There seem to be more gyms in the United States then there are actual people. Even in my small town of 60-thousand some odd people, there are at least 15 gyms, with one closing down and another one opening every couple of months. That may not seem like a lot, but they keep building these gyms bigger and bigger. These megaplexes are huge, and you could probably fit four regular sized gyms into their buildings.
For about the past 7 years I’ve been a member of 3 gyms for at least a year each. I know what I like when it comes to a gym, which is a substantial amount of weight training and free weight space. I’m also very keen on customer service, because as you know gyms have a horrible reputation of locking you into a contract you can’t get out of unless you move out of the country or injure yourself on purpose.
So without further delay, I’ll give you the pros and cons of each national gym chain based on my experiences. While there are plenty more chains out there, I can’t speak for them because I’ve never been a member.
Some of the pros and cons will not apply to your location. Location is everything, so while my experience with a gym may have been horrible, it can be the exact opposite at another location depending on the staff, total number of members, and the city it is in.
I recently signed up for Lifetime Fitness and I must say it is the most impressive gym I have ever been to. The complex is absolutely huge and it’s easily the biggest gym I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if they build all Lifetime Fitness gyms like this, but if you can find one in your area then I suggest you sign up immediately!
The rates for Lifetime Fitness are much higher then I’ve seen. I think I’m paying $60 a month, which is double what I’m used to. They cap off their membership at a certain rate, and bump it up to $80 or something when their quota is reached.
One thing that sets Lifetime Fitness apart from any other gym that I’ve seen is that they do not lock you into any contract. You’re basically paying month to month, so if your lazy ass gives up trying to get in shape after 6 months, then you can just quit, no questions asked. Otherwise, you’re locked into whatever rate you sign up with even if they raise their rates.
This is a very unique approach to running a health club and it’s easy to see why they are so successful.
My only gripe with this gym is that the area dedicated to free weights and weightlifting is incredibly small compared to the size of the entire facility. It can get a bit hectic if you hit this gym during rush hour and you want to lift some weights.
No Contract Membership
Open 24 Hours a Day
More Expensive than most gyms
Most 24 Hour Fitness gyms on are in the West Coast and Central States. I was a member here for about a year, but it was just too far a drive for me to continue. It’s hard enough to make yourself go to a gym, especially in the dead of winter, but driving 20 minutes to get there can also put a damper on things.
24 Hour Fitness is a great gym all around. Their rates are moderate, and you can probably get a good deal if you sign up under someone who is already a member. I think I was paying $30 a month at the time.
They tend to cater towards weight lifters and strength training, which isn’t saying much, but at least the entire gym isn’t made up of Treadmills and stationary bikes. Also the crowd is much younger then the other 2 gyms I review, so if you’re a young sexy single this is the place to be! (You should be working out anyway, not cruising for chicks!)
Open 24 Hours a Day
Caters to weight lifting and strength training, younger crowd
Can get very, very crowded
When I first started weightlifting right after high school, Bally’s was the first gym I joined. My friends and I would go there religiously when we were young and naive. After a couple of months, we started to realize that we didn’t really like Bally’s. The facility was very small, the people working there were not that likable, and it just kind of sucked. And I don’t know if this is an East coast thing, but the gym was not open 24 hours like the ones mentioned above. It was really over priced for such a small gym.
I’m sure you could enjoy Bally’s, or any gym that has the equipment you want, but my experience with them has been fairly dismal. They lock you into contracts, and the only way out is to move or get a doctors note. I somehow managed to get out of a Bally’s contract, but that was only because I moved out of state.
When I went back during the summer during college to my hometown of Philadelphia, I signed up for one of their summer programs so I could work out. I recall it was $40 down and $40 for 3 months, no “contract.” The person who signed me up told me I wouldn’t be billed after the summer, but low and behold, I was. It took me a few months to realize, but after a very long phone call to customer service (well over 3 hours) I got my money back.
They will straight up lie to you, so read their fine print very carefully. This doesn’t apply just to Bally’s, as most gyms work this way, even 24 Hour Fitness. Gyms make money on the fact that you will eventually stop going after a few weeks or months, but you’ll still have to pay them!
They must be hiding something, because their employees are always moving from location to location. Every couple of months you would see some new employees, and when you asked about the old ones, they always went to another location. Why is that?
Any gym is better than no gym, I guess.
Expensive for such a small location
Not Open 24 Hours
Fairly Generic Experience
Impossible-to-get-out-of Contract Membership