Breaking up with your pedicurist, tailor, and electrician? Easy. Breaking up with a best friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend? Way less easy.
But another tie that can be hard to cut—and hard to know when to cut? Your ties to your gym.
Between fitness plateaus, lack of cleanliness, and a way-too-long commute, there are tons of signs it's time to dump your gym—whether it’s a boutique studio or big box fitness facility. Below, nine reasons to join a different gym, according to experts.
The broken equipment isn't getting fixed
If you lived in an apartment with broken appliances that the landlord never got around to fixing, chances are you’d either take legal action or find a new place to live when your lease was up. Similarly, when equipment breaks, a well-run gym will take the necessary measures to get it fixed—and quickly, especially in the age of overnight shipping and TaskRabbit. If it’s taking weeks for broken equipment to get fixed, it’s reflective of a gym that either doesn’t have the funds or is apathetic about the conditions of the space. Either way, it’s a sign your gym deserves dumping.
It takes you longer than 30 minutes to get there
How often have you wished that there were more than 24 hours in a day? Exactly. Rhetorical question. Spending a long time commuting to the gym is an automatic reason to switch up your sweat session. For some people—depending on where you live—even 20 to 30 minutes may be too far. In cities, for example, it’s wise to pick a gym that’s within 15 minutes walking or subway distance. More than that, and it’ll be easy to find an excuse when it’s cold, dark, or late. If the gym is close, you’ll have one less excuse for subbing the barbell (or bootcamp) for Buffy reruns.
The fitness classes offered just aren't doing it for you
Maybe when you joined the gym you liked the class schedule and instructors. But somewhere along the way your fave instructor found a new job and the Pilates class you like was swapped with Zumba or a HIIT class you can’t get into (so. many. burpees!). Use this as an opportunity to scope out other gyms' class offerings. While you’re there, pay attention to the type and timing of the classes to know if they'll make things more exciting for you.
A recent survey from supplement and fitness company Myprotein found that Americans spend an average of around $34,000 on gym memberships, personal trainers, or workout plans over their lifetimes. “One sign that should make you consider breaking up with your gym is when you start to balance your checkbook in order to afford it,” says iFit trainer Becca Capell. While the financial tipping point will be different for everyone, there are a number of affordable alternatives that fitness enthusiasts can use for the sake of their bank accounts. Capell recommends getting a treadmill or rower and a set of weights to build an at-home gym. There are also countless free fitness apps that are both challenging and accessible for every level.
The space is dirty
Gyms are filled with sweaty people. Some gyms cultivate a community where everyone wipes down their equipment after use. Some gyms don’t. But beyond just treadmill and kettlebell handles, there are tons of places in a gym that need to be cleaned. If there are hairballs in the corners, grime on the showers and sinks, dust on less popular equipment, and holes in mats or carpeting, it’s a dirty gym. Considering that you can pick up infections at a dirty gym, this should be an automatic out.
There's zero community
Forming a #fitfam may be more important to some people—CrossFit athletes and yogis, for example—than others. But if you haven’t made acquaintances within the first few months, it’s worth considering a swap, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Alena Luciani, founder of Training2xl. "I work at a place where everyone knows your name. But even if your gym isn’t that friendly, usually within three or four months, little communities are automatically formed by people who show up to sweat at the same time."
You’ll have to ask yourself if community is important to you personally, but a gym friend group can add an element of accountability and comfort. “At the very least, you don’t want to go to a gym with a bunch of dudes who annoy you,” Luciani jokes.
The overall vibe isn't encouraging
“There’s definitely a vibe when you walk into a gym. If you walk in and the vibe makes you feel self-conscious or generally discouraged, switch gyms,” says Luciani. It’s a huge warning sign if the instructors and staff aren’t friendly and if the clientele put out a negative or overly competitive vibe. “You’ll be able to feel whether or not the gym's energy works for you within one or two visits. Pay attention to it."
It’s worth taking inventory of the vibe every few months, she adds. “A gym's vibe can change if there’s been an influx of new clientele, a change in management, or if your needs change, so keep checking in."
The gym uses high-pressure sales tactics
You know this game when you see it: You feel like you can't do a single bicep curl without a personal trainer trying to convince you to invest in some one-on-one training. “You don’t want to go to a gym where you feel like every time you walk in the door the trainers are trying to measure your BMI, talk to you about weight loss, or push their training on you,” says Luciani. For one, it’s annoying. But for another, it can create a body-negative, unsupportive environment. And if you don’t feel supported, you're more likely to skip your workout.
If you’re a member of a gym or a boutique studio that only offers one type of workout and you’ve plateaued, you may actually need to switch up your fitness routine. “Ask yourself, 'Are these classes getting progressively more challenging? Am I getting stronger or better?'” says Luciani. If the answer is no, you might be doing yourself a disservice. “Your body will adapt to the fitness routine that you’re doing. You don't want your body to get too efficient. If you adapt, you plateau,” she says. The solution: Add something new to your routine at a new gym–or at least do something different a few days a week like getting outside, going on a run, or trying yoga, she says.
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