Finding Your One True Gym

Finding a good gym is kind of like getting into a relationship. Facts and figures aside, you need to find a match for your personality. Note: your actual personality. NOT the person you imagine you’ll be once you’re in shape. Chances are, if you and Gym aren’t getting along off the bat, you’ll break up LONG before you reach that stage.

So what are the signs that a Gym is right for you?

First off, don’t go into this expecting that just because you’re a Gym Virgin, you’re walking into some 50 Shades of Grey sadomasochistic nightmare. People don’t stick with Gym because Gym handcuffed them to the treadmill. People walk freely back into Gym because they either love it, or at the very least, it allows them to be successful without having to become something they’re not. (Be yourself!)

Here’s 10 Personality Factors to keep in mind when browsing for your Gym Match.

  1. Creativity – Can you plan your own routine or do you need guidance? Do you like to stick to the basics or do you gravitate towards a variety of new things?
  2. Daring – Would you try out a new machine or do you tend to avoid getting into situations you don’t feel sure about?
  3. Time – Do you need to workout over lunch, or, do you plan to unwind at the gym in the evenings? Is this something you want to do every day or just when you’re able?
  4. Discipline – Can you keep yourself pushing through all the reps, or will you fizzle out without someone counting off? Can you go to the gym whenever and for however long you need, or do you need a scheduled session to keep you on track?
  5. Accountability – Do you leave dirty dishes in the sink because you just don’t feel like doing them right now? If so, you might need a kick in the pants from outside forces (like a gym buddy or trainer).
  6. Insecurity – Are you likely to feel discouraged if others in the gym are faster and stronger than you? Do you think sweating in public is gross or is that just how you sparkle?
  7. Control – Can you keep yourself from taking on more than you can handle just to keep up with others? Do you have realistic expectations?
  8. Ambition – Are you the kind of person who likes to work at your own pace, or do you push yourself more when keeping up with a group or assignment?
  9. Motivation – What keeps you on track? High fives? Expert critique? Regular assessments? A pleasing environment? An adrenaline rush?
  10. Social – Think co-ed yoga class. Who are you going to sit by? New Friend Potential? The Instructor? In the perfect spot to Downward Dog your moneymaker at the hottest dude in the class? Or, way back in the corner where only the wall shall see what’s in your trunk.


Based on how you fall within those extremes, you can consider things like:

  • Location – I’m telling you – this will be your number one excuse. It is the last line of defense before you are actually working out.
    • Most people find it easier to stop at the gym on their way home from work. Trust me, once you get home, you will not want to go back out.
    • If you find somewhere near work/school, you can pop in early or during lunch.
    • Make sure you’re happy with parking or public transpo access.
  • Price – Super cheap might mean crowded, sketchy and basic. With added price comes a cleaner environment with more serious attendees – plus better equipment and class options.
    • ProTip: No matter how much it saves you per month, don’t do a year-long contract. You’re not ready for the long-term commitment yet. You’ll also feel more guilty about not going when you physically hand over money each month.
  • People – When you take your tour, don’t feel weird about checking out the crowd.
    • If you want to date up, look for people who are sportier than you.
    • If you want to feel like Big Fish, you’ll feel at home amongst a diverse crowd.
    • Keep in mind the time of day. Is the place super crowded during off-hours or totally lifeless during peaks? Bad sign!
  • Atmosphere – Is everything clean and well-stocked? Does it have the personality you crave? Are you looking for American Gladiator or gym-slash-day spa? Want to call a small space your own, or stay anonymous in a giant facility?
  • Classes – If you’re a person who needs peer pressure and structure, you’ll want to spend most of your workout time in classes.
    •  Try to find classes that cover both cardio and strength training so you don’t have to fill in the gaps (if you don’t want to).
    • Don’t forget, most gyms offer martial arts, self-defense, dance, cycling, yoga and other fun alternatives to jumping jacks and squats.
    • Take a peek at the schedule to make sure there’s enough classes at times convenient to you.
  • Services – Would you be more likely to hit the gym daily if they had child care, or maybe a healthy smoothie bar for a post-workout treat? Can you hire a reasonably priced in-house trainer? Does the gym staff offer regular fitness assessments to help keep you on track and accountable? Services may be a premium, but if you need them to keep you motivated, don’t skimp out!

The bottom line is – you might not know what you need until you actually need it. That’s why I say: do not fall for love at first sight. Keep your options open. Likewise, don’t get discouraged by your poor track record and assume you’re a fitness failure. Chances are, it’s not what you’re doing – it’s where you’re doing it. So move along, sister. There’s plenty of fish in the sea!

“It’s just not working out. Sorry, but it’s me, not you.” – Your Current Gym

Personal Story Time

When I moved back to Milwaukee, I signed up for a gym about 4 blocks from my apartment. The basic concept: no mirrors, no shoes, no rules. During each scheduled session, an instructor would demo a series of exercises (floor work, kettle bells, free weights, jump rope, etc) and you would then have an hour to get through as many reps of the series as possible.

Even as I sat there in front of the Gym Rep, I could see that the class going on in the room beside me lacked the structure I needed. But, I could also see that it was filled with extremely toned and buff looking men and women. I want to be like them, my brain concluded. So I should do what they do.

Nope. That’s totally wrong. – Hindsight

But because I’m gullible and so emotional about losing weight, I signed a 2 year contract on the spot for a pricey hundo a month.

Of course within four trips to the gym, I was already bored with it. The biggest problem for me was that, alongside all of these super-fit wonder-people, I was severely lacking. Hence, while they powered through all 7 reps of the series, I spent my hour rolling around on the floor like a beached whale trying to crawl back into the sea.

Also, since everyone was doing different things at once, I had no peer models to keep pace with. Hence, I gradually got lazier and lazier throughout the hour and eventually fizzled out. The workout was so much effort – not because the activities were challenging, but because it required too much thought, adaptation and discipline on my part.

To make matters even worse, I felt so guilty about “giving up on myself” that I left the floor open and didn’t break my contract until 7 months later. So basically, I spent roughly a thousand bucks for four sessions of the kind of aimless floor-floundering I could have done at home.

After that breakup, I was hesitant to jump back into Gym Scene again. Then, I discovered that I lived next door to a Barre Code. Convenience was a plus and it had come highly recommended by my female cohort, so I decided to try it out.

The classes were brutally hard, but the instructor kept us all in sync. Like, literally, when I went home I could still hear her voice in my head “And four… and three… and two… step it out!” It was exactly what I needed. I was getting the workout I needed and I didn’t have to suddenly develop tons of willpower and know-how to achieve it. I just needed a whole heaping load of peer pressure. Once I got it, I was committed. I found the perfect formula for myself and it paid off. Hallelujah!


2 thoughts on “Finding Your One True Gym

  1. Pingback: Finding Your One True Gym | GoAlliedAthletes

  2. goalliedathletes

    Love your thoughtful post, especially the part about finding a “personality” that fits you. It’s all about what works best for each person. Thanks for sharing! We’d love to hear what excites you about working out. We’ve created a forum for current and former athletes to share their athletic triumphs and struggles. Thank you for your consideration!


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