Choosing the Right Fitness Facility for your 2014 Fitness Resolution

National Domestic Preparedness Coaltion Member Blog

Choosing the Right Fitness Facility for your 2014 Fitness Resolution

Choosing the Right Fitness Facility for your 2014 Fitness Resolution
By: Kenneth M. Glantz, CHPP, CPP
Executive Director, National Domestic Preparedness Coalition

As the New Year begins, many responders have scripted resolutions which include getting in shape. The need for us to be in good physical shape is unquestionable. As we institute our resolutions we must set specific fitness goals. The type of exercise we choose must meet our goals and the fitness facility we choose must be conducive to us achieving our goals. There are a number of great fitness solutions that will meet and exceed our needs. There are also facilities that will fall far short of our needs.
As gyms advertised their facilities at the beginning of the New Year, one particular franchise caught my attention. Not because of their special equipment, new type of exercise, or their outstanding amenities. It struck a sour chord because the franchise didn’t want people who wanted to be in great shape, or who were already in good shape to join. This particular franchise portrayed fit people as morons, their rules champion mediocrity, they discourage effort, and they embrace unhealthy habits. So be aware, price isn’t everything; choose your fitness solution carefully.

Correlation between Fitness and Success
In his article, “The Link between Fitness & Career Success,” Brian Calkins reveals that a leading executive search company surveyed more than 1,300 executives who earn $100,000 or more annually. When asked to describe their perceptions of weight and work, 75 % said good physical fitness is "critical for career success at the executive level." When asked about obesity, 75% of executives said that being overweight is a "serious career impediment." (Calkins, 2012)

As responders, we try to maintain a good level of fitness in order to ensure that we can protect those we serve. Of equal importance, we maintain good fitness to help guarantee we go home at the end of the day. We learn at our respective academies that fit people exude command presence, can better defend themselves and others, are healthy, and excel in their careers. In fact, studies support a direct correlation between high fitness levels and career and personal success. A 2007 University of Georgia study found that better ability to focus, improved confidence and enhanced ability to follow through were directly attributed to improved fitness levels. (Calkins, 2012)

Determining Your Fitness Goals
First one must determine their fitness goals. As responders it is imperative that we are in top physical condition. Many of our jobs require that we go from relatively sedentary tasks, to activities which can require extreme physical stress in a matter of seconds. Our bodies have to be ready for vigorous activity under stress. To meet this basic goal our exercise program should include high intensity interval type training. Not only will this help increase your endurance, it also burns a large number of calories. If you are just getting back into fitness, make sure that you choose a program that allows you to work at your own pace. Workouts for responders to consider include: Fitness Kickboxing; Fitness Boxing; Cross Training; Weight Circuits; Swimming; Rowing; Spin Classes; Running; Basketball; Aerobic Classes; Jumping Rope, etc.

Many of us have gained some unwanted pounds since graduating from our academies. If weight loss is your goal, exercise alone will not do the trick. A well balanced nutritional program should be followed, in conjunction with strength training and cardiovascular training, and should include high intensity interval training. The workouts listed above will all help you meet your weight loss goals.

Others may have the goals of increasing muscle size and strength. Whether you are a Police Officer involved in an altercation, Fireman lifting heavy equipment, or an Emergency Medical Technician lifting patients, strength is important. Weight training is one of the best ways to gain strength and muscle size. The heavier one lifts, with good form of course, the stronger they will get. This is normally done with heavy weight and low repetitions. Muscle size can increase by using moderately heavy weights for 8 to 10 repetitions.
Remember whether your goal is weight loss, size and strength, or overall fitness, in all cases, results only come from hard work and effort.

Choosing a Fitness Facility
There are several variables one must consider when choosing a fitness facility.

Cost
When selecting a fitness facility, cost is always a consideration. Facility costs can range from $10 per month to hundreds of dollars per month. When assessing costs, you must know what the costs cover. Are there extra fees for classes; do you have access to all areas within the facility; does the fee include personal training… A $10 per month is not necessarily a great deal if it doesn’t meet your needs, whereas, $135.00 per month facility that includes supervised training, and support may be well worth the higher cost.
Hours
As a responder, it is important to find a facility that is going to work with your schedule. A 24 hour accessible facility may be ideal for those who work irregular hours. If you are seeking classes you should ensure that there are enough times to suit your availability.
Equipment
Your goals will help determine your equipment needs. If your goals include size and strength, you should look for a gym that provides free weights in amounts that suit your needs. In other words, if you can easily curl 60 lb. dumbbells, and the dumbbells only go up to 50 lbs. you need to look for another gym. If you are taking fitness kickboxing classes, are the heavy bags in good condition? Is there enough equipment to go around, if the gym is crowded? Is the equipment well maintained and in good condition.
Cleanliness
In the age of superbugs such as MRSA, it is very important that a gym is clean. Are there wipes available to wipe down the equipment after use? Does staff continuously wipe equipment down and clean floors? Like a restaurant, you can judge the cleanliness of a gym by the restrooms and locker rooms.
Staff
It is important that staff members be helpful and courteous. If you need the fans turned down, will they turn them down for you? If you need a spotter will they help you? Do they offer personal training, and if so what certifications do their personal trainers hold? Certifications to look for include: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM); National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA); Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA); and Cooper Institute (CI). (Courseault, 2013)
Selecting a good environment for your workouts
Whatever fitness solution you choose, it is equally important to find a good environment to train. A relatively well known fitness facility touts that they have a Judgment Free philosophy and their mission statement indicates that they are “perfecting an environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected”. It sounds like a great philosophy. But in reality they advertise that people who are in great physical condition, are not welcome in their facilities.

