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3 Lifestyle Changes That Helped One Woman Lose The Freshman 15 (And More)

3 Lifestyle Changes That Helped One Woman Lose The Freshman 15 (And More)

Courtesy of Lauren Haden; Graphic by Dana Davenport

The “Freshman 15″ weight gain can be a real struggle for a lot of us, and it’s one that can really mess with confidence levels, both during college and after the graduation caps have been tossed. It’s easy (and fun!) to give in to unlimited dining hall portions, free pizza, late-night study snacks, and all that alcohol. While losing the extra pounds isn’t always a priority, for Lauren Haden, a 22-year-old marketing coordinator from San Francisco, it was a major part of finally feeling her best—inside and out. 

“When I arrived at college at age 18, I weighed 190 pounds,” says Haden. “I have never been truly physically fit, but in my first two years of college, I really let myself go.” Haden, who is 5’8″ explains, that whatever healthy eating habits she had at home were put on hold when she first moved to college. “I stopped caring what I was putting into my body, and portion sizes weren’t on my radar. Combined with a constant sadness about being away from home, I used food as a crutch.” And while she exercised occasionally, “I didn’t feel super comfortable in my body, which also kept me from feeling confident at the gym.”

By her sophomore year of college, Haden weighed 209 pounds. “I was shocked, but that didn’t even motivate me to make a change,” says Haden. “I felt very self conscious about my weight. It was something I have always dealt with, but gaining so much in college made the task of losing feel almost impossible.”

However, after losing about 10 pounds her junior year due to a busy schedule that left her little time to eat, Haden noticed that she felt better and decided to make a real, lasting change her senior year (that didn’t involve accidentally skipping meals). “I was working through some intense personal issues, and I decided I wanted to spend my last year focusing on self-care, which was a huge breakthrough. I left my job and chose not to get too involved with campus activities. I don’t know what clicked in my head, but I recognized the extra time I had in my schedule could be used in a really productive way.”

By the time she graduated at age 21, Haden had lost about 36 pounds. She has kept it off for over a year, and now says she is more confident than ever. Here are three lifestyle changes she made to get there.

1. She found a way to enjoy working out.

Even though she knew diet was important too, “I felt like focusing on exercise [first] would help clear my mind of negative thoughts and give me an outlet to love myself,” says Haden. She started just by tracking her activity with a Fitbit Flex. “I fell in love at first sync. I loved the encouragement it gave me throughout the day to just keep moving. Many of my sorority sisters bought ones, and soon we were hosting friendly competitions through the app!”

One of the best investments Haden says she made, though, was signing up for sessions with a personal trainer. “She evaluated what I wanted to get out of our sessions (my goals were strength, toning, and a healthier body image), and created workouts tailored just for me. I immediately started seeing improvement in my body composition and overall energy levels.” Being committed to something also opened her up to other healthy habits. “As soon as I committed to personal training, my mentality around food and exercise started changing.” Keeping track of her progress also helped her stay motivated. “I loved when I started being able to move up to heavier weights during training sessions.”

She also found that exercising with friends made her look forward to working out even more. “My sorority sisters, also motivated to improve their health, joined in and we had a group of six or seven of us who would religiously meet for classes [at the university’s gym]. What I love about group exercise is that it pushes you to keep working!”

2. She focused on making conscious choices about what she ate.

Haden didn’t count calories or macros, but she did set up some guidelines that helped keep her on track. “In general, my rule of thumb was to eat a healthy and filling breakfast every morning, followed by a protein-packed lunch, pack a snack just in case, and use dinner as an opportunity to eat something I didn’t get enough of that day!” For breakfast, that often meant a smoothie or Greek yogurt with berries and granola, and lunch was often a salad with lots of veggies, black beans, feta cheese, and a hardboiled egg or grilled chicken. Dinner was often roasted veggies with chicken or soup, and if she went to a restaurant she kept tabs on portion sizes. “I made sure to listen to my stomach and really savor what was I eating. If I felt full, I stopped.” She stopped keeping snack foods in her apartment, too, and noshed on veggies instead. “What I realized is that if you stop keeping processed foods in your home, you stop craving them, too!”

