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I have been going to gyms since college; I’ve been a member of Buffalo Athletic Club, several Gold’s Gym locations, LA Fitness and currently Washington Sports Club. I switched to WSC almost 5 years ago after about a year with LA Fitness because even though WSC was more money, they offered a better atmosphere.

What makes a good gym atmosphere? People (members and employees), class offerings, equipment quality and availability, and amenities.  I’ve always enjoyed WSC and have gladly paid a monthly fee twice as much as LAF because they were successful in each of those areas.  The people that work there are great. They have lots of free class offerings. It’s not so crowded that you can’t get the cardio machine of your choice. The weight room was always organized. There is a pool and sauna. The locker rooms are clean and never smell. They have a playroom for me to bring the toddler while I workout.

Lately, I’ve noticed things changing. The person in the childcare room is never on time, so my hour of time to workout is cutdown by however late she is getting in. The weight room has been dismantled with equipment laying everywhere and no one is removing their heavy weights from the barbells. Today a cycle instructor didn’t show and no one that worked there had any idea what was going on. Also today I noticed signs for $19.99 a month memberships, and they were handing out the towels from behind the front desk instead of being open to anyone in the locker room area.  I asked around and it seems the club is changing its membership options so there are basic and premium memberships.

After speaking with someone about the membership changes, it is apparent that the WSC and other My Sports Club locations are attempting to get more traffic in their gyms. The issue I have is my premium membership perks aren’t really worth the $40 price difference.  I’ve been told the premium members will receive free towel service, the ability to freeze their membership, free guest pass anytime and the ability to reserve a spot in the group classes. The only real value to me in that list is the class reservation, but as a long time member I am painfully aware that no one is enforcing it and people that register for a class often don’t get in because its full.

I may switch to the $19.99 membership, but I’m still frustrated. I don’t mind paying more to belong to a gym with members that see the value in their monthly payments and treat the facilities and equipment accordingly. I like that when I go in I can always get on an elliptical or have a barbell and bench available to use. In doing a quick search it appears there aren’t a lot of higher quality gym options available in my area. I can do a 20 minute drive and be a member of Lifetime Fitness, which I have heard amazing things about. I just need to be realistic in the difference of a 5 minute drive vs a 20 minute drive and the effect it will have on my attendance.

For now I’ll remain a member and see how this change effects the club. I am already preparing myself for the influx of resolution gym goers that happens every January (who all disappear by the end of the month), so this should be interesting.