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