeaky clean. Employees even have instructions to avoid touching you so the gym has less involvement in your injury.

Mve20la8ggjy2itkjlwwmtlpyjry Ioo82vjgovitiyzaz7roajudcekvkoclmgbvyqafe63vncr72 Sy7so7bqf2lmm Xi2aq0eemugewwiulb Sxnjqznbup5wzyy2r Bnvqqy3ilkquwa W
Photo Courtesy: Victor Freitas/Unsplash

If you do try to sue the gym, it's often a game of phone tag with the gym's insurance company. Some contracts even withhold the obligation to share their insurance information. You're on your own if you get hurt at the gym.

Trainers Aren’t Prepared for Emergencies

If something serious happens at the gym — like maybe a heart attack — you would hope the staff is ready to help. However, not every state requires gyms to have medical equipment on hand or training to help someone in an emergency.

Tluvnwrrk H40jpxuc Ellfbvwgs62vogj9jjdlxzledtsyxhesgii4u3d0haryy80htfqi2hy1435yeuxkzem3xko7cg Waqa0e Zuhwxenbonshxjr1nth3e Gjva1vm1g0l A3 R07q9xrw
Photo Courtesy: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Even if a state does require medical devices in gyms, not every staff member knows how to use the equipment. That goes for trainers too. They don't all have the same health certifications, so you could be out of luck during a personal training session as well.

Gyms Aren’t Liable for Stolen Items

If you step into the locker room, you are likely to see a sign warning you to lock up your belongings. That's a polite way to say, "If your stuff gets stolen, it's not our responsibility." Stolen property at gyms actually happens a lot.

Qilxpq9fka86umkqijqakktwp3bsxotdlwt3epnikilhy7z8cg5u2rddd2ggwmey6ggb4xsay0tg6qcghz7gvnff Rg4v9hyiznr7 Zmiyrosnzjmqrt3rtldfihrotkytbfnmava Mbsscsuw
Photo Courtesy: bruce mars/Unsplash

That's another little section of your membership contract at the gym. They don't want to take any responsibility for any thievery that takes place in their gym. If you're going for a workout, be sure to take as few earthly possessions with you as possible.

Advertisement

Group Exercises Keep You Around

If you've noticed your gym is hosting more group exercises, it's not by accident. The consumerist tides are turning in the fitness world, and people are increasingly drawn to group classes. Big-box gyms are losing almost half their members on a year-to-year basis, so they need to stay fresh.

U3fsu1sepyb 5hgnzmjxazyg6 Jbkci6xsajtufsi4y5ztg00dtfqsgczcnxqkuscc Oz1hovlknqlhllvhwm8hz Wwwlvsie N3mo Sfsv2aewub1k9ijp8xgh1vevcxe92k9qi E7upi3a
Photo Courtesy: Unique Nicole/WireImage/Getty Images

Participating in group classes requires accountability for attendees, which is perfect for gyms. They need their members to stick around, so Zumba, yoga and myriad other classes are popping up in droves.

Boutique Fitness Clubs Exploit Your Desire for Community

Group classes are also on the rise because people want a sense of community. It’s part of the reason so many boutique fitness crazes are so successful. They allow people to come together to share a challenging experience.

Wwmiprranvzza6wgnsgq Xxtnouytzxcjia Kpcnrhjg 7jv Aejjopqvweqfzp 6wqbk 1svyxloakasc Nvaoce Z7m5vlqhlckgkjti Aeizhpo507lr4 Iwcazau Blkwanw Z0cwjof7q
Photo Courtesy: Anna Webber/CMT/Stringer/Getty Images

If you're a member of Barry's Bootcamp, Orange Theory or any other boutique fitness craze, the community is at the forefront of your experience. Team events and social media are designed to fuel the feeling that these communities are real so the owners can keep your money coming in.

Even When You Work Out at Home

Exploiting community doesn't even have to be in person anymore. Peloton, the stationary exercise bike, connects you to a mobile community with trainers that encourage you to keep going. This is a whole new challenge to the big-box gym's business model.

Sf942nwy47u9ictxodwvux6 X4xo5j2m Mdmyfmnnux0qjtccsuklq7l4eu0 Egy7fl8c Glksfpcsduo4wxrtcycwkmcfuvej7e7kmvbcueh2li1 Qmfv2bsijyf8i2vjwvpyzzr9higfadbq
Photo Courtesy: ClickForTaz/YouTube

Just when they thought adding group classes to fight boutique fitness trends solved their problems, here comes the at-home challengers. This combination of community and at-home workout convenience poses the next big threat to their business model. Only time will tell if big gyms can clean up their act — literally — and stay on top of the fitness world.

Advertisement