Over the summer, I was looking for a gym. Since I hadn’t been a member of a gym in probably 20 years, I wasn’t really sure what criteria I should use to pick one, but I liked Brian’s review strategy of testing gyms before signing up, so I started with the gym that was closest to my house: 1Fit Fitness on County Line Road in Madison. I met with Chuck, the owner, and got a quick tour. First, a word about Chuck, who is a retired Army officer and super nice guy. He and his staff keep the gym clean and neat, which was apparent when I waked in the door. The gym is divided into two large areas: on the left, there are dumbbells (12.5-100 lbs), a Smith machine, a squat rack, and a couple of benches. On the right, there’s an incline bench, a big combo cable machine, a rack for doing pull-ups and dips, a variety of selectorized machines, and half-a-dozen assorted pieces of cardio gear. Each side has at least one TV, and the left side has a counter area with a small fridge with drinks for sale. The decor is extremely basic, although there are plenty of mirrors, which always bugs me a little bit. However, there are none of the typical meathead trappings: no diamond plate or posters of gigantic ripped dudes.
I signed up for their family plan, which is about $40/month for me plus two kids. For that price, I get unlimited, 24/7 use of the gym. It is rarely busy; I’ve never seen more than 4 other people there, and most of the time when I go I’m by myself. If you want a social gym, this probably isn’t the best choice. The place is staffed in the afternoons, Monday through Saturday— while “afternoon” sounds vague, I chose it because the actual hours seem to start anywhere between noon and 4pm and end at 6pm. I’ve seen the owner in a few times outside that time, but that’s unpredictable. However, since your key fob gets you 24/7 access, unless you need company, staffing hours are pretty much irrelevant.
There are a variety of classes offered, and several personal trainers who work out of the gym, but I don’t have anything to say about them because I haven’t used them.
Cons? Sure, a few. The gym doesn’t have some equipment that I wish it did: there’s no leg press machine, no trap bars, and only one curl bar (which is broken). This isn’t a huge deal, but it does point out the drawback of using a small locally-owned gym; at least in this case, Chuck can’t afford to invest the same kind of money as the big-box gyms. However, the ease of access makes up for that in my opinion; I love having a nearby gym that I can go to whenever I want, and I prefer supporting the locals. It might be easier to sign up for a chain such as Anytime Fitness so that I have better gym access when I travel, but for now I’ve had good luck finding gyms in each city where I travel.
In the meantime, I’m toying with the idea of adding a second membership at Workout Anytime or Planet Fitness just up the road; $10/month or so would get me some equipment I don’t currently have access to, plus better gym access when I travel. However, when I start triathlon training in the spring, I’ll want access to a pool, which means I’ll probably be stuck with switching to a bigger gym (or the local Y), so I’ll probably wait.
Bottom line: 1Fit is a solid gym and I’m happy with the value I get for the cost. I recommend it.
140608 update: 1Fit closed in March 2014 and has been replaced by an IronTribe location.