The gymnasium has been around for millennia. From the ancient Greeks to Mr. Universe contestants, the gym has always been the place where fitness enthusiasts go to socialize, philosophize, and get totally jacked. These days people join gyms for all sorts of different reasons. Some of us are looking to pump our muscles to the extremes of their genetic limits, others want to lose a few pounds, and some of us enjoy the mental benefits of working out. With the fitness industry growing more than ever before, there are plenty of different gyms to choose from. Here are some of the best national and international gyms.
9) Anytime Fitness
Anytime Fitness has locations in nineteen countries, with 2400 locations. It’s open 24 hours every single day and if you’re a member at one, you’re a member at them all so it’s great for travelers who don’t want to neglect their workout routine for a vacation or business trip.
8) Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness advertises itself as “a Judgement Free Zone where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built”. The testimonials and reviews from members of Planet Fitness tell of a friendly, welcoming place that’s great for newcomers and people who are nervous about joining a gym. But Planet Fitness has also been the source of some controversy, with its lack of free weights and its “lunk alarm” – a siren that goes off when lifters grunt too hard or drop weights too heavily. Planet Fitness has rules against this kind of behaviour because they say it’s intimidating to other members, while body builders argue that grunting and weight dropping are unavoidable when pushing it to the limit. So try Planet Fitness if you’re new to working out, but steer clear of it if you need to make a little noise while you pump.
7) Gold’s Gym
If you’re a proud lunky lifter who scoffed at that last entry on Planet Fitness, then Gold’s Gym is the place for you. This is the gym made famous by the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno trained in preparation for the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia competitions. You can grunt as much as you want at Gold’s and not set off any alarms. Weights are still the Gold’s staple, but they’ve also expanded since the days of the Terminator and the Hulk, and now offer an extensive cardio section, Pilates, and even zumba classes.
6) Modo Yoga (Moksha Yoga)
This one is not technically a gym, but hot yoga offers one of the most satisfying stretching experiences you can get, as well as a surprisingly intense muscular workout at higher levels. And Modo Yoga (Moksha Yoga in Canada) is one of the best studios around. Doing yoga in a heated environment helps relax the muscles for a safer and stretchier session while at the same time offering all the benefits of a sauna. Moksha’s instructors all graduate from an intense training program and offer detailed instruction to make sure you get the most out of your poses. The buildings are designed and decorated with peace and calm in mind so that you start to get into that peaceful groove the moment you enter the lobby. They also offer online class registration with no weekly or monthly commitments. Just check the schedule and register for each individual class you want to attend. Easy. Peaceful. Namaste.
Equinox is a luxury gym so it’s pricier than most on this list. It’s also not as widespread as other gyms but if you live in a large city in North America, chances are there is an Equinox for you. In addition to the standard gym amenities, Equinox offers a dry sauna, spa, lots of classes, and personal trainers.
4) L.A. Fitness
If you ask the internet, L.A. Fitness is definitely the most popular gym in America, with some locations in Canada as well. Reviewers love it for its value and all-inclusive pricing as well as the abundance of available machines. L.A. Fitness grew out of the aerobic craze of the 80s and never dropped their focus on classes, offering lots of classes daily spanning a variety of fitness models.
3) Snap Fitness
This one is another 24 hour gym. Snap offers convenient, anytime carded entry but no overnight staff. They will let you bring a friend on an incredibly inexpensive guest pass if you come during staffed hours. Some of the locations can be a bit small so they feel crowded at peak hours, but with plenty of locations worldwide this is another great choice for travelers.
2) Crunch Fitness
Like Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness’ mission statement is all about inclusively and being judgement-free. But there doesn’t seem to be any controversy over Crunch, just an enthusiastic commitment to fitness for people of all stripes. They have locations in many states throughout the U.S. but haven’t branched internationally yet.
1) The YM/YWCA
Rounding off our list is the good old Y. Chances are there is one in your city or town. What started as an organization intent on building community and providing recreation to poor areas in the socially crippling days of the industrial revolution has now become one of the most recognizable gyms in the world. And although it still maintains ties to its Christian roots, the gym aspect of the YMCA is at this point, purely secular. So you don’t have to stay away if you number among the faithless. The amenities at each Y differ from location to location, but most offer more than just a gym, sporting pools, racetracks, saunas, machines, and classes all for a fraction of what you would expect to pay at any other place on this list. The YMCA continues to pay homage to its founding beliefs of strengthening community by offering discounts for seniors, students, and people with low incomes.
These are some of the gyms that are available nationwide and internationally, but if you’re looking for a gym, remember to check out your local scene as well. Small time operations can provide a customer relationship that you just can’t get from a big chain. Gold’s started as a small operation, and it was good enough for Conan himself! You never know what gem of a gym you may find digging around your own back yard. Whatever gym you choose, here’s hoping it takes you to your fitness goals!