How to meet the gym of your dreams

I once walked into a Bally’s in Washington, DC to check it out… I was subjected to a high pressure sales pitch then was insulted by the sales person when I didn’t cave in. Suffice it to say that I will never join a Bally’s and neither will anyone willing to listen.

But it begs the question, how do you decide which gym to join?

Factor #1: Convenience.

The more convenient the location of the gym the more likely you’ll go. Is parking available? Is it easy to get to? Do the gym hours work with your schedule?

Factor #2: Facilities

The equipment doesn’t have to be brand spanking new but they should be in good condition. Look for machines you might use. Visit the gym at a time when you would normally go. Is it crowded? Is there a wait to use the machines? Don’t forget to look at the locker room and make sure it’s clean and well-kept. Do they have other services that you’re interested in? Maybe a tanning salon, personal training, massage services, or a daycare?

Factor #3: Group Fitness

Do they offer a wide variety of group fitness classes? On your tour, take a few moments to observe a class. Is the instructor good? Do the students look like they’re enjoying themselves?

Factor #4: Ambience

Does the gym have a good energy about it or is it a barren wasteland with only a few surly-looking members hanging about? Is the staff friendly?

But what about price, you ask? That all depends on what you’re willing to pay and the kind of services you’re looking for. Some gyms have swimming pools and tennis courts. If you’re not going to use it, don’t pay for it.

By all means, take advantage of their free membership passes and get an even better feel of the place by actually using it. But please don’t sign any contracts without reading it! Some legal considerations at least in the state of Maryland can be found here. Your state government website should have some information for you.

Going to the gym can be a real drag and often requires a lot of motivation (even bribery) so having a gym that you enjoy will make a huge difference.

Good luck!

And as always, if you love your local gym, leave your recommendation in the comments. Hopefully we can partner up some people with the gym of their dreams.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Sanchom.

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Yoga studio vs. the gym

Ever wonder if there is a difference between the yoga taught in traditional yoga studios and the yoga taught in sweaty, iron-pumping gyms?

Well, I have an “industry” secret to share with you. The yoga instructors you see teaching at the fancy-schmancy yoga studio? Well, they also teach at your local gym. More often than not yoga teachers teach at more than one studio or gym.

Area gyms like Gold’s Gym© and Washington Sports Club© require their instructors to be certified in their respective fields of expertise just like your traditional yoga studios. In the United States that certifying body is Yoga Alliance®. They are the national education and support organization for yoga. Some instructors have the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) while others have the 500-hour YTT in a variety of styles be it Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram or Hatha (to name a few!).

If you are like me, yoga is not the only thing you like to do. I prefer a more well rounded workout regimen which includes weightlifting, kickboxing, spinning and Zumba® just for good measure (and a good laugh!). And like most people, I have neither the time nor the financial resources to belong to a yoga studio AND a gym. Fortunately, my gym is filled with fantastic yoga and pilates instructors who teach with the same dedication and caring that they deliver to their yoga studio students.

Admittedly, yoga studios offer a wonderful atmosphere for your practice. When you walk in and smell the incense, your stress and blood pressure level instantaneously drop as you are enveloped in a world of Zen. Better yet you are joined with like-minded folks looking to deepen their practice. You also have access to a lot more instructors and varying types of yoga. You will be sure to find a yoga style of your very own. There is absolutely nothing like a good yoga studio.

BUT if time or money simply does not allow you to be part of a great yoga studio community or if you have never tried yoga before, I urge you to try the yoga class in your gym. Chances are they have more than one style and the class will be as challenging and fulfilling as any yoga studio can offer. If you are lucky enough to be part of a gym that has a dedicated space for yoga, then even better. So don’t let cost deter you from starting your very own yoga practice. NOW is the best time to start!

Include a yoga practice in your new year and jump in. The water is nice and warm.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Mimar Sinan.

How yoga changed my life

I hate to sound like an Activia commercial but yoga did change my life. During the time of B.Y. (that’s Before Yoga) I was depressed and more than a little lost. My “career” was a joke. My love life was non-existent. I had no money. No purpose. I just had no clue how to keep going… Or what for…

Then yoga saved me… from myself.

It changed my perspective – how I saw myself, how I saw others and life as it was coming right at me. It gave me a reason to get up – something to look forward to. For 60 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week I could just be good. I could be myself. I could let go of those things that weighed so heavily on my heart. And those moments of freedom saved me.

Yoga means different things for different people. It gave me clarity, peace and, most importantly, hope. I can’t guarantee that it will affect you like it affected me. Maybe you could have the same results by traveling, playing music or dancing.

In my case, I was finally doing something. It felt good to be moving and I haven’t stopped since.

My first yoga class

Okay, now what?

My first yoga class was with Inez. She was teaching a tai chi, yoga and pilates blend class called Body Flow. It was at the local gym and I confess to being dragged to it kicking and screaming. I was more of a kickboxing girl. After all, it was cheaper than therapy and I had a lot of anger to let out.

I walked out of that first class in a daze. I was physically tired but mentally… man, I wasn’t even quite sure what just happened! I felt like I just successfully ran a race and won! The most shocking part was that I was good at it! Well, “good” may have been the endorphins talking but I could do it. Not well… Yet… But I felt that it could be done. And I was ecstatic! As a non-athlete I couldn’t believe I had found something athletic-related that I could be good at!

Next week, I tried it again. Sure enough… Same feeling of fatigue and elation… Both fighting for hierarchy in my emotions. I kept taking the class and getting better every time. The moment came when months after months of practicing my transition into the crocodile stopped looking like a collapsed push up. I was sure then that yoga and I had the start of a beautiful relationship.

In the beginning… (An introduction)

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born…”
(David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)

The beginning of my journey started out like most life changing events do… On an ordinary day, I got dumped. Badly. I fought valiantly (maybe not intelligently) to hold on to the relationship but lost in the end. Upon inspecting my life I saw that I hated my job – making next to nothing, I was living at home, and I was humiliated.

So what did I do? I joined a gym. I didn’t have enough money to drown my sorrows with good ole Jose Cuervo so my sister took pity on me and paid for a gym membership. Just to give me something to do. And that my friends was the beginning…