A Gym Rat’s Guide to Picking the Perfect Gym

Blog
Kyle Sottung
September 7, 2016

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a professed meathead and fitness junkie. I literally told my teacher in Kindergarten that I wanted to be “a big strong guy” when I grow up (my mom still has the piece of paper my teacher scribed it on back in the 80’s).

Now, I’m the VP of Marketing for Iron Tribe Fitness, a 40+ location functional fitness chain microgym that’s growing across the country. I’m not here to sell you on what we do. I’m here to tell you about my experience, and help you find the gym and type of training that’s best for you.

A quick disclaimer:

I’m certified in nothing. Well, that’s not true. I have a minor fitness certification — but that’s it. Besides that, I’m self-studied and taught through years and years of reading fitness articles and experimentation in the gym. (that’s me on the right)

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Here’s a quick background: I was a standout high school athlete in football and wrestling, played football in college, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a marketing career, trained in MMA with professional fighters, competed in CrossFit, Strongman and Powerlifting, and then started a part-time training company. Ultimately, all roads led back to my hometown of Birmingham, Ala. to take on the marketing role at Iron Tribe, bringing back my California-native wife and daughter (all of that is a story for a different day).

Now, let’s dive in…

Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness (or any other Globo Gym in Your Town)

Big gyms like this began to seemingly pop up on every corner in the late 80’s to early 90’s, and now it seems like they’re everywhere. I’ve worked out at a long list of them as a guest, and member at quite a few. These gyms sometimes get a bad rap, but they have a lot to offer.

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First off, if you want choices, these won’t be short of a variety of machines, weights, cardio equipment and more for you to use. They’re mostly affordable, ranging in pricing to the ultra low at $10 a month to more than $300 for the high-end brands. One thing they all have in common is while the staff is friendly, they’re going to be mostly hands off when it comes to your fitness journey.

A number of these gyms have personal trainers who can help guide you, but it will cost you. Easily, personal training can add up to $1,000 a month or more, which might be worth it if it fits your budget and you want a truly one-on-one approach.

Most of us can’t afford a personal trainer, but if you are highly disciplined, however, these gyms offer everything you need to meet your fitness goals. The problem in my fitness journey and most of other’s are twofold.

Most of us can’t afford a personal trainer, but if you are highly disciplined, however, these gyms offer everything you need to meet your fitness goals.

One, most people are extrinsically motivated — meaning we need something from outside ourselves to push us. This is accountability in the positive sense, and peer pressure in the negative sense.

Secondly, they don’t give you a script to follow. You truly have to figure it out at a Globo Gym. No one’s going to hold your hand. But again, for the disciplined person, there are plenty of online resources you can find to help guide you.

Is this gym for me?

If you’re extremely disciplined, as I mentioned above, and can do the research on your own and want plenty of options — this might be a good route to go.

Price Range:

$10 – $350 (more than $1,000 with the personal training option)

Carl’s Kickboxing (or Any Other Kickboxing, MMA Studio)

These gyms began to pick up speed in the mid 2000’s with the rise of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and other combat leagues. They can be intimidating to walk into, and I can tell you that from personal experience. Even as a big guy, it was always nerve wracking to walk through the doors of a gym like this. Fighters just have a certain personality and tough exterior.

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These gyms will give you a plan in the sense that you just show up and participate in the class of your choosing. They’re going to make you sweat, and move like you probably never have before — and if you have a weight loss goal, the pounds will come off if you stick with it. As a bonus, you also get to learn self defense. Hopefully, you never need it, but in case you do, a gym like this will help you be ready.

My only beef with these gyms is they are usually a one-trick-pony. They don’t have a significant amount of equipment to help round out your fitness, and sometimes you won’t even get access to it unless you upgrade your package. That can be a tough pill to swallow and put you in a situation where you’re looking for another option to supplement your training. They can also be male-dominated gyms — nothing wrong with that — but if you’re a woman it’s just something to get used to.

Is this gym for me?

Do you want to learn a new skill, as in self defense? This might be a good option, all while sweating and losing some weight.

Price Range:

$50 – $350

Orangetheory Fitness

Founded in Florida, at the time of me writing this article, they’re at or surpassed 400 locations nationwide. Orangetheory’s promise is to keep you burning calories long after you’ve walked out of their 60-minute class. They mix running on a treadmill, rowing and light weights into an hour-long class where you rotate between stations based off the cue of a trainer. The class size can vary, but can be up to 25 individuals with one trainer guiding you.