Listening to her body was key. “If I woke up and wasn’t super hungry for breakfast, I wouldn’t make a full meal but would take a banana or protein bar with me to class. I made sure I ate something every single meal, but it changed my perspective on portions and what I truly needed to feel satisfied.” And she made sure to drink lots of water, so she wasn’t confusing hunger with thirst.

3. Finally, she realized the importance of healthy relationships—with others and herself.

“I started putting my energy into relationships that mattered and stopped focusing on the ones that weren’t blessing my life,” says Haden. “At first, I was nervous this meant I would be left with no friends. I found the opposite to be true—by putting more time into hanging out with people who would stick with me through hard times, I made even more new friends and felt freer than ever! My close friends were so supportive of me adopting a healthier perspective on life. My best friend from high school is a die-hard CrossFitter, and she would text me encouraging messages that kept me motivated.”

More importantly, she got to know herself even better. “I did more things alone, and became okay with that. I enjoyed the ritual of cooking at night, of reading before bed, of taking care of myself in every form possible! Weight loss, in a way, is a very selfish thing. But, I think adopting a healthy lifestyle brings out the best in people, which blesses all of your relationships—and your entire life.”

“I learned that loving yourself is possible! My focus on self-care and self-love during this process has played such an important part [in my life],” she shares. “I may still weigh more than I’d like to, but I am so proud that I can run a consistent 10-minute mile for four to five miles or kick ass at my SoulCycle class! Yes, I loved seeing toned shoulders appear and how my calves shaped up a little more, but practicing that combination of healthy and intuitive eating, exercising, and thinking has made all the difference.”

You may also like: 13 Incredible Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home


The post 3 Lifestyle Changes That Helped One Woman Lose The Freshman 15 (And More) appeared first on SELF.

Source: 3 Lifestyle Changes That Helped One Woman Lose The Freshman 15 (And More)

July 1, 20160 commentsRead More
8 Ways to Actually Unplug on Vacation

8 Ways to Actually Unplug on Vacation

After months of lamenting to your friends, coworkers and cats that, “Ugh, I need a vacation”but refusing to take one—you’ve finally given in and put in for a few much-needed PTO days. Hooray!

But if your first question is “Can I get WiFi?” you’re not alone. In a culture where we earn our vacation days yet don’t always take them, it can be difficult to let go, unplug and relax once we’re physically out of the office. But it’s so important.

“Taking time off allows us to physically, mentally and emotionally recharge, and allows us to gain perspective, which boosts our creativity when we return,” says Brandon Smith, also known as “The Workplace Therapist” and faculty member at Emory University’s Goizeuta Business School.

Here’s how to snap into vacation mode ASAP so you don’t waste half your trip trying to chill.

RELATEDHow to Get the Most Out of Your PTO

8 Ways to Make Your Vacation Time Totally Worth It

1. Stay within your budget. If a two-week European luxe vacation is out of the question, consider a long weekend or opt for a resort within driving distance. “Taking shorter breaks more frequently can be more beneficial than just taking one long break once every year or two,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist in California and author of the upcoming book The Stress-Proof Brain. You don’t want to return from your trip to a negative bank account balance, which will no doubt cause even more stress than what you had before you left.

2. Get yourself in order before you go. You’re not going to be able to chill and eat cake by the ocean if you’re thinking about that deadline you missed or the email you were supposed to send. “Try to work extra hard before you leave, and let people know you’ll be gone,” says Greenberg. Smith adds, “In addition to setting your out-of-office notifications, provide a person that can be reached in your absence.” (Just be sure to give that person a heads up.)

RELATED: 7 Fitness Retreats You Can Actually Afford

3. Remind yourself that, yes, you deserve a vacation. People tend to feel guilty for taking time away for themselves. But don’t! “Relaxation is something we often view as only appropriate for the weekends or vacation time,” says Lodro Rinzler, chief spiritual officer and co-founder of MNDFL in New York City. Rinzler reminds us that we need to take breaks during the week, too, and enjoy the things that make us feel relaxed and happy.

“For many of us, the fact that we’re physically and emotionally unable to relax during the week takes a toll on our bodies. We need to walk away from our work life for a bit in order to recharge and come back to full health.”

RELATED17 Positive Affirmations That’ll Change the Way You Think

4. Don’t worry about what you should be doing. In an Instagram and Snapchat-driven world, there’s this idea that you should either be super active, totally lazy or whatever other idea you have in your head about what a vacation should be. However you choose to spend your time off, make sure that it serves your interests.

