WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (2024)

KEY POINTS

  • Differences between low-end and high-end gyms

  • What additional services and amenities they offer

  • How much they cost and what you can expect

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (1)

Over the course of my work out “career”, I’ve had the opportunity to try out many different gyms. I wish I could say I’ve had a more successful career, but that is a story for another time. I’ve worked out at school gyms, work, value gyms, and higher end ones. I have never worked out at a high-end luxury gym that charges thousands each month, but for most people (like me), those would not be part of the conversation.

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Full disclosure, as I’m writing this article I’m sitting in the lounge of the gym I’m currently a member of. I’ll let you know which one later and how I finally came to the decision. The reason may actually surprise you.

If you happen to be a member of a gym, there are typically a few reasons you chose the one you currently go to. It usually starts with wanting to make a change, living a healthy lifestyle, and finding one to join. Secondly, you may have a friend wanting to join, and they convinced you to sign up with them so you could “Do it together”. The question is, “Did you join the right gym for you and your goal”? For the purpose of this comparison, I’m only focusing on traditional gyms, and not covering specialty gyms like Orange Theory, Cross fit, Barr, and Spin Cycle.

1.How Far Is The Gym

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (2)

Choosing gyms doesn’t seem like a tough decision to make, but if you have had the opportunity to experience different ones, there are pros and cons to all of them. One of the biggest pros when deciding on which gym to join is distance. If something is not easy or convenient, we will look for excuses to avoid it. There is no point signing up for a “value” gym and saving money if it’s not close by. You may be saving money, but you are “spending” a lot of time, energy, gas, and willpower just getting there. Personally, I tend to go towards the path of least resistance. How far away the gym is, significantly influences what time, when and how often I’ll go. Even if it’s value, there’s no sense in paying for something if you don’t use it.

I live in Atlanta and driving three miles can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Depending on the time of day you work out, distance matters. Make sure that is on the top of your list before you decide.

2.What Is The Difference In Price

If you have the ability to choose between multiple gyms that have convenient locations, then rank them by difference in price. If they are $20 to $50 difference in price that should not be a deal breaker. I have been willing to pay 40 dollars more for gyms in the mid-tier because of factors such as cleanliness, staff, hours of operation, and whether they provide towels. If the price is close, pick the gym that has the most pros. If you compare different tiers of gyms, that’s when it can get tricky. I have experienced “price shock” for some of the more expensive gyms, but once you start going to them, it gets easier to justify the price in your mind.

Average Monthly Gym Membership Dues Excluding Initiation:

Planet Fitness - $15

LA Fitness - $35

Crunch - $70

Concourse - $110

Equinox - $150

Lifetime - $259

3.How Clean Is The Gym

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (3)

Most of the gyms I have been a member of have done a fairly good job keeping the gym clean. Regardless of the tier, most of them keep any debris off the floor and wipe down the machines regularly. The more you pay each month, the more you should expect. Everything from making sure the equipment is serviced, mirrors are wiped down, floors are clear, and locker rooms are well maintained. Lower tier gyms under $50 are usually hit or miss and vary by location. The newer the property, the better the facilities seem to be maintained. Lower tier gyms normally have less staff on hand to save on costs and tend to operate on more of a skeleton crew. So, restrooms tend to go longer before being cleaned.

4.Is The Staff Friendly

The friendliness of staff can vary from gym to gym, regardless of the tier. Typically, at more expensive gyms, you’re paying the premium for the overall experience. Top tier gyms provide more of a spa atmosphere, and the expectation from the employees is a lot higher. You not only have more staff available to troubleshoot guest issues, they, seem to be more engaged. I will say that regardless of tier, I have seen receptionists for both higher and lower end gyms watching tv’s or distracted.

5.How Is The Atmosphere

Whether we like to admit it or not, the atmosphere matters. The quickest way to change your habits is usually to change your environment. This is one of the reasons I like going to the gym. Everything from how many windows there are, how well lit the gym is, and how bright the lights are can influence your mood. If the gym is spacious and spread out, you won’t feel as cramped during peak times. If you’re constantly bumping into people and feel cramped, it’s easy to get annoyed.

The gym at my work is poorly lit, and many of the colors revolve around black and yellow. The gym is more than adequate and has enough equipment to get a good workout in, but I always feel low energy when I go. If the environment doesn’t inspire you to work out, that is a very big problem. You’ll feel unmotivated and it will be a challenge to get the energy to work out.

