Work out your way to the right workout place Image: Instagram
So you want to join a gym and lose a few kilos around your waist, or build a chest good enough to thump? One way is to simply walk into your neighbourhood gym that looks fancy and offers you a great discount as well. You will enquire whether the instructor takes care of each person individually and you may be impressed by the fact that these guys offer bottled health drinks after each session and also hand you a gym kit right after you join. However, wait before you take the leap of faith. You may be making a mistake.
Joining a good gym is like joining a good school for education. The difference is you can keep a tutor at home for improvement when your classes don't suffice, but there is no such recourse for a bad gym. So, before you join a gym, make a recce of the place well in advance, advises health YouTuber and blogger Rohit Virmani.
Visit a gym on a Sunday to find out whether they have enough space to accommodate you to accomplish your fitness goals. And once there, spend some time considering the following factors before you make up your mind.
Distance from your house
First things first. Choose a gym that is near to your house. Virmani points out that you should be able to walk down the street to reach your gym, and it shouldn’t be more than a five to eight-minute walk. The reason: The first few days you are all charged up and can drive even half an hour to reach the gym, but then there will be days when it’s raining or it’s too hot, and that's when people tend to skip a workout simply because they need to walk too much or go too far. The days you feel demotivated, you can drag yourself to the gym, work out fast and head back home if your gym is close by. The added bonus: Your walk to the gym can count as a warm-up exercise.
Free Squat Rack: A mandatory equipment
Forget the Smith Machine. Your gym must have a free squat rack. In any case, Smith Machines aren’t meant for beginners. A Smith Machine consists of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical or near-vertical movement. As Virmani puts it, "Smith Machines have their own speciality. However, if you are someone who hasn’t spent more than two years in the gym, stay away from it."
When you do squats, your primary muscle, i.e. your quadriceps, get worked out. Besides, in the process you stress your stabiliser muscles i.e. hamstrings, gastrocnemius, erector spinae, trapezius (upper, middle), and levator scapulae. Now what happens is, these muscles work as a stabiliser while your quadriceps get impacted by squats.
When you do squats in a Smith Machine, your stabiliser muscles don’t get worked out much. Your strength on your primary muscles wouldn’t be proportional to your stabiliser muscles if you don’t use a free squat rack.
Don’t get flattered by equipment
There are people who choose a gym when they see fancy equipment. Virmani has a word of caution for them. "No matter whether you want to lose fat or build lean muscle mass, you need to see if your gym has four basic equipment: a free squat rack, barbell, heavy plates and heavy dumbbells (20+ kilos)," he says.
"I am not saying that fancy machinery is a marketing gimmick. They do have their worth. But if you aren’t a someone who would spend more than 12 hours in a gym every week, those aren’t for you. Find a gym that has all the basic requirements," he adds.
Of course it does. If the membership fee is high, you will lose interest in a few months, thinking you are spending too much compared to the results you are getting. Find a gym that offers basics and not fancy things with an inflated price point. Stick to the basics and pay less.
Also festival seasons such as Diwali and New Year are treated as peak seasons in gyms. Think of joining a gym in the lean period such as peak summers. You may get some good deals during this time.
You need to make sure the gym isn’t too crowded and there are enough instructors for the members. "Ideally the client and coach ration should not be more than 3:1. If a gym has less instructors, do not join it," says Virmani.
When you have a coach by your side, you feel more confident to go off limits while working out.
Franchise owned or locally owned
In the era of fitness globalisation, there could be tons of renowned franchise gyms and fitness studios that have opened up in your neighbourhood. Needless to say, the locally owned gyms are easy-on-the-pockets. However, Virmani says, "I would prefer a renowned chain simply because the owner isn’t the coach here. And if I have any issue regarding the change of coach because I am not satisfied, or the need of better equipment etc arises, I can simply call the higher ups and discuss my problems. If you have issues, you can even vent your anger on social media and that works.”
Insist on written offers
Gyms in India are tricky business places. Salespersons at the gym will often promise a ton of goodies when you join, only to delay them later on. In most cases, you won’t even receive what was offered to you. Like Virmani says, one of the gyms promised a free yoga session but later on rolled back the offer without any notification, and that yoga session never happened. Insist on the sale person to write down the offers he is giving 'exclusively' to you.