“For some people, that’s being next to a pool. For others, it’s climbing a mountain,” Greenberg says. “Use your vacation to build healthy habits and spend time with people you love. Don’t use your time visiting relatives who stress you out or trying to run around catching up on household errands. Just focus on recovering from your everyday stress.”

RELATED: 5 Easy Tips for Healthy Travel

5. If a problem pops up while you’re away, redirect it. To put it lightly, stuff happens. “If you discover a burning fire during your vacation, don’t tackle it yourself,” says Smith. “Pass it on to others, and remind yourself that you’re on vacation.” Repeat after us: Vacation is not a dirty word!

6. Try meditating. Need help unplugging while on vacation? Do a quick 10-minute meditation to start your day. You can’t meditate while Snapchatting. “Meditation can help you work with whatever stressful situations come up in life,” says Rinzler. “It’s been scientifically proven to reduce stress, relax the body, normalize sleep, and boost the immune system.”

RELATEDCan the Right Mattress Change Your Life?

7. Set some connectivity ground rules—and abide by them! Whether you need to check on the kids or get back to a few clients, we can’t always escape the real world entirely. “Some of us have no choice but to monitor what’s happening at work or back home,” says Greenberg. “Try to keep this to a minimum and check email only once or twice a day.”

Other guidelines you can set for yourself: checking and answering email for only 30 minutes a day before logging off. Or, limiting Instagram scrolling to five minutes each day but maybe avoiding other apps. “If you want to post a photo of your perfect vacay, fine, but post it and walk away,” Rinzler says. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of going through every friend’s account.

RELATED: 7 Tips to Actually Succeed at Your Digital Detox

8. Ease back into reality. Try to schedule your flight back home on a Friday or Saturday, so you have time to readjust to real life. “Plan a re-entry day that serves as a buffer between your vacation and your first day back to work,” says Smith. “This day should be used to catch up on email and prepare for going back to work. This will relieve pressure to check your email while you’re gone.”

Ultimately, says Greenberg, “Some stress when coming back to work is unavoidable. Integrate healthy and pleasurable activities into your everyday life after vacation—and every day, ideally—so you’re not always reliant on vacation to de-stress.”

This article originally appeared on

Source: 8 Ways to Actually Unplug on Vacation

I Took A 6-Week Fitness Challenge And Here Are The Results

I Took A 6-Week Fitness Challenge And Here Are The Results


Courtesy Leslie Green

As a former college volleyball athlete, I’ve always been kind of a fitness junkie. My teammates had a running joke that I’d be the first to become a bodybuilder once college was over—because you know it’s really all about those gainz. Working out in college was basically my job, and I really enjoyed the feeling of working up a good sweat. After the ~glory days~ were over, staying in a routine of going to the gym wasn’t a problem for me. But in order to see the results I wanted, I knew I needed to stick with a consistent, structured training program. I just couldn’t get myself to do it alone.

Between moving across the country twice and having three different jobs, adhering to an actual program has been impossible. I’ve started (and not finished) Kayla Itsines‘ Bikini Body Guides about six different times. I think I made it to week seven (out of 12). Maybe. My previous training regimen for volleyball required 12 weeks of grueling workouts. I’m talking sprints, puke-worthy HIIT circuits, and heavy AF Olympic lifting. I did that every summer for four years. So why was sticking to a plan so damn hard now?

I’ve concocted every possible excuse: I’m a commitment-phobe. I’m too busy. The plans are too hard. I’m getting older. It wasn’t due to a lack of interest, it was a problem with the logistics. So when my SELF coworkers invited (ahem, challenged) me to participate in SELF’s 6 Weeks To Summer program I figured I’d give it a shot. I agreed to do the entire thing, but I was mentally preparing for the fact that I’d likely check out around week three or four.

The good news, I completed the ENTIRE program. Every strength workout, fitness class, and cardio session became a big check mark on my calendar. I wasn’t expecting a massive transformation or really anything radical at all. But I’ve noticed a lot of changes as a result from this challenge. Some are physical (hello teeny-weeny baby abs), some are emotional, but the most important takeaway for me has been mental. Here’s what I learned that helped me be successful in sticking with it.


