New Year‘s Resolution – “I’m Joining a Gym”

January gym calendar

Time to find those abs after the Xmas excess?


It is little wonder that following the season of excess that is Christmas and New Year’s, many of us decide we need to make better choices about our health and welfare in the coming year. Making a New Year’s resolution to improve fitness and nutrition was the #1 resolution of Canadians in 2017 with a whopping 33% of survey respondents making this their goal. For many of those people, making good on this resolution involves joining a gym or fitness centre. Taking charge of your personal fitness is a great idea and has tremendous pay-offs but there are a lot of things to consider when signing up for a membership. Buying a membership to a gym involves signing what, in Canada, is referred to as a “Continuing Service Contract” and these are binding legal contracts. Before you get to this point, you need to be sure the decision is right for you.

Choosing the Right Gym

Start your search for fitness by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Where will I work out? Do I want a gym close to home or the office?
  2. What sort of exercise is right for me? Circuit training, spin classes, weight training, running?
  3. What time of day will I use the facility? How best to fit this new routine into my present routine?
  4. What kind of budget do I have for this decision?

These questions will narrow your research and you can now focus on the facilities in the area you wish, that keep the hours you’re looking for and that offer the services you need at a price you can afford.

The next step is to visit your shortened list of locations in person. Internet reviews are great and may help you narrow your search further, but take a full tour of each of the facilities and be observant. If the club doesn’t look well kept or is dirty, this could be a sign of a deteriorating business. Is all the equipment in working order? If not, how long has a piece of equipment been inoperable? Are there too many people there to share the space and equipment? Ask about the credentials of any trainers or instructors at the location. Are there ample lockers? Is water available for free or can you bring your own? Request a copy of the membership contract to take away and review during your comparison. And don’t feel pressured to make a commitment at this point. Make it clear you are shopping around and ask if you can speak to other members while you’re on the site visit.

Lastly, ask if you can use the gym once to really get a feel for the facility. Often, they will offer a one day pass so prospective members can try out the equipment and amenities.

The Dreaded Contract

Once you’ve chosen the right place for you and sign up for your membership. If you’ve not been familiarized with the contract in advance, ask if you can take it with you and read it fully before you sign. A business with a solid, fair contract shouldn’t hesitate on this at all. If you are joining via the internet, be aware that hitting the “I Agree” button on an internet contract is as binding as a physical signature.

Your major areas of concern will be:

  1. Contract term. How long are you signing for?
  2. Contract renewal? Make sure that the contract isn’t automatically renewing or that they offer you proper advance notice at renewal time.
  3. Contract cancellation. Can you cancel for any reason and how must you do that?
  4. Fees. Make sure you understand all fees including Initiation Fees, Annual Fees, Recurring Membership Fees, Maintenance Fees and Cancellation Fees.
  5. If you are joining under an “Introductory Offer” what are the terms of that offer and what are the terms when the offer expires?

Ask other questions that may not be answered in the contract. What if the facility closes or moves? What if you move and the location isn’t convenient? What if you are no longer physically able to use the facility? Make sure that what the representative at the gym is telling you is consistent with what you see in the contract, and if need be, ask them where that is shown in the contract itself. And don’t feel pressured at this point. If you need to put more thought into it, take the time to do that.

In Canada, there is a 10 day “cooling off period” after signing a contract like this. If you’re having second thoughts, make sure you speak up in time to cancel during that period. And use the facility during this cooling off period so you can be sure it works into your routine. Remember that forming new good habits takes a lot more time and effort than breaking old bad habits so stick with it!

If you feel you’ve been taken advantage of or not treated fairly by a gym or recreational centre, use MyResolver to file a complaint with them. It’s always free and easy to use.

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