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10 Secrets That Gyms Don’t Want You to Know About

by Matt Weik

I’ve worked for a few different gyms when I was a personal trainer and strength coach, and I’ve seen first hand some of the things that gym owners and management hide from you. There’s actually quite a few things that gyms don’t want you to know about. Without totally grossing you out or making your head explode, let’s get into them.

1. Initiation fees

What a crock of crap. Initiation fees are nothing more than making you pay more money up front for absolutely nothing. It’s a great marketing technique and sales strategy when their sales team is trying to close a sale. For instance, they will offer to waive the initiation fees or maybe they have an ad out that promotes their initiation fees have been slashed in half. Personally, I’d tell you to NEVER pay an initiation fee. If they aren’t willing to waive this fee for you, then they clearly don’t want your business that bad.

2. Not all trainers are certified

Many trainers will disagree with me on this, but I think all personal trainers should need a college degree in order to train clients. These days, many gyms aren’t even hiring qualified trainers. If some jacked dude or a hot chick with a nice butt and big fake boobs walks in looking for a job, they hire them on the spot. Why? Because they look a certain way and they know members will want to look like them and will be willing to shell out money to have these trainers work with them. It has nothing to do with their credentials. Too many trainers these days are uneducated and have no idea how to properly train someone safely or get them results. They simply walk around the gym looking hot or buff and their body gets them clients.

Before you work with any personal trainer, ask them what their credentials are. If they simply sit there and smile at you, leave immediately. All trainers should have a minimum of a personal training certification. But again, I’d highly recommend you work with a trainer who also has a degree in kinesiology. The four years I spent getting my degree was way more beneficial than reading some little trainer guide handed out by many certification companies. They are dismal compared to what you learn getting a degree in kinesiology.

3. Gyms don’t want you to come in

Gyms bank on people not showing up after paying monthly dues. They basically have their fingers crossed that you never walk back through those doors so they can keep your money without actually needing to provide you with a service or maintain the equipment you would be using. Let’s think about something for a second. Let’s say a gym has a total of 800 members. Can you imagine what the gym would look like if every single one of those members came in to exercise after work? It would look like you’re at a music concert and it was standing room only. Even if you put someone on every piece of equipment in the gym, there would still be people without something to use.

In addition, think about the costs if all 800 of those members came in daily and then showered after their workouts. Can you imagine the water bill to handle that much use? For that reason, they don’t want you to be a regular at the gym. Show me your money, sign up to automatic monthly withdrawals, and we hope to never see you again – that’s their mentality.

4. Cardio equipment is almost ALWAYS near the entrance

Why is this? Well, potential members who never worked out before are generally terrified of the weight room. They think of it as a place where meatheads frequent and is a place they aren’t comfortable venturing into (think of women who are afraid of lifting weights because they believe they will get BIG). For that reason, they put the cardio equipment near the doors so that it gives off a less intimidating environment for those who are considering joining. Women can walk through the door and not see a dumbbell (or meathead) in sight. And let’s face it, gyms want women to join just as much as they want men.

5. Negotiate everything

While the gym needs to make money, know that everything is negotiable. Negotiate the initiation fee. Negotiate the monthly fee. Negotiate throwing in extra services such as personal training, food/beverages, towel service, etc. While the gym teaches their sales team how to work you into a monthly payment, you need to also be working them to get yourself the best deal. Just remember, this gym probably isn’t the only gym in town. And if the salesperson knows this and you mention their competitors or what they are doing for new members, the likelihood that they try and work a deal before you leave is very high.

6. Don’t let the pretty sales associate trick you

Are you a dude and when choosing your gym, you walked in to be greeted by some hot sales chick? Well, you’ve been played, my friend. That’s all part of the game. When guys walk through the door, they have the pretty salesgirl greet you and walk you around the gym as well as answer any membership questions you might have.

On the flip side, when some female walks through the door, they have the hunk behind the counter do the same with her as the pretty girl did with the male prospect.

Sex sells, and they hope that the dirty thoughts running through your head while working with the sales associate will get you to sign on the dotted line. Oh, and if you hear them say anything that makes you think they are flirting with you, you heard right, but they are only flirting to get you to open your wallet. Don’t leave there thinking the hot sales chick wants to jump your bones – she just did the same thing to the guy before you and she’ll do the same thing to the guy after you to get a sale.

7. You’re sitting/laying in bacteria

While it makes sense why they won’t tell you this, it’s something you need to know… gyms are not very sanitary. So, if you are a germaphobe like Howie Mandel, you’re going to crawl out of your skin in a gym. Unfortunately, not everyone has common courtesy after using a piece of equipment. You would assume that after you finish with one machine, you would wipe it down and sanitize it for the next person. Well, you’re wrong. And because of this, there are germs and bacteria throughout the gym that you’re coming in contact with every visit (that should make you remember to shower before you leave). While the gym tries its best to clean the equipment throughout the day, they aren’t standing there every time someone doesn’t wipe down a machine, just to clean it for you.

8. If you want the best deal, join during the summer months

Gyms hate the summer. It’s a time where people are taking vacations, going to the beach, enjoying the outdoors, swimming at the local outdoor pool, and doing everything but walking through the gym door. This is especially true for prospective members. It’s extremely difficult to get people to walk through the doors to join the gym in the summer months. For that reason, they’ll pretty much drop their drawers and bend over just to get you to sign up. Know going into it that you have the upper hand and hold all the cards. Negotiate has hard as you can for the best deal.

9. Read the fine print

No one is going to tell you that you need to jump through hoops that are set on fire just to cancel your membership. If you look at statistics, this is the most common complain of gyms across the US. Many don’t let you cancel over the phone. Most make you come in to cancel. If you’re moving they need proof, and if there is a location of their gym near where you’re moving, they will force you to use that gym and won’t allow you to get out of your contract. Some even require a written letter of why you are canceling. All in all, read the fine print to see what is expected of you and the legality. I know first hand that canceling a gym membership, regardless of what gym it is, can be a royal pain in the ass.

10. You’re swimming in a pool full of pee

I’m not sure much explanation is needed here, but the gym pool has gallons of pee floating in it each day. While no different than your local outdoor pool (thanks kids), it should still be something to note. Yes, the pool has chemicals in it that can kill pretty much anything in the water. But, just keep that in the back of your head the next time you decide to turn yourself into a human fountain and spit streams of water out of your mouth. Yum.

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