Parents have unique requirements when it comes to gym memberships. When you’re busy, time poor and sleep deprived it’s too easy to take the path of least resistance when it comes to getting exercise and getting to the gym – especially if your gym membership isn’t really suited to parents in the first place.
Here are our 5 top tips for choosing a gym membership that doesn’t make you feel guilty and actually gets used.
Choosing a gym you’ll enjoy
Enjoyment is one of the most important factors when it comes to sticking with exercise for the long term. No matter how good it is for you, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re going to ditch your exercise pronto the next time your child is teething and you’re tired and stressed – ironically the very times when exercise can help you cope better with the demands of parenting.
Think about the type of exercise you enjoy best and choose a gym membership that offers classes, programs and trainers that cover these. If you’re an adrenalin junkie and love to push your body hard then you’re probably going to love a Crossfit gym rather than one with an extensive yoga or Pilates timetable. If you’re a water baby then a gym with a good pool is what you’ll need. Steam room or sauna to detox and wind down after a hard training session? Are you motivated by the latest and greatest equipment, gizmos and gadgets or are you more old school and just want the basics?
Location, location, location
Once you’ve decided on the type of gym to join, the next most important thing is location. There’s no point taking out a gym membership and having to drive 45 minutes out of your way there and back, no matter how perfect their Pilates program is.
Choose a gym that’s close or on the way to either home or work, or, somewhere that you go to on a regular basis such as near the local shopping centre, library, day care or school.
Family friendly gym membership
How family friendly is the gym or fitness centre? Are they open early and late so you can exercise while the kids are still asleep. Are the classes or programs that are tempting you to take out a gym membership run at times that don’t clash with family schedules? Do they have an onsite crèche so you’re not having to organise babysitters or drop the kids off with family every time you want to exercise?
Testing the waters
No matter how wonderful the fitness centre seems and how much of a great deal you’ll get signing up to a long term gym membership, it’s always a good idea to see whether they’ll offer a short term contract to allow you to test the waters before making a long term commitment. It’s also worthwhile asking whether you can pause or put your membership on hold for a specified period in case life throws you an unexpected curly one that makes it extra challenging or impossible to get to the gym – such as having a new baby, an injury or a chronically sick child or partner.
Programs and trainers suitable for every stage of parenthood
Incorrect and inappropriate exercise can lead to problems during and after pregnancy. It can take up to 12 months after a having a baby for the ligament loosening effects of the pregnancy hormone relaxin to leave your body, leaving you open to injury due to unstable and unsupported joints. Too many crunches, sit ups, planks and side twists during and after pregnancy can actually have the opposite effect and lead to a bulging and protruding rather than flatter tummy.
Before signing up to a gym membership, check whether they have trainers and programs that specialise in pregnancy and postpartum exercise. Pregnancy doesn’t just affect ligaments and abdominal muscles it can also mess with your mind and body image issues are common and not well talked about after pregnancy. Check whether the gym and trainers are sensitive and experienced working with ALL the unique changes that you may experience throughout every stage of parenthood. It can be helpful to ask to have a quick chat with one of the trainers to get a feel for just how experienced they are working with pregnant woman and new mums.
There is absolutely no reason that the busy reality of parenthood means you need to miss out on all the amazing benefits of regular exercise. By choosing a family friendly gym membership that you’ll use, you’re a step closer to realising how the physical and mental benefits of exercise can actually make coping with the relentless demands of parenting easier and more enjoyable.
Don’t want to invest in a gym membership? Check out how to get fit without one.