Gym Shopping 101: If you’re New, Don’t fear Fitness Culture. Be Excited for it.

It's a big step you won't regret. Here's everything you'll want to remember when choosing the right gym for you.

Take a look at my videos on Instagram, and you’ll see multiple settings for my workout clips. That’s because I belong to 4 gyms that I regularly rotate through.

Two of the gyms are also bases where I see clients. Great spaces in their own right, albeit very different from one another; the first being in the downtown core of the city – much more “general population-friendly”, complete with at least one machine for every body part and endless cardio equipment. The second being geared toward the more “serious” trainee, strongman competitor, or Olympic or powerlifter.

The third gym is in my home, and contains many basics that are great in a pinch. Dumbbells, fixed bars, some machines, a squat cage, cables, some kettlebells, a rowing machine and a few treadmills. Add that to the convenience factor, and it’s a no-brainer when I’m in a time crunch or simply don’t feel like driving.

The final gym is the one I’ve been going to for the longest time out of all (it’s been something like 12 years if my memory serves me correctly). I don’t live near this gym anymore, and its equipment is not state-of-the-art across the board, despite the fact that there’s basically something for everyone. I still go there the most frequently out of all options available to me. I thought it was worthwhile to write about just why that is, as I think there’s a lesson to be learned in my answer.

For me, that gym has been the place where I’ve had some of my best lifting days. It’s also been a place where I’ve gotten the most inspiration for training content, and article subject matter for blogs like this. I did my own rehab through a double reconstructive knee surgery after a devastating injury there. Suffice to say, there’s an attachment to this place that certainly exists – but there’s more.

I find the most value from this gym because of its community, and how that community speaks to me. I’m drawn to gyms with the most heterogeneous mixture of people there – including veteran lifters, athletes, complete average Joe office jockeys, and seniors who still prioritize their daily workout.  This is the environment that keeps me the most encouraged, the most curious, and the most likely to remain consistent myself.


One thing that rings true regardless of what gym I work out at however, is the fact that the culture you can find is incredibly consistent.

Don’t get it Twisted

There’s a misconception that gyms are intimidating, vain, exclusionary places that are full of judgement, and maintain some unspoken minimum standard of performance or appearance as a rite of passage for acceptance. It’s an idea that can consume the mind of a beginner enough to discourage them from ever getting a membership and beginning their fitness journey.

Though I’m sure there are places like that on the planet that exist – as ignominious as they are – they don’t represent anything remotely near the overwhelming majority. In reality, gyms are welcoming places, full of insecurity.  You read that right. People are too caught up judging themselves, trying to address “flaws”, and quietly comparing themselves to others in every way imaginable – strength wise, physique wise, confidence wise, technique wise, gym-gear wise – that they barely even have the time to notice that you’re a beginner who’s a potential victim of the same thing.

I like the idea of normalizing this one element of the human behavior – that of being insecure. Especially in the setting of a fitness center, it can actually work to galvanize the community in the sense that everyone’s in this together, trying to better themselves via chasing fitness and health. Now, some may project or display this in different ways than others, but rest assured: At the end of the day, the root cause is all pretty much the same.  And it’s the best (and most common) when there’s encouragement among its members, whether they know one another or not.

It’s a strange synthesis of being vain and down to earth at the same time. And you can find this regardless of the demographic ‘focus’ of the gym in question.

What does this mean for you?

It should be a consoling thought to know that you’re not going to be the focal point of judgement or some kind of laughing stock if you’re new to the gym and don’t know much about what to do to start. Personal training staff or gym management aside, there will be several members who will be happy to provide guidance. For us, it simply serves as a reminder for what it was like when we were just getting started. The best part is, the most intimidating looking people are often the ones who are the most helpful.

The first step for you would be to identify exactly what your goals are. Some gyms will have facilities, client bases, and overall communities that are more suited toward some goals than others (like the powerlifting/strongman style gym I mentioned early on that I sometimes train at). Keep in mind that your goals will be easier to attain if you surround yourself with like-minded people.

And if you’re not sure yet, treat this as a little adventure. Take a day you’re not working to explore different gyms in your area. See if the vibe and ambience are things that resonate with you. Once a place is the right fit for you, you’d be surprised how much you’d sacrifice to actually keep going there.  The right gym that suits you can be a hidden answer to any issues you may have with inconsistency and sticking to the long-term plan.

Though there’s encouragement from every demographic, consider what demographic speaks the most to your goals and intentions also. If you’re really young, would seeing veteran lifters mainly in their 30’s and 40’s motivate you more? Or would seeing people your age be a better source of encouragement?  Would you want to train in a space with a majority population of the same sex? Or the opposite? Do you need the bare minimum as far as essentials go? Or do lavish amenities speak to you in the name of pampering and convenience? On the speaker system, do you prefer hearing top 40 radio hits? Hardcore metal?

The time of day you choose to work out can be another factor as to what demographics may populate the gym you’re considering. Do you like a quiet, low traffic space to get your workout in, or are you energized by a bustling, busy gym?  It’s worthwhile to gather that info ahead of time before signing on the dotted line.

The goal needs to be to set yourself up in an environment that promotes motivation and consistency. It will give you your best workouts and the most enjoyment through the process.  It may take some time, and maybe even a couple of trial memberships. But once you find your place, you just may stay there for the long haul.

Oh, and instead of being intimidated or jealous of all the seasoned vets in the gym with plenty of gains to speak for, remember: They’re probably jealous of the journey you’re about to embark on. It’s great to be just starting out.

Looking for something specific?

Subscribe to Lee’s newsletter

Stay up-to-date on the latest from Lee, straight to your inbox. No Spam. No Nonsense.

"*" indicates required fields

Join Lee On Social Media


Work With Lee

Lee’s Upcoming Speaking Events

Check Back Soon!

Recently Published Online

Recently Printed Articles

Work with Lee Boyce, 1-on-1

Connect with Lee about speaking engagements or coaching, today.

"*" indicates required fields