Courtesy Leslie Green

I got my workouts in order BEFORE I started.

The most important thing you can do when it comes to fitness challenges is getting your life organized. With other challenges I had always written my workouts in a notebook that I took with me to the gym every day. Funny though, I never wrote the entire program. Maybe that’s why it didn’t stick—figuring out what I had to do and when I had to do it was a daily chore. All the materials for this challenge though were available online (aka they were written out for me). I could skim the entire program for an overview (this also helped me plan ahead). Being an athlete I like to know what the game plan is—both short and long term. I downloaded all the workout graphics on my phone so I would never have the excuse of “Meh. I don’t know what I have to do today.” I was also sent daily emails about what exactly I had to do that day as a little reminder to get it done! 

I made my workouts a priority.

I started to consider working out as an appointment with myself. Just like I’d never flake on an meeting for work or a lunch date with a friend, bailing on myself shouldn’t be an option either. In college, being late to a workout or practice was practically a sin. And not showing up…well I never figured out what the punishment for that would be. *Shudders.* My daily routine started to become a non-negotiable.

I also told everyone what I was doing. Once I told my co-workers, close friends and oh-so-personal Insta audience, I was pretty much committed. It’s kinda like liquid eyeliner: Once you start, you’ve gotta finish.


Courtesy Leslie Green

I learned to stop getting in my own way.

Everything we do, every decision we make in life is motivated by something. The hardest part is nailing down what that something really is. When it came to fitness challenges I had tried previously, my why was pretty shallow. I wanted Kayla Itsines’ abs, Katrina Scott’s arms, Tash Okaley’s booty, Emily Skye’s legs, you get it. I was really into looking a certain way, or even more unobtainable, looking like someone else. It’s totally fine to want those things, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things perfectly, see results quickly, and have a badass transformation pic.

Well that never happened. I’d get burnt out, frustrated, or just plain annoyed that I was working out all the time and didn’t have dem abs yet.

Compare that mindset to when I was training for volleyball, my why had nothing to do with how I looked. Training was about how my body could function. I wanted to jump higher, run faster, beat out my teammates, and ultimately beat myself. Nothing about that why was aesthetic.

Midway through this challenge I realized my why was no longer to look good for a summer vacation I booked, it was to prove that I could follow through on a commitment I made to myself. I didn’t burden myself with expectations. I let it all happen. I did my workouts day in and day out, because I knew I had to finish. I hate disappointing people, but why in the past had I been so comfortable disappointing myself?

Deep thought, right? But, it was a good question to ask myself because the answer was clear—I shouldn’t be. So I was going to step it up and be good to my body and my mind. For the first time, the challenge was less about making myself look different, and more about feeling proud of my hard work.

I held myself accountable—and so did my squad.

That shift didn’t make it easy though. It was still hard as hell to stick with it for six full weeks. Had I not committed to writing this article, or had I not told friends what I was doing, I may not have made it through. I usually don’t like telling people about working out because I don’t want to come off as that annoying fitness friend. Working out has always been my thing that I enjoyed doing for myself and didn’t feel the need to really include anyone else. 

When I didn’t feel like doing a workout or doubted whether it was really worth it, my co-workers pushed me to dig deep and stick with my why. This challenge was an incredibly important lesson in accountability and the power of including others in your goals. In classic social media editor fashion I loved looking at the #TeamSELF on Instagram. There’s a serious community working their asses off and it’s pretty much impossible not to be inspired.


Courtesy Leslie Green

My best advice would be to find your why.

Take some time to sit down and get prepared. Jumping into things without a why usually leaves you making excuses for why you don’t want to. Without a clear vision of why you want to do something you’ll often let other distractions get in your way.

The change in my why was extremely powerful for me. And, I think I’ll go back and try the other fitness programs again in the future because I can easily apply this mindset to those workouts.

You may be asking, “Why no before and after picture?” Well, that’s because I’m not into the physical comparison anymore. Everyone’s fitness journey is different and what this challenge did for my body will be completely different than what it does for yours. Ultimately I learned that fitness challenges are about so much more than just the physical. This was about holding myself accountable, adding variety to my gym time and stepping out of my comfort zone. Done and done.

You may also like: 13 Incredible Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home


The post I Took A 6-Week Fitness Challenge And Here Are The Results appeared first on SELF.