If you plan on getting in shape or maintaining a good fitness level, ensure that the facility is providing a welcoming environment for you, and champions your goals. There are many facilities that will challenge you, and help you meet your fitness goals. Some fitness solutions offer a social network that goes along with the training program and a bond is formed between likeminded members, which in turn may help you achieve your fitness goals.

Choose Your Fitness Center Carefully
In 2006, Albert Argibay, a very physically fit New York State Corrections Officer, was at a fitness center performing squats with heavy weights, when the franchise manager walked over and told him it was time to leave. The manager explained that Mr. Argibay violated one of the club’s most sacred and strictly enforced rules: He was grunting. Mr. Argibay explained that he wasn’t grunting, and said “I’m breathing heavy.” The manager asked him to walk out with her to the front of the facility and told him that she was cancelling his membership. Mr. Argibay indicated that he continued lifting, but soon was surrounded by town police officers, who told him to drop the weight slowly, and pack his bag, then escorted him from the gym. (O'Connor, 2006)
Tim Gunther, a 6-foot, 200-pound firefighter in Poughkeepsie, NY, said he and his colleagues were frequently harassed for “making noises that can’t be avoided” and compared an alarm that was sounded when a member made too much noise, to a nuclear war siren. “The first time I heard that thing it scared the heck out of me,” he said. “I thought there was a fire, and I’m a fireman. Without exaggeration, I’ve seen them set that thing off on people just for breathing too loud.” (O'Connor, 2006)

Will This Fitness Solution Allow You to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
Dennis G. O’Connell, a professor of physical therapy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, was interviewed by the New York Times after Mr. Argibay was expelled from his Fitness Club. Professor O’Connell, studied the effects of grunting, and found that weight lifters produce between 2 and 5 percent more force when they grunt, in part because the deep breathing grunting entails can help stabilize the spine. Professor O’Connell said, “I’m not so sure it’s wise to tell people not to grunt.” (O'Connor, 2006) It is safe to say, the more effort you put into exercise the better the results.
Additionally, the facility from which Mr. Argibay was banished, banned Deadlifts lifts, and any exercise that might result in grunting or any other loud noise, such as plates banging on the floor. In 2010, Men’s Health surveyed world class fitness coaches about what they considered to be the most effective exercise, the results were unanimous. Across the board, they answered: “The deadlift.” (Aaron, 2010)
It is imperative that when choosing your fitness solution you choose one that allows you to reach your goals and doesn’t place a governor on the fitness level you can achieve in their facility.

Supporting Healthy Habits
It is also important to ensure that the fitness solution you choose supports healthy habits. Most facilities will sell protein shakes, supplements and nutritionally valuable items that will support your healthy lifestyle. That is not always the case. One fitness franchise serves Tootsie Rolls at the front desk, available to all members who enter the facility. If members eat one serving, approximately 40 grams, they consume 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 19 grams of sugar. (Tootsie Roll Industries, 2014) Essentially they are served “all you can eat” fat pills. But wait there’s more! On the first Monday night of each month, members are treated to pizza, and on the second Tuesday morning members get bagels. (Newman, 13) Obviously, none of these food choices are healthy.
A healthy diet is the foundation for physical fitness. One can perform thousands of sit ups and not lose a millimeter around their stomach, if your diet is not nutritionally sound and you are taking in too many calories you will not achieve your goals. Again, the facility you choose should support your goals.

The Price Isn't Always Right
As you contemplate your 2014 fitness resolution ensure that you have determined your fitness goals and choose a fitness solution that meets your needs. There are fitness centers that you can join for $10 down, and 10 dollars a month, but if they portray fit people as morons, their rules champion mediocrity, they discourage effort, and they embrace unhealthy habits, they probably aren’t for you. So be aware, price isn’t everything; carefully chose your fitness solution.

1 References

Aaron, K. (2010, 12 29). The Worst Gym in America? Retrieved from Men's Health: http://blogs.menshealth.com/health-headlines/the-worst-gym-in-america/2010/12/29
Calkins, B. (2012). The Link Between Fitness & Career Success. Retrieved from Health Style Fitness: http://www.briancalkins.com/career.htm
Cantor, B. (2013, 02 07). Sounding the "Lunk Alarm" on Planet Fitness' Branding Strategy. Retrieved from Customer Managment. Com: http://www.customermanagementiq.com/cem-customer-loyalty-brand-advocates/articles/sounding-the-lunk-alarm-on-planet-fitness-branding/
Courseault, J. (2013, April 11). Top Personal Trainer Certifications. Retrieved from Livestrong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/43830-top-personal-trainer-certification-organizations/
Newman, A. A. (13, 01 02). A Gym for People Who Don’t Like Gyms. Retrieved from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/business/media/planet-fitness-sheds-aspirational-approach.html
O'Connor, A. (2006, 11 18). No Grunting, They Said, and He Was at the Gym. Retrieved from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/18/nyregion/18grunt.html?_r=2&
The Washington Times. (2006, 11 06). Around the Nation. Retrieved from The Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2006/nov/6/20061106-123117-5707r/?page=all
Tootsie Roll Industries. (2014). Healthy Living: Allergen & Nutrition. Retrieved from Tootsie Roll: http://www.tootsie.com/health.php?pid=165