Chicago has a unique and diverse population so it’s no surprise the city’s health clubs reflect this. A health club should be your oasis, a place you can get away from life’s day-to-day hustle. Whether you need to unwind, get a good sweat in or feel pampered, Chicago has wide variety of options to fit your needs.
Looking for a resort within the city? Chicago has plenty of options for you. Health clubs built to cater thousands of people and make them all feel welcome are nothing new. In the River North neighborhood, East Bank Club opened their doors back in 1980 with 3,000 members. Today, the club is home to over 10,000 members and employs over 600 people.
“My family has been going to this club since 8 years ago and it’s truly the best/ top notch gym ever! They have hundreds of free / low cost exercise programs for all ages from 0 to 100. When you think about all these benefits, around $400 monthly fee for whole family is worth every penny. There are too many good things to mention, so I recommend to check out their website or have a tour. BEST Gym/Club for families or everybody.” – Amanda Wilson, member of East Bank Club
If you show up to a health club like East Bank or the newly remodeled Midtown Athletic Club in the Bucktown area, you will have no shortage of options. Personal training, massage therapy, yoga, swimming, spin classes, basketball, tennis and even children’s programs are just a few of the options you can find in these facilities.
The size of these health clubs stand out to you immediately. Take the Lakeshore Sport and Fitness facility for example. The club occupies over 3.5 acres of land offering over 185,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor sport and fitness space.
The larger health clubs aren’t for everyone. Some people want a more intimate environment where they can get a good workout in and feel comfortable seeing the same friendly and helpful faces each day.
Take Fit Pro West in Chicago’s West Loop for example. Experience, and a client oriented atmosphere are the primary focus for this boutique style personal training facility. The equipment is state of the art, the locker rooms are tidy and the staff is knowledgeable and knows your name. The owner of the gym is often visible on the training floor and will never hesitate to say hello or give you a helping hand.
“I joined FitPro West when I worked a couple of blocks away and continue to come even after changing jobs and having to travel a greater distance. The staff is friendly and helpful when you need it. I have taken classes led by great instructors and have been introduced to a lot of different exercises as well as equipment. The personal trainers that I have worked with have taught me the value of strength training – something I never really did before at other gyms. I mostly did cardio. Now I can’t imagine not weight training and I feel far more confident reaching for weights on my own. The gym is extremely clean, the equipment is modern, and towels are provided. It’s never overcrowded and it’s just a really great place to workout.” – Ardena Hoffman, client at Fit Pro West
Keeping with the smaller theme are gyms like River North Gym, On Your Mark and Wattage. What you have in these health clubs along with Fit Pro West are gyms who really want to go out of their way to make sure each individual client is satisfied and happy with their experience.
In between a smaller health club like On Your Mark and a larger one like East Bank Club are places like FFC, Equinox and Xsport. These are all big chain facilities you can find near every neighborhood in Chicago. They are backed by large staffs ready to help you, a wide variety of amenities like basketball courts, swimming pools, child day care and sauna/steam rooms. It’s also not out of the ordinary to use your membership in any of the facilities they have in the Chicago area. The convenience factor really becomes a plus for the members of these health clubs.
“I’ve been in this gym for 6 months now. And I can say this with confidence; money well spent . Perfect exercise , amazing workout machines , lively vibes, great PTs , outdoor and indoor pool .
I love going to workout there . I would say it redefines what exercise means to me now . Worth the 5 stars , would give more if I could.” – Yazan Abu Omar, member of FFC West Loop
With all of these options, you start to wonder how do you decide what health club is right for me? Add the above clubs to a list that also includes the Chicago Athletic Clubs group and it’s easy to see how one can get overwhelmed.
First you have to decide what your fitness goals are. It’s important you are honest with yourself when it comes to what you are looking for, how far are you willing to travel for your workout and what you are willing to spend for it.
From there, do your homework. Each health club will have an up to date website providing all the options they specialize in. Don’t seek out a facility who specializes in personal training if all you are looking for is a swimming pool or a treadmill.
From there, seek out the opinions of other people. Talk to your friends and colleagues and see where they go and what they like. Use reviews online to get an accurate depiction of each health club. Google reviews are great because they do not filter out like other review sites. A few examples have been included in this post for reference.
A health club is going to try and sell you on their facility and programming but what good is that if the customer service during your seeking out process isn’t good? Pay attention to little details when picking the right fit for you.