Source: I Took A 6-Week Fitness Challenge And Here Are The Results

I Went To A Rave At 7 A.M. And Here’s How It Went

I Went To A Rave At 7 A.M. And Here’s How It Went

Samantha DiBenedetto

I heard about Daybreaker thanks to a deep dive on Instagram. I can’t remember what hashtag I was scrolling through, but I stumbled upon a bunch of really awesome dance party photos. The timestamp on all of the images was well before 9 A.M., and I immediately wanted to be a part of this night-out-meets-morning-workout party. I reached out to a girlfriend who always seems to know what’s happening in New York City and a week later, I was a forwarded an email with the upcoming Daybreaker invite.

It’s not a party, it’s a “morning movement” the email read. “It is about dancing your face off before work and feeling gloriously healthy while doing so. It is about love, it is about mindfulness, and it is about mischief.” Sold.

First, you should know that these tickets sell out insanely fast.

Morning dance parties are a ~thing~, and when the invite went out for the most recent party my friends and I scrambled to get our act together immediately. The email replies from my friends flowed in faster than I could open them. The responses varied from, “Just bought my ticket,” to “Does anyone want to buy the group package?” and “Who should I Venmo?” I was ecstatic.

This party was all about love. LoveisLoveisLoveisLove! The event was being dubbed the very first Gaybreaker event, and a percentage of the ticket proceeds were being donated to families of the Orlando shooting victims through Equality Florida. (Tickets range between $18 to $37.) 

Daybreaker events vary, but this particular party started with a 6 A.M. yoga class, followed by a dance party that would end at 9 A.M.—and then most people will head to work or class, or maybe head back to sleep if they’ve taken the day off. The bar is stocked with juices and snacks, and the recommended attire is anything comfy. 

This is me being ridiculously energetic at 6 A.M.

Photo by Andrew Rauner, Courtesy of Daybreaker

You don’t even want to know what time I had to set my alarm to make it to the yoga class. (OK, it was 5 A.M.!) Pulling myself out of bed was not fun, but I reminded myself how much I had been looking forward to this. Life tip: Start using that mentality for anything I have to do before 7 A.M.

I chose to rock a rainbow-head-to-toe Fabletics outfit—partly because this is what Kate Hudson would wear, and partly because I felt really confident and fabulous in this outfit. I grabbed my yoga mat and ticket and headed out. I’m not usually a morning person so I don’t really know what New York City looks like before eight in the morning. Let me tell you, the streets were empty and I saw maybe 15 people during my trip to midtown. But it was kind of exciting knowing that I had a little secret—that I was off to a dance party at this extra-early hour.

Photo by Andrew Rauner, Courtesy of Daybreaker

Yoga was first, and the routine started with four sets of jumping jacks. I don’t know how long each interval was, but I was officially winded and I hadn’t even shown off my killer dance ~moves~ yet.

When I purchased my ticket I pictured that the morning yoga class would be all about easing into the day with a few Sun Salutations and maybe a Chair Pose—because you know, strength. But this was not the traditional or relaxing class I envisioned—we were full-on exercising, and I was there for it. With it being so early, I had only grabbed a protein bar on my way out the door, so at this point I was focusing more on my daydream about a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich than I was focusing on those jumping jacks.

After the jumping jacks, we did core exercises galore and were instructed to walk up and down our yoga mats like we were on the runway. Can you say VOGUE? After my personal yoga mat catwalk, it was burpee time. Why there were burpees happening this early in the morning I will never know. But I did them. Sort of. And while I did more burpees and push-ups than Warrior poses (I might have done downward dog twice), it was still a blast.

The disco ball dropped at 7 A.M. and it was mayhem—in the best way possible.

Photo by Andrew Rauner, Courtesy of Daybreaker

My friends enthusiastically purchased tickets to the party, but none of them were as excited about the morning workout as I was, so they met me at 7 A.M. when the dance party broke out. Daybreaker provided an amazing assortment of refreshments. I have never seen so many different kinds of water in my life: Vita Coco Water, Vita Coco Water with Pineapple, Vita Coco water with Peach and Mango, Essentia Water, WTRMLN Water (aka Watermelon Water), and Happy Tree Maple Water. There was also a protein shake and cold brew coffee (insert ALL of the praying hand emojis here).