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There’s definitely a reason for Orangtheory’s astronomical growth — be it a mix of clever marketing (the “orange zone”) and/or a system that works, they’ve had a lot of people in and out of their gyms — that’s for sure. With their system, you’ll be able to schedule your classes and walk in the door never having to think about the workout ahead.

They’ll go through a 5-minute warm up and the next 55 or so minutes will be active with the lights down, music blasting and you moving between the three equipment stations. With the limited class size, you’ll also get some personal attention and encouragement from the coach.

Unlike the Kickboxing gym, these are predominantly women-based gyms.

There’s no doubt you’re going to sweat and lose weight at Orangetheory. Whether their “theory” of you burning calories long after you leave is true or not doesn’t matter because you’ll burn enough during the class. That, combined with a proper diet, can help you meet your goals if they’re focused on weight loss.

Is this gym for me?

If you want a script to follow, some encouragement, and are weight loss focused, this could be a good option for you.

Price Range:

$100 – $160

CrossFit

Crossfit, Inc was founded by Greg Glassman in the early 2000’s and has become a global phenomenon. The organization now boasts 10,000-plus affiliates within their networks.

CrossFit has done a significant amount of good for the fitness industry. Namely, getting women to pick up barbells instead of being intimidated by them. They mix a number of movements from the aforementioned barbell, to bodyweight movements like pull ups and push ups, to cardio movements like rowing and running. Their system is based on a system of constantly varied, high-intensity workouts.

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Their classes vary in size and quality from gym to gym. Since these are affiliates, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get. Usually, class sizes are anywhere from 5 people, to I’ve heard as many as 50 at larger gyms in major cities. With the astronomical growth, they’ve had it’s also a mixed bag when it comes to coaching.

CrossFit can help you build muscle and/or lose fat depending on what your fitness goals are.

If you want to feel like an athlete and try something new, you’ll get a lot of that by starting CrossFit. Most people I know get great results when they first begin CrossFit if they dedicate themselves and pursue a healthy diet.

One of the pitfalls of their system that I hear time and again, is that you can feel a little left behind in the classes as the focus is usually on the athlete, but if you’re okay with that, this could be a good option.

Is this gym for me?

Want to add some muscle and try Olympic weightlifting? If so, this could be a good option for you.

Price Range:

$125 – $300

Iron Tribe Fitness

So, a quick disclaimer, obviously, Iron Tribe is the brand I work for, but I will be as straightforward with what we do as I have with these other fitness companies — not pulling any punches and give you my honest evaluation. Trust me, we’re not perfect, nor do we claim to be for everyone.

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You can read a little about our history here.

Iron Tribe class sizes are limited to 20 people who are scheduled ahead of time through our fitness smartphone app with 2 full-time coaches in every class. So, for a full class, the ratio is 1 coach to 10 clients. Our coaches are also graded upon meeting with members a minimum of every 90 days to evaluate your goals and how they can help guide you, adding that personal touch. One place we truly standout, is by providing nutrition education through our Fuel Manual when you first start our month-long on-ramp — the Iron Tribe 101 — to resources and weight-loss challenges throughout your membership.

The goal is to be progressive and sustainable, and keep you safe so you get better over time and stay healthy.

Our system is similar to CrossFit in the style of movements that you see, but we’ve limited them to what we feel is safe to the masses. Every class also has scaling options built into the workout so you don’t go in and compete with the top athletes. You follow the workout listed at your level of fitness. The goal is to be progressive and sustainable, and keep you safe so you get better over time and stay healthy. Classes are 45 minutes long consisting of a warm up, workout and cool down, which is great for the busy professional (now, I’m sounding like a true ad man).

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So, what’s the rub with Iron Tribe?

First off, our locations are still limited. We currently are at 40 and growing, but if you travel a lot, depending on the city you’re in, you might be hard pressed to find one. We’re also not the most inexpensive fitness brand out there, so it takes a commitment financially, but that’s how much we believe in the service and results we provide to our members.

Is this gym for me?

We could be. If you want to challenge yourself, commit to working hard and allowing our coaches to help guide you through your fitness journey to meet your goals.

Price Range:

$230 – $300

My hope is that no matter what you decide, you just make the decision and go for it! I want that for anyone who’s reading this and not currently receiving the benefits of fitness. You’ll feel better, look better and be healthier all by taking a step in the right direction.

Kyle Sottung

Kyle brings extensive fitness knowledge to the Iron Tribe Fitness brand. After he was recruited to Iron Tribe in 2013, he began implementing his comprehensive understanding and diverse experience in the field of strength and conditioning to radically improve the Iron Tribe Fitness program. Kyle continuously works to develop and improve the Iron Tribe Fitness program through innovative product development and ongoing coach development.