Running and Friendly Links
Three Types of Health Clubs and Fitness Centers
Large Gyms Like 24 Hour Fitness, Small Ones Like Curves, and Mom and Pop Facilities
As runners we spend most of our time in the great outdoors but there are still good reasons to invest in a gym or health club membership. Sometimes the weather stinks. Another reason is to cross train. Running may make up the bulk of our workouts but its always a good idea to weight train, swim, or use the stair climber.
So which club should you choose? The primary consideration is where you live because that determines whats available. After that, narrow it down by what they offer and the price. Speaking in general terms, there are three types of gyms; niche types, privately owned mom and pop types, and then the big chains.
Niche Type Gyms
These are privately owned, franchises, or corporate-owned. What sets them apart is that they focus on certain parts of the general population. A good example is Curves. As they put it, "A Curves 30 minute fitness center is a womans gym that provides a total body workout." Theyre located in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
These fitness centers focus on providing training, proprietary health supplements, and weight management strategies. These are usually small, tucked away in lease space in shopping centers.
Mom and Pop Gyms
These are privately owned, single facilities. They also tend to be small, but there are exceptions. Youve seen some good examples in the movies; think of those wide-open boxing and weight training gyms. In fact, many facilities in this category are focused on one particular sport.
Some swimming pools fall in this class and are frequented by youth swim teams, triathletes, and ladies taking water aerobics classes.
Big Box Clubs; the Walmarts of the Fitness World
These are the big corporate monsters spread out across the country. One of these are probably your best bet if you want a well rounded out fitness center with weights, treadmills, stair steppers, aerobic classes, and perhaps a pool.
They are the busiest right after the Christmas season when people make a New Years resolution to lose weight.
In the 20 or so years I have been going to one gym or another, Ive noted that at least 50% of weight management resolutionists drop out within 2 months. On the good side, their membership contract keep dues low for the rest of us.
Before jumping into a contract, look at the fine print. Feel free to bargain; ask for some free personal training sessions if you sign the paper. Here are a few popular ones that are commonly found in Texas.
- 24 Hour Fitness. This is one I use and feel most comfortable recommending. As the name implies, they are open 24-7. This is a great feature for shift workers and those afflicted with insomnia. Generally very clean with well-maintained equipment.
- Bally Total Fitness. This is the club I feel most uneasy recommending. I used to be a member for about 10 years and have been to all of them in the Houston area at one time or another. They tend to be less than clean and the staff comes off as quite impersonal.
- LA Fitness. I dont have any personal experience with this fitness center although Ive heard good things about the new one recently built in League City, just South of Houston.
- The YMCA. The Y has changed over the years. Originally conceived as a type of boarding house for men, it morphed into a neighborhood affordable family gym, and in its current state offers full-blown fitness centers. Unfortunately, a membership, especially a family plan, is quite expensive.
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