6.What Amenities Do They Offer

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (4)

Don’t let anyone tell you these benefits don’t matter that much. When you start to experience the amenities at a top tier gym, it’s hard to go back. The list goes on and on, and a lot of these benefits get taken for granted when they have become the norm. If you’ve been working out at a top tier gym, and revert back to a value one, you’ll quickly be disappointed if you take advantage of many of the items below. These don’t’ seem like must haves, but after you’ve gotten accustomed to them, you’ll realize how nice they are to have. They say ignorance is bliss, and before I’ve worked out at a nicer gym I didn’t realize how much more enjoyable a workout could be.

  • Workout Towels

  • Towels For Showering

  • Razors, Q Tips, Shaving Cream, & Tissues

  • Premium Shampoo and Soap

  • Sauna

  • Steam Room

  • Jacuzzi

  • Cold Therapy

  • Massage

  • Salon

  • Recovery Equipment

  • Garage & Additional Parking

  • Pool

  • Kids Club

  • Activities for Kids

  • Lounge

  • Sitting Area

  • Member Mixers

  • Café

  • Coffee Bar

  • Tennis Courts

  • Pickle Ball

  • Basketball Courts

7.How Many Locations Do They Have

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (5)

When traveling for work, the number of nationwide locations your gym has matters. If I’m traveling, I will stop in to do a workout as well as check out the facilities. Many gym chains have locations all across the U.S., but there are some specialty gyms that are only regional.

Even locally, I like to go to different gyms if I’ve been in a rut. Just changing the location, seeing different people, and switching environments keeps me motivated. Even though it’s the same gym, it helps keep it fresh, and provides some variety. If the gym you’re considering joining does not have many locations, this in itself could be a deal breaker.

8.What Time Of Day You Work Out

Not only is location a key factor, but depending on when you work out could be an issue. If you go to a gym after work, those are usually peak times. The gyms can get very crowded during the weekday, and lower tier gyms get exceptionally busy. It can feel very hectic, cramped, and you’ll often be fighting to use the weights due to overcrowding. Lower tier gyms to stay profitable sign up a lot of members hoping they will not show. If you go to the gym after work, you may find yourself frustrated and become impatient. More expensive gyms can get busy during peak times, but they tend to not be as hectic as they have more square footage and a lower ratio of members per location. Gyms like Lifetime also have longer operating hours. They are open from 3am and close at 12am. If you like to work out during odd hours, this may be your only option.

9. What Type, How Many, And How Often Do They Have Classes

WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (6)

In addition to all the amenities provided at top tier gyms, they tend to differentiate themselves from value gyms by the number and types of classes they offer. If you are someone that likes to take classes and needs the motivation of a group, gyms like Lifetime have classes that run all day long with a range of instructors to choose from. There is so much variety, and if you like workouts similar to cross fit, cycling, yoga, and barr; you can make the case that Lifetime is a bargain. Many people will pay anywhere from $75-$100 a month just for specialty gyms like Orange Theory. You can get exposure to many different types of classes as well as choose from times that are convenient and that fit your schedule.

  1. Aerobic

  2. Bootcamp

  3. Yoga

  4. Cycle

  5. Pilates

  6. Other Specialty

  7. Barr

10. The Different Types Of Members You’ll Meet

No matter what gym I have been a member of, I’ve met a lot of friendly people. The gym is a great community, and is a place where people spend a large portion of their time. It’s second right behind work as many people go several times a week.

One thing I have noticed is that at value gyms, you will run into a very diverse group of members. You usually see a much younger crowd at value gyms because of the cost, and people who are typically less serious about working out. When I worked out at Equinox, and Lifetime, I would see an older and more established crowd. There tend to be more working professionals, and you’ll see a more consistent crowd.

At value gyms I’ve seen people wearing sweatpants and crocs while working out which tends to change the vibe and atmosphere of the gym. When I see people training hard, it motivates me to push harder. There are serious gym goers at value gyms, but there tend to be a lot more at the top tier ones.

Summary

I left out things like equipment because there tends to not be much difference. Most of the machines and free weights are similar, and the only difference may be whether there are 1 or 2 more options at various gyms.

I currently have a membership at Lifetime gym, and it’s for a variety of reasons. It’s down the street from me and I use the tennis courts. I also have a family membership, and it gives me the flexibility to drop off my son at the kid’s club. For me, convenience is the number one reason I’m a member. The flexibility it provides because of the distance and the ability to take my son are the deciding factor. I don’t care about much of the other amenities, and since I don’t take classes, it provides no additional value. Regardless of what you decide, choose the right gym for you based on what matters most to you.

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WHAT I LEARNED WORKING OUT AT AN EXPENSIVE GYM AND IF IT'S WORTH THE MONEY (2024)
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