How to Find the Right New York City Gym for You

A woman working out in an NYC gym.
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It's not difficult to stay active in New York City. Most New Yorkers log miles of walking (across town and up and down multiple flights of stairs) on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of us need a little extra exertion to burn off our New York bagels, New York pizza, and other indulgences.

When it's time to get serious about shaping up or dropping a few pounds, most New Yorkers opt to join a gym. There are hundreds of gyms to choose from in New York City, so how do you decide which is right for you? And how do you find the best deal on a New York City gym membership and avoid getting ripped off? Read on for tips on finding the perfect New York City gym for you and reviews of some of the most popular gyms in New York.

How to Find the Right Gym for You

The best New York City gym for you is the one that you're most likely to actually go to. Price is a key consideration, of course, but remember that you won't get your money's worth at even the cheapest gym if you never work out there. Here are some tips for evaluating your options.

Location Is Critical

Your best bet is to join a gym that's ridiculously convenient to your apartment or office. Make it as easy as possible to work out, especially if you're just starting or re-starting a fitness program. This advice may seem obvious, but I have plenty of friends who have been seduced by cool gyms and convinced themselves that they would have no problem taking a subway and then walking ten blocks to work out every day. Naturally, most of these people worked out approximately twice before giving up. Don't set yourself up to fail. The big gym chains can be good choices for chronic excuse-makers because they have multiple locations so working out is always convenient.

Understand the Price Ranges

In general, you get what you pay for when you join a New York City gym. The most affordable options like Bally's and Gold's Gym tend to offer fewer amenities. In the middle price range, you've got gyms like New York Sports Club, Crunch Fitness, and the YMCA. At the next level, gyms like Equinox Fitness and The Sports Club at Chelsea Piers offer shinier equipment, more experienced trainers, and perks like fancier locker rooms for pricier membership fees. Reebok and Sports Club LA offer even more perks and shininess for even higher membership fees. Looking beyond the big players, you can sometimes find deals at neighborhood gyms that don't have the marketing muscle (and costs) of the big chains. 

Take Advantage of a Trial Membership

Many gyms offer trial membership deals or guest passes so that prospective members can try out the facilities before making a long-term commitment. This is a great way to experience the pros and cons of a particular gym for yourself. These deals may not be offered up-front, but are often available upon request if you seem serious about joining. If the sales rep won't hook you up, see if any of your friends are members of the gym that you're considering. Most gym members have access to guest passes for friends. Best of all, they can benefit from helping you out. Most gyms offer freebies and discounts to members who refer new recruits.

Understand the Membership Levels

Most gyms have multiple levels of membership. Some even have special VIP sections with restricted access. See if you can save by cutting out some extras that you can live without. At gym chains like New York Sports Club, for example, you can pay less for a membership that gets you into just one designated NYSC location. You probably won't need a more expensive "all access" membership if you plan to work out only at your neighborhood gym. You can also usually save by committing for a full year versus signing on for a month-to-month membership (just make sure you've done your research before you commit for a year). And don't forget to check with your employer in case there's a discounted corporate rate that you can take advantage of.

Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate

Prices for gym memberships are almost always negotiable. New York gyms are constantly running special promotion deals to sign new members. If you join during a promotion, you can get your initiation fee waived (a savings of more than $600 at some gyms) or dramatically reduced. You might also be able to get a reduced monthly membership fee if you are referred by a friend or use a particular payment structure (for example, paying for more than one year up-front or paying with a particular credit card). All gyms run promotions in January (for New Year's resolution makers) and in April/May (for those panicking about bathing suit season), so those are great times to find deals (you'll also find bigger crowds in the gyms, at least for a while). If your membership representative tells you that you've missed the latest promotion, ask when discounts will be offered again. For the best deal, make it clear that you're shopping around and that you're willing to walk away.

Pay Attention to the Gym's Personality

Different New York City gyms have different vibes. Sometimes, different locations of the same gym chain have very different atmospheres. Some gyms are known for being pick-up joints with lots of flirting and posturing. Some gyms attract serious athletes while others have more of a casual family feel. Make sure to pick a gym where you feel comfortable.