Looking for an off-base gym can be a time consuming and costly process. Often, it comes down to weighing the pros and cons of using the (free) on-base resources, or trying to find something better (and more costly) off-base. For recruiters, reservists, and guardsmen, looking for a local gym is something that simply has to be done, since they usually live far away from the closest military installation. Other service members may simply want to find a gym that offers something more, such as more group classes or a more diverse equipment selection. Whatever the reason, there are some helpful tips to consider when looking for an off-base gym.
The Right Location
Sometimes finding the best gym means finding one that you will actually go to. Finding a gym that is on your way to work is a convenient option. This way you are forced to drive by it twice a day and are not spending any extra money on gas to get there.
Almost all gyms offer a free “trial” period to help you get to know the gym before deciding if you want to join or not. Free gym trial periods typically range from 2 to 7 days. This is a great time to get a feel for how well maintained the equipment is and how clean the facilities are kept. Try to use your free trial during the same time of day that you usually go to the gym or else after joining the gym you might be surprised when you show up at your regular time to find that gym dynamics are completely different at that time of day than the time of day when you used your trial pass.
Often, the price difference between two gyms has to do with what’s included with the membership. A gym that includes towel service, child care, swimming pool access, tennis court access, and group classes may be twice the price of a gym that consists of equipment only. Most importantly, check to make sure the gym has the equipment you use regularly and that their hours of operation fit your needs. Do some research online before visiting the facility in order to save time visiting gyms that do not have the hours of operation or services that you need or want.
Read the fine print
Some gyms will charge a fee if you don’t visit the facility a minimum number of times per month. Others may offer a reduced rate for signing a 2 year contract. Beware of these types of long term commitments because many of them require a debit or credit card to be stored on file, which makes it difficult not to be charged if you stop going or want to change gyms.
Once you decide which gym is right for you, don’t forget to ask if there are any military discounts. Many gyms are now offering a 10%-15% discount for military service members. Gym membership prices are often negotiable, so if they don’t offer a military discount, try to negotiate the price a bit more, even if it’s not 10% off. Sometimes you can even snag a few free guest passes or personal training sessions. It never hurts to ask, and most gyms are willing to accommodate new members.
In conclusion, when searching for an off-base gym to suit your needs, there are many things to consider (location, equipment, hours, etc.). Doing some research ahead of time and making sure you understand the terms of the contract can go a long way. Remember, no gym is worth the price tag if you aren’t going to use it on a regular basis.