- Does the health club have a way on their website for you to contact them?
- Do they answer their phone in a timely and courteous manner?
- Can you send an email specifically stating what you are looking for?
- Do they offer day passes if you just want to try the gym?
- Can you set up a tour with a membership associate?
- Do they offer consultations or fitness assessments?
- Do they email you back with answers to your posted questions?
These are all easy customer service points every good health club hits on the head. If you aren’t happy with the answer to any of these questions then you may want to consider another gym option.
“5-year member. Excellent mix of equipment for any type of workout or class. Reasonable crowds, so you can always find space for the machine or routine you want. Continuous upgrades over the last 5 years. Most important — great staff, from the cleaning crew to the trainers and owner. Joyce, who helps keeps the gym clean, exemplifies the personal encouragement and motivation that makes RNG great.” – Jason Ruger, member of River North Gym
Walking into a health club for the first time can be a very scary experience. Even the most experienced fitness professionals feel this. It’s important the first person you greet at the health club makes you feel comfortable.
- Did the membership consultant greet you at the door?
- Did he/she sit down with you?
- Did you talk about your specific fitness goals?
- Based on what you told the membership consultant, was an exact plan offered to you?
- Did you get a tour of the facility?
- Did the membership consultant tell you about the prices?
- Did the membership consultant ask you to join their health club?
These are all important questions. When you walk into the health club for the first time, you should feel welcomed and comfortable. From there, a person should sit down with you away from the action. A gym is often very busy and it’s difficult to talk about your goals while you are overly stimulated by the action on the floor.
The questions asked should be about fitness but also your lifestyle. This is a life changing commitment and your new health club should reflect a lot of the positive in your life. From there, a real plan should be offered to you.
“We talked about you having back pain largely from sitting most of the day at your desk job and past sports you were involved in. You said you were looking for a personal trainer to help you ease the back pain and get you motivated again. You said you need to do early mornings and would like to train twice a week. Based on what you told me, I have this personal training membership plan I can offer you. I have a trainer available to help you reach your goals and he/she can start with you this week. Would you like to set this up today?”
This should be the conversation one would expect when speaking to a membership ambassador about starting any fitness regimen. Joining a health club shouldn’t feel like buying a used car. If it does, then you likely aren’t in the right place and won’t be satisfied long term.
Visit the the facility you are considering joining and observe if the place checks all of your boxes. Below are some questions to ask yourself while using your guest pass.
- Do the locker rooms meet your standard ?
- Is the gym floor clean?
- Is all of the equipment in working order ?
- Are you happy with the fitness equipment selection?
- Is the staff friendly and helpful when you ask a question ?
- Is the staff certified?
- Do they offer parking?
- Is the environment set up for you to succeed?
If you feel good about it all then make your decision and be a part of the health club in Chicago you choose.
It doesn’t end once you become a member. Number one you have to show up and but in the effort or else you are just wasting your money. Number two, make sure to set goals and challenge yourself consistently. Always keeping asking all of the above questions and never hesitate to reach out if you are not happy.
Ask your health club about nutrition coaching, referral programs and fitness contest that test to if you have met your goals and inquire about any planned facility upgrades.
“My favorite gym in the city. Sure, it’s not as plush as an Equinox, but the size, staff, and classes make up for it. They still have a sauna and steam room, so I’m happy. The instructors appear to really love what they do, and stay on top of current (reputable) fitness trends. Evenings between 5-7 are pretty crowded like anywhere else, but after 7:30pm the place dies down.
It is easy to feel at home, therefore easier to look forward to my workout!” – Stephanie Fravel, member of West Loop Athletic Club
Chicago has a reputation for being a unique culinary city. From deep dish pizza, to Italian beef sandwiches or even Chicago mix popcorn, we know how to have fun eating. We also know how to have fun working out and staying healthy.
Health club and gym options in Chicago have grown immensely over the years. The city is on the forefront of being one of the most active metropolitans in the Midwest and our fitness options are a reflection of this. The boutique health clubs provide a great personal experience, the mid-range health clubs offer convenience and your large health clubs offer more amenities than you can even name.
Check them all out, have fun researching them and be honest with yourself when it comes to choosing the right health club. Fitness should be fun and you should never feel like you are wasting your time or money. Health is all about personal happiness and you should be able to achieve that in Chicago.
By Ross Read, FitPro West trainer.