Thursday, February 09, 2006

From The "You Get What You Pay For" Dept.

I think there is a direct correlation between how much a monthly membership at a gym costs and the way the gym is treated by its staff and members.

The first gym I belonged to was Gold's Gym in Rosslyn, VA. Medium priced at $45 a month. The gym was clean, but the equipment needed updating. The lockerroom was always clean, at least on the surface. After two years, I changed gyms to challenge my workout. I moved to Bally's in Pentagon City, VA. The membership was lower - $30 a month for the first year and then $20 a month after that. The equipment, by comparison, was alot cheaper with chipped paint and torn seats. The lockerroom was not as clean and had (surprise!) a security guard keeping watch all day (how does someone get that gig, exactly?).

After two more years, I then switched up to Results in DC. Certainly more expensive at $80 a month, but the gym and lockerroom were spotless. For the first time in any gym, I saw staff members walking around, spotting lifters, cleaning machines, and assisting with re-racking weights. Members put dumbbells back in numerical order and plates were removed from machines and barbells between workouts. Everyone took time to care about the facility and the quality of workout for other members. It seems the higher the membership dues, the more responsible the members.

This was all driven home recently after moving to Chicago and re-using my Bally's membership. It cost me $90 to renew my membership for the entire year (that's $7.50 a month, y'all). But the Bally's I have been going to here have all but put me off of working out altogether.


When entering the gym, there are always 4 or 5 staff members behind the desk, just hanging out. I've never seen them on the gym floor (assisting, cleaning, or otherwise earning their paychecks). After traveling down two deep flights into the sub-basement of the building, I arrive at the lockerroom/free weights floor. The lockerroom is just gross. If it is cleaned at all, it must be when it opens at 5:30AM, because by 6PM it's disgusting. It's cramped with no ventilation and a security guard sits and stares into the shower all day. There's actual mold growing in the sink area.

The free weight room is a scavenger hunt/obstacle course. Half my workout is spent walking around looking for matching dumbbells. The favourite pasttime of the members working out seems to be holding conversations with people who are on the other side of the room. If I turn my iPod up any louder, I risk serious aural damage. No consideration is given to those who may need to concentrate. There are plates left on almost all the barbells and machines, so it's impossible to know if a certain one is being used or not. It's like working out on Prison Break, and not in the good way. In short, it's pretty ghetto.

In an effort to save money, I have put off joining Cheetah Gym, which is just three blocks south of my house. However, a recent visit there assured me that no only would I have a great workout, I would also enjoy it, which will keep me coming back - which is the idea, after all. The place is clean, bright, and actually has maybe too much of a variety as far as workout paraphernalia is concerned. And at $69 a month, it might be just high enough to weed out those who otherwise don't seem to give a shit. It's worth it on so many levels.