How to pick the best gym in your city

Gyms aren’t like McDonald’s, where a Big Mac tastes almost the same in Seattle and New York as it does in London or Beijing. Gyms aren’t created equal, meaning the products, services and coaching they offer vary from state to state, city to city, and box to box.

So how do you know how to find a good gym?

Here are 7 things to look for when selecting the right gym:


  1. “What is your fundamentals program?”

One of the biggest differences between gyms is how they bring new athletes into their community. Some throw you right into group classes on Day 1, others put you through two or three group OnRamp sessions and then release you to classes, and others still require you to go through one-on-one personal training before they graduate you to the group atmosphere.

When it comes to fundamentals programs—unless you have had a lot of experience in the sport of gymnastics AND Olympic weightlifting—the MORE one-on-one attention you get before group classes, the better! If you find a gym that makes you do 15 personal training sessions with the same coach, you know you’re going to be taken care of and kept injury-free. Yes it’s more expensive, but it’s your health and you’re worth the investment.

On the other side of the fence, if a gym lets you do a free class with other experienced athletes on your first day, steer clear and keep shopping around!


  1. Personal Coach

Lifting weights, gymnastics, rowing etc…is technical, and your strengths and weaknesses are personal to you. Select a gym that teams you up with a personal coach, someone consistently in your corner, who can get to know your specific limitations and work with you for years on improving your health and fitness. A relationship with a personal coach will make all the difference in your long-term development.


  1. Coach Retention

Ask around. How long have the gym’s coaches been around? If every coach is in his first year there, chances are the gym’s coach retention isn’t great (unless the gym just opened). Gyms with high coach retention are doing something right (not to mention, you’ll get more experienced advice). If the gym has five coaches who have been there for 5-plus years, you’re in the right place.


  1. Cleanliness

Lots of fitness facilities look rough around the edges. BUT, bathrooms and floors, for example, should be clean. If the gym is sloppy and careless with cleaning bathrooms and floors then chances are this sloppiness extends to the rest of the business.


  1. Other Services

If the only service the gym offers is “group classes,” move along. Find a gym that offers a broad range of services to meet everyone’s needs, such as personal training, nutrition counselling, individual programming, and other classes, such as weightlifting, mobility, or gymnastics classes.


  1. Demographics

This one is specific to you, but some gyms cater to older folks, while others pride themselves on being competitive in the CrossFit scene, for example. Find out what the average age is of the people at the gym, and choose one where you think you’ll be fit in and feel comfortable. After all, it’s the people who are going to keep you around the gym for years, so choose a place where you think you’ll be able to forge strong connections.


  1. Coach Education

Don’t assume the coaches are educated. Ask, ask, ask about their credentials. Do they have a weekend certification and nothing else, or are they into continued education to constantly improve their knowledge?

On a similar note, ask about the programming. What are the principles behind the training program you’ll be following? You’re there to see results, so you might as well select a gym whose programming has some thought, and some science, behind it.

There are tons of good gyms out there, but you might as well select the best one for your needs and goals so take the time to search around, and be willing to spend a little more money to become as healthy and fit as youve always dreamed of.


Bacon 101: All bacon is not created equal

So many fit-looking people running around your gym who eat bacon, right? Like, every morning for breakfast, they say!

These same people might have even tried to tell you that bacon is healthy. After all, pork is Paleo, and therefore healthy, right? And animal fat is good, and fat doesn’t make you fat…

But bacon? Healthy? Hard to wrap your head around the first time you heard it, and your first instinct was probably to become skeptical of this assertion.

The truth is, bacon isn’t a health food, per se. That doesn’t mean you cant eat it. It just means you probably shouldn’t have 12 strips of bacon a day and it’s important to take the time to source the healthiest bacon you can find.

Let’s start at your local grocery store: Chances are, these mass-produced vacuum-packed bacon packages for $4.99 a pound aren’t your best bet. More often than not, grocery store bacon has been produced from big factory-farmed pigs and is full of artificial ingredients and preservatives, sometimes even pumped with sugar or corn syrup. To be sure, check out the ingredients list and if there are ingredients you can’t pronounce, avoid this bacon!

Traditional bacon is best. It starts with pork belly. Then salt and spices are added, and then curing salt. Other times, it is smoked. It should only have three ingredients: Pork, water, salt. And it’s ideally it’s from pasture-raised pigs. Locally-sourced from a butcher is best. Yes, you will spend more money but it’s worth it and usually tastes better, too.

Of if you’re a super keener, check out Robb Wolf’s recipe for making homemade bacon here: I haven’t tried it, but apparently it’s the best tasting bacon you’ll ever eat!

What about nitrates and nitrites?

Nitrates have a bad reputation, but…. the verdict is still out on this one!

First of all, what are nitrates?

Nitrates are chemical compounds in foods, and are also contained in some salts.

The reason for their bad reputation is because nitrates are known carcinogens. Or at least when we digest nitrates, micro-organisms in our food and our digestive systems convert nitrates into nitrites, and it’s the nitrites that are cancer-causing.

But the truth is, we consume nitrates every day, not just in cured meat, but in our vegetables. (Although vegetables have nitrates in them, they also have antioxidants that help prevent nitrates from being converted into nitrites when we eat them. This is also why the USDA requires bacon producers to add antioxidants like Vitamin C and E to the bacon—to inhibit the conversion of nitrates into nitrites).

Back to bacon: Apparently even when bacon says it’s nitrate-free, there can still be nitrates present. It likely just means no additional nitrates have been added, but nitrates are still there regardless of the label.

Before you start fearing inevitable nitrates too much, take not: It takes a LOT of sodium nitrate for it to be harmful to your health. Like you’d need to eat 18 lb. of bacon at once to be harmed! Unlikely for most people, I would say.

So when it comes to nitrates and nitrates, you decide. If you’re interested in reading more before you make your decision, check out these two websites:

Bacon in moderation and eggs anyone?