Surprising Secrets Your Gym Doesn't Want You to Know

Ah, the gym. A hub teaming with sweaty, smelly people all trying to achieve their fitness goals. But a gym is so much more than that. In fact, there are a lot of things about joining a gym you may not be aware of because fitness establishments try to keep members in the dark. Here are 15 surprising secrets your gym doesn’t want you to know. (Page 9 may shock you, but it makes a lot of sense.)

1. A free trial isn’t really free

Think you’re getting a great deal by taking advantage of a free week trial at a new gym? Think again. “Gyms are counting on you becoming a full-fledged member,” health and wellness expert Caleb Backe tells Reader’s Digest. “But if you buck the odds, they have your information and unless you make a concerted effort they will harass you to the ends of the earth.”

2. You should be insisting on getting that initiation fee waived

According to, getting that pricey initiation fee waived is as simple as, well, asking. “It’s just to make money, and you can usually have it waived; it’s often a kickback to the trainer or sales rep,” fitness trainer Tom Holland tells the site.

3. It’s better to get a membership in the summer points out that only 6% of new gym memberships come through in the summer, while everyone jumps on the fitness bandwagon in the middle of winter because of their New Year’s resolutions. You’re more likely to score a membership deal in July than you are in December.

4. A monthly membership isn’t as great as you think

If you barely make it to the gym once a week, you could be wasting money by having a monthly membership, says. Unless you have a regular gym routine where a month-to-month membership will come in handy, inquire about a pay-as-you-go type of plan.

5. You really do have to read the fine print

Holland tells readers “it’s usually easier to get out of a bad relationship than to cancel a gym membership.” To prevent this from happening to you, make sure you read all the fine print regarding cancellations and fees very carefully before you join any gym.

Next: While we’re on the subject of signing up …

6. Nearly every gym over enrolls

Yeesh, no wonder you have to wait in line for the elliptical every day! Reader’s Digest says gyms purposely over enroll since so many members use their memberships rarely or not at all. (Yet another way gyms can keep money rolling in even if you aren’t using them.)

7. Many promotions are bogus

Wait, a $10 a month promotion is a good deal, right? “Except there’s usually a registration fee and an annual fee on top of the monthly fee,” Reader’s Digest points out. “So if you’re paying a $120 annual fee, and a monthly fee of $10, then you’re really paying $20 a month. And, they’ll continue to bill you!”

8. The equipment doesn’t have kept up to snuff

Gyms can keep the retro equipment they have for as long as they want as long as there’s a company handyman to keep everything running. When there are fancy new machines, they’re really just there to sucker people into signing up for memberships, says.

9. Your gym doesn’t actually want you to be there

“When you go to the gym, you cost that gym money,” tells us. “Money because they need to staff the gym, money because using the equipment wears it out over time, money for towel service and hot water and rent. From the gym’s perspective, they make more money when you don’t go. The best gym member — according to a gym — pays on time every month (or even better, pays up front for a whole year) and never comes in.”

10. Your gym doesn’t care if your belongings get stolen

As reminds us, there are professional thieves who get one-day gym passes for the sole purpose of breaking into lockers. What’s worse is that gyms tend to not take responsibility for this behavior. You’re better off leaving your belongings locked in the trunk of your car or leaving them at home.

11. Drinking from the fountain is a health hazard

Like most parts of a gym, the water fountain is teaming with germs. In fact, there are more bacteria on a drinking fountain than there is in a dog’s water bowl. Do yourself a favor and bring your own water to the gym.

12. The yoga mats are filthy

Communal yoga mats are wiped down about as often as the workout machines are — and that’s not saying much. One New York Times article points out using these mats barefoot exposed you to all sorts of bacteria and can lead to plantar warts and athlete’s foot.

13. Many of the weight machines are useless

As The Cheat Sheet found out a couple years back, many of the machines at the gym are so useless even the personal trainers can’t stand them. You’re better off using free weights and getting assistance from a trainer than messing with the machines at the gym.

14. If you’re a major germaphobe …

… stay the heck out of the showers in the gym locker room! ”
“The sweaty, humid locker room is the perfect petri dish for nasty buggers such as staph, strep, and MRSA,” Philip Tierno Jr., Ph.D., tells Fitness Magazine. To make things worse, “the gym shower stall is riddled with fungi and organisms that can cause infections, like athlete’s foot, ringworm, and warts.”

15. You really can cancel your membership

As we said before, getting out of a gym membership is a pain in the behind. But it is still doable. Certified trainer James Shapiro tells Reader’s Digest “membership managers, sales managers, and assistant sales managers all have the power to nullify and cancel a contract.” It’s worth putting in the effort so a gym you don’t go to anymore doesn’t keep trying to take your money.

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