Gyms have evolved into multi-faceted, specialized fitness centers over the past 20 years – but finding one to suit you and your family is no simple task.
"If you aren't comfortable with your gym," Suzanne Stoft, a mother and personal trainer based in Oakland, says, "you're going to the wrong gym." Modern gyms can often be found at the heart of a community and serve their community with fund-raisers and donations to charity.
What should families look for when considering a gym membership? One of the first dilemmas is to compare big brands to smaller, independent gyms. "The big facilities might have pools and basketball courts," Stoft says. "The smaller gym, where you are greeted by name and are made to feel welcome, might be more appealing than you might think at first."
Either way, she says, "people are always looking for excuses not to work out, and ideally you should look forward to going to the gym."
If you're going to use a gym's child-care services, it's important to visit beforehand to reassure yourself. Even smaller gyms will have games and paper and crayons – and yes, a DVD player. But a good staff will do their utmost to engage your child and keep them entertained.
Another concern might be security for your child while you are working out. "It can be unsettling for a parent trying to take a class while they can't see their child in the child-care room," Stoft says. "But many gyms have photo identification for picking up kids and cameras in the rooms themselves."
If you're worried about being judged or working out in a room full of six-packs and toned glutes, don't be. "Unless you are in a specialized hardcore gym," Stoft says, "you are going to see body builders working out with marathon runners right next to grandfathers and regular housewives. Judging people as they work out is a thing of the past."
More people make working out part of their lives these days, and in most gyms there is a great deal of diversity, from serious athletes to weekend warriors or just those who want to stay fit.
Some area gyms to consider:
• Aeon Fitness, 157 Patterson St., Hillsdale; (201) 664-0304; aeonfitgym.com. Aeon has many programs for children 18 months to 18 years, including an open gym with instructors at every station.
• YMCA, locations in Wyckoff, Ridgewood and Hackensack; ymca.net. Long established as a favorite in the community for families. Facilities in Bergen County have basketball courts, swimming pools and more.
• HNH Fitness, 514 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell; (201) 262-4626; holyname.org/hnhfitness. Run by Holy Name Medical Center. Offers a new YouthFit program for 10- to 16-year-olds.