The music and lighting made it feel like I was in da club, 50 Cent style. And there was just enough space so that everyone attending had enough room for their dancefloor moves. The fashion was like nothing I had anticipated. A handful of people showed up in what they were going to wear to work for the day, while others chose outfits that expressed their current vibes a little bit more literally. Notable mentions were tutus, neon onesies, white sneakers with bottoms that lit when people took a step (or dance move), and swimsuits. Yes, swimsuits.

There were moments at this morning rave where I questioned my current state of mind…was I sober? Then I’d grab one of the many water varieties (have to try them all!), and remind myself that it was only 7:15 A.M.. The energy in the room was contagious, and about halfway through the party a cellist started to perform. He was completely synchronized with the beat the DJ was dropping. Naturally, I hopped on top a table to bust a few dance moves and grab an epic GoPro video so that my friends and family could later share this moment with me.

Would I do it again? Hell yeah, I would.

It was a love-filled morning at Daybreaker and I would definitely go back. The rainbows were flying high and the sprits certainly followed. Towards the end of the rave, I looked over and noticed an older man and something made me feel extremely inclined to dance with him. We vibed and danced and it was amazing—it made me realize that I never really needed my friends to come to Daybreaker with me. I could have gone to this morning party on my own.

Luckily, I had the day off and was able to go home and take a nap. After catching up with my friends later, some said it was their greatest day at work, while others said their day dragged a bit after such an epic morning. We all agree though, Daybreaker was so much more than a morning workout and rave, it changed our mindsets about how we can start our day. I’m not magically one of those morning people who naturally wake up without an alarm clock at 6 A.M. now, but I would consider getting #UpNOut a few days a week. Especially if there’s a dance party involved.

The post I Went To A Rave At 7 A.M. And Here’s How It Went appeared first on SELF.

Source: I Went To A Rave At 7 A.M. And Here’s How It Went

14 Things You Need To Know Before Joining A Gym

14 Things You Need To Know Before Joining A Gym

Tara Moore / Getty Images

Choosing a gym is a bit like choosing a mate—you’re going to spend a lot of time together and things are going to get sweaty. And like looking for love, finding the right gym for you can be ~complicated.~ It’s also typically the first step of a fitness journey. Between the costs, vibe, and fine-print details, discovering the perfect fit can feel overwhelming.

Of course, having a gym membership isn’t essential to getting fit (there are tons of ways to fit in cardio and strength workouts outdoors and at home), but it can be a huge help. Think of it as a healthy investment with a strong ROI.

Here are 14 questions you should ask yourself (or a membership advisor) before joining a gym to help you figure out what you’re really looking for—it’s like a pros and cons list you don’t even have to make yourself. And, remember, there are no right or wrong answers to these Q’s. It’s all about what feels like a good fit for you.

1. What’s convenient to your home or office?

When it comes to picking a gym, think location, location, location. “I have seen many people sign up for gyms that are slightly out of the way just because they’re a bit cheaper, but if the gym is out of the way and not convenient to your home or your work, let’s face it—you’re not going to go,” says NYC-based trainer Diana Mitrea, co-founder of Stronger With Time. “After a long day at work, if it’s easier to drive home than drive to the gym, where do you think you’ll end up?”

2. When do you like to work out? 

“Another thing to consider is if you’ll need to attend the gym or classes at peak times,” says Cori Lefkowith, Orange County-based personal trainer and founder of Redefining Strength. “If you don’t like a crowd, you may want to reconsider going at peak morning or evening times.” (There are few things more annoying than someone getting all up in your space at the gym.) If your schedule means that you have to be there when everyone else is, ask the staff about how likely it is that you’ll spend time waiting for machines or equipment. Peak hours will vary, but we find our gyms to be busiest between 6:30-8:30 A.M. and 5:30-7:00 P.M. It’s also important to check the gym hours, if you like to work out especially early or late. 

3. Are group fitness classes a priority?

If you’re all about those group fitness classes, make sure the gym has what you’re looking for (so you don’t end up dropping cash on studio classes that you could be getting at a gym). “Take a good look at the workout class schedule,” says Mitrea. “Are the classes at convenient times for you, and are they interesting and exciting to you? Classes can provide great motivation and help you achieve your goals faster than you would alone. However, if most of the classes listed do not interest you [and you want to take classes], then you should look elsewhere.” 

