10 Things Your Gym Won't Tell You

 by Linda Melone

While you work on your abs, your gym works to make its financial bottom line. Read on to find out 10 things most gyms won't disclose to you before you sign up.


If you're thinking about joining a gym -- or maybe you just joined one -- you're on the right track! Joining a gym gives you the opportunity to pump iron, do yoga or Zumba and compare biceps with the best of them. But while you dream of sculpting killer abs, your gym has a financial bottom line to meet. After all, they're first and foremost a for-profit business. Total revenue for the fitness industry topped $21 billion in 2012, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). In short, fitness is big business. Read on to find out 10 things most gyms won't disclose to you but are essential to know before signing up for a membership.

1. "We May Not Be Prepared if You Have a Heart Attack"

Approximately 400,000 Americans each year will experience a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a life-threatening condition involving a sudden interruption of the heart's electrical activity. Medical tools such as an automated external defibrillator (AED) are key to surviving SCA. Trained, non-medical personnel can use the device to help a person who suffers a heart attack. Problem is, not all gyms are required to have AEDs (only California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia legally require AEDs in health clubs) and among those that do, the staff might not be trained. Ask the management at your gym (or a gym you're considering joining) whether they are prepared for such an emergency and whether the staff is trained to assist.

Related: What Everyone Should Know About Heart Attacks

2. "We’re Not Responsible for Items Stolen Out of Your Locker"

Most gyms post signs in locker rooms absolving themselves of any responsibility if your laptop or other valuables go missing from your locker. "Some [people] are professional thieves who go into gyms using a one-day pass, specifically to break into lockers when no one's around," says Tom Holland, fitness expert and former owner of a Connecticut gym. Consider leaving your valuables at home (or locked in the trunk of your car). If you must bring them to the gym, carry your valuables with you and/or choose lockers in busy areas, not in secluded corners of the locker room where thieves can go undetected.

Related: 16 Gym Etiquette Rules That People Often Break

3. "Some of Our Trainers Aren’t Certified"

As an unregulated industry, personal trainers do not require a license to practice. So before you sign up with your gym's personal trainer, ask whether or not their trainers are certified. Many are not. "Some gyms have their own certifications, which are bogus," says fitness expert Tom Holland. "When you sign a waiver, you sign away your rights if you get hurt." Look for nationally recognized certifications from organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Finally, be sure to inquire about the trainers' years of experience.

Related: 10 Ways to Spot a Bad Trainer

4. "The Gym Is Crawling With Germs"

Sweat, exposed skin and a lot of people in a small area create a veritable paradise for pathogens to thrive in. A study of a family fitness center in Ohio found that weight benches, bars and dumbbells, as well as the obvious door handles and shower floors, were rife with germs. "Most gyms are not really clean, and many do not take adequate measures to clean," says Drew O'Connell, Los Angeles-based master trainer and founder of Now Body Fitness. Always use a towel on weight benches, avoid touching your face and wash your hands immediately after your workout. And as a favor to your fellow gym-goers, please stay home when you're sick.

Related: 8 Daily Habits That Could Be Making You Sick

5. "We’ll Tell You Anything to Get You to Join"

According to many gym sales pitches, you'll lose weight, you'll change your body and your overall quality of life will improve if you join their gym. "They'll tell you exactly what you want to hear to get you to sign up," says T.J. Berry, a Utah-based personal trainer with FitFlicks, a site that live streams fitness videos. "These can prove to be true if you utilize the facility to its maximum potential. But most people don't. All gyms are businesses set to make money, so be careful when their sales team coerces you." And be sure to check out the gym during the hours you'll most often be using it to see how crowded it gets.

Related: 11 of the Best Video Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

6. "We Won’t Let You Go Easily"

It's usually easier to get out of a bad relationship than to cancel a gym membership, says personal trainer Tom Holland. So read the fine print before you sign on. Paying month-to-month ties you to the gym through your credit card -- and good luck getting them to stop billing you. Holland recommends ditching the monthly fee altogether by paying up front if you can afford it (and if you're committed to using the gym). "They may even tempt you by offering you a discount. Regardless, never sign right away," says Holland, who recommends taking the contract home with you and reading it thoroughly so you understand their cancellation policies.

Related: 23 Fitness Secrets From the World's Best Trainers

7. "Most People Never Use Their Membership"

Once you sign up, gym owners count on you not to show up. Most people pay for a membership, and then drop out within a few months. "If 20 percent of members show up, it's a payoff," says personal trainer Tom Holland. Considering the average cost of a monthly gym membership is around $55 and approximately 50.2 million Americans belonged to a health club in 2012, it's easy to see how health clubs benefit when members pay and don't show up. In fact, 67 percent of people who sign up for a gym membership never use it, according to Club Industry. Make sure you're committed to using the facility before wasting your money.

Related: 20 Top Trainers' Favorite Motivational Quotes

8. "We Can Waive the Initiation Fee"

In addition to a monthly fee, gyms typically charge an additional initiation fee. This can run into the hundreds of dollars. You should never pay the initiation fee, says fitness trainer Tom Holland. "It's just to make money, and you can usually have it waived; it's often a kickback to the trainer or sales rep." Gyms may be more likely to make a deal with you at the beginning of the year with New Year's promotions and specials. In addition, ask about other discounts. The majority of health clubs offer discounts to families and couples.

Related: 8 Embarrassing Gym Confessions

9. "You Can Get Hurt"

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new venture and want to jump in to the most challenging, toughest class right off the bat. But doing so could land you injured and unable to workout at best or in the ER at worst. Overcrowded classes and inexperienced instructors might be to blame for an increase in yoga injuries, an activity not normally known for its element of danger. "Just because a class is popular doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you," says fitness trainer Tom Holland. Faulty equipment and failure of the gym to maintain equipment can also create grounds for injuries. Report damaged or faulty equipment to management.

Related: 10 Common Workout Injuries and How to Avoid Them

10. "Orientation Is a Ploy to Get You to Sign Up With Our Trainers"

Many gyms offer a free orientation session or two with one of their trainers when you sign up. The trainer typically takes you through a complex routine and doesn't write anything down with hopes you'll sign up for sessions, says fitness trainer Tom Holland. "They don't write anything down so you'll feel you need them." It may be worth paying for a few sessions with a qualified trainer if you're a newbie, but be sure to take notes on your own.

Related: 9 Easy Steps Every Weightlifting Newbie Should Follow

What Do YOU Think?

Do you belong to a gym or are you thinking of joining one? How satisfied do you feel about your membership? How many times per week do you go to the gym? Which exercises do you do there? Do you feel like you're getting your money's worth? Were you surprised by the things on this list that gyms won't tell you? Are there any we missed? How do you plan staying committed to working out in your gym this year? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Build an Affordable Home Gym


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