We all make resolutions at the beginning of each year. To cut ties with that horrible ex-boyfriend. To stop eating gluten. To cut back on coffee. And, of course, to hit the gym more often.
Well, we’re almost halfway through the year, and I’m guessing that you still talk to that ex (who you just happened to find on Tinder), have given up on that Paleo diet, still drink six cups of coffee a day, and still haven’t signed up for a gym membership.
Slipping up on most of those is OK. (Except the one about the ex. Seriously, stop that.) But as summer approaches, I’m going to help you with the exercise part. Finding the right gym is the first step to getting in shape. (It’s almost as important as picking the next person you’re going to date, which you are going to do, right?)
There are a few things you should always look for in a gym, such as the right machines and ample parking. On the flip side, there are things to avoid. Aside from the obvious (don’t go to the same gym as your ex!), here are some gyms to avoid:
1. Gyms with awful class hours
Weekends revolve around three things: brunch at Lot No. 3, happy hour at Purple, and dinner with the in-laws in Woodinville. When I try a new gym, I pick a class that fits between those weekend plans.
When Monday rolls around, I realize the class schedule is designed for superwomen. There’s yoga at 5:30 a.m., barre at 9:30 a.m., a hybrid of both at noon, or a class around 5 or 6.
Who in their right mind gets up early enough for 5:30 yoga? Who is not at work during the day? Does nobody eat lunch? And who can make it from the office to the gym when half of I-405 is closed off for VIP drivers who want to pay tolls on top of taxes?
Check out the class schedule before picking a gym … unless you just like to flirt a lot. Like your ex. And look how well that’s going for him.
2. Gyms with no refunds
A good gym usually will hook you up with a free trial period, and then the sales pressure will hit like a tropical storm in the South Pacific. If the gym has everything you need and fits your budget, it might be your dream gym. (You can stop reading now. Kidding. Please don’t.) However, read the fine print. If it’s a small gym, you might not have a contract, which can really bite you if, say, you get a new job — in a different state. Relocation could mean you lose a several-hundred-dollar down payment. The same is true with injury, pregnancy, and any other reasons you’d have to stop working out.
Most chains have clear-cut policies about canceling automatic payments and refunds. When you consider a smaller gym, that fine print might be even smaller. But if it’s absent, consider running in a different gym.
3. Gyms with attitude
Let me say this first: I am all about being healthy. As I write this, I am drinking the greenest of green smoothies, with superberries and chia seeds and … yeah, no. My drink is a sugary caramel thing because it’s late and that’s what writers drink when it’s late. When I do hit the gym, I don’t want to be judged because I’m not holding that super green smoothie. If it’s a 64-ounce iced coffee because I was up all night working and dealing with a sick puppy, I want to be able to leave five minutes later for a nap.
To avoid judgmental gyms, watch for red flags like black-lit cycling rooms and juice bars conveniently located just inside the front doors. Those gyms actually have a secret membership requirement that, during your trial class, you must be able to run to a remixed version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” during your lunch hour and still look fabulous enough to go back to work (without your coworkers’ noticing you were gone) while drinking only green juice.
Those gyms hold perpetual weight-loss competitions, even though it’s not fashionable to break a sweat in their classes. This can trigger serious health problems, as the gym’s motivation is actually to align your eating habits with those of a rabbit. It’s not about getting healthy; it’s about looking better.
Seriously, run away.
In fact, another option is to just run. Run anywhere. Find a trail in the hills of Issaquah, or go jog on the Kirkland waterfront. It could be better for you — and more effective than a gym. Just don’t run back to your ex. Please.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of “425 Business.”