4. What’s the class cancellation policy?

If you want to be able to keep your schedule flexible after signing up for a class, check out the cancellation policy. “Some of my clients have schedules that change at the last minute, and a gym that has a strict registration policy wouldn’t work for them because they need to be able to adjust their workouts last-minute,” says Lefkowith. Then again, if you want something to hold you accountable, signing up for classes with a strict cancellation policy may not be a bad idea—motivation to get out of bed, amiright? 

5. What is your current fitness level? 

If you’re just starting out, consider the size and types of classes the gym offers. “If you need more guidance and are just starting out, you may want a smaller class,” says Lefkowith. “Or, one more based on basics, where the trainers are focused on teaching. If you are experienced, you may find a larger class more fun. But thinking about how much instruction you need to stay healthy and not risk injury is important.”

6. What type of equipment do you like to use?

Love the treadmill? Choose a gym where there’s a good selection of them, so you’re less likely to wait on them. Into free weights? Make sure there are enough of those bad boys, too. “The workout you will stick with is the one you enjoy, so when you’re looking for a gym, find one that seems to have workout equipment and classes that you would enjoy,” says Lefkowith.

7. Are you looking to hire a personal trainer?

If group fitness classes are a little intimidating (especially ones with things like “burn” in the title), hiring a personal trainer for a while can be a great way to get you started when you’re just not sure what to do. Check the trainer rates before you join and consider if you’re willing to pay that in addition to your monthly dues. Also, see if the gym offers a free personal training session to new members.

8. Do you want to work out with a buddy?

While having a trainer is a great way to stay accountable, working out with friends can also keep you on track (not to mention, it’s cheaper). Try signing up at a gym your friend belongs to—or sign up for a gym membership together! If that’s not an option, consider the community you’ll find in the gym.

9. Do you want community or anonymity?

“Different gyms have different atmospheres. Some are bigger where the same people won’t always attend the same classes, while others have a very close-knit community where you’ll always encounter the same people at the same hours,” says Lefkowith. “Are you looking to find friends and really build a community, or are you just looking for a group atmosphere to workout in where you may meet a friend or two?”

10. Will you be getting ready at the gym?

Consider whether the locker room is a big deal to you. If you plan on working out in the morning and heading straight to the office or working out during your lunch break, think about what features are important. Mirror space? Hair dryers? Nice showers? It’s totally individual (and, personally, I can’t live without some counter space to set up camp at).

11. What’s your budget?

This is another big question to ask—what fits in your budget, and how much are you willing to invest? Gym membership prices vary greatly depending on where you live, but check different gyms to get an idea of how much cash you’ll shell out in your area. Also, consider whether there’s a joining fee associated with becoming a member. There also might be some ~sweet deals~ going on that you don’t know about, so ask a membership advisor about any current ones (or see if there are any special discounts for students, veterans, or just budget-savvy people like yourself). 

12. Is a contract a dealbreaker?

If you’re not sold on the whole “gym thing,” make sure you don’t sign up for one that requires you to commit to a year-long contract. Month-to-month memberships are often slightly more expensive, but they give you some flexibility if you decide it’s not a good fit.

13. Can you get a trial membership?

Before you commit to a gym, make sure you can try it out first. “It really is key to figuring out what gym or class is right for you,” says Lefkowith. If you are trying to decide between a few gyms, line up mini trial periods at each option before you join one—speed gym dating anyone? And make sure to really take advantage of the trial period whether it’s a day, a few days, or a week. So try out the equipment, work out at the time you think you’ll most likely be there at, and try a class or two. Then, when the trial period is up, ask yourself: How was my workout? Did I like the trainer? Did I like the vibe of the gym? (You want to answer yes, yes, and yes!)

14. Ultimately, what are your fitness goals?

This will really determine the gym you choose, says Lefkowith.”Your goals can influence what classes you should take. Looking to prevent injury? A yoga class may be what you need. Love dancing and know you’ll stick to that? Try Zumba. Think about your goals and whether that gym, and the trainers, have the tools to get you there.” And once you’ve found your gym soulmate, you’ll be scanning in and taking names like you’ve been there all along.

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