Signs it's time to cancel your gym membership

Gym memberships certainly seem like the quick path to fitness, don't they? I mean, they've got everything you could possibly need — treadmills, weights, group exercise classes… and that's just the bare-bones version! In fact, research published in January 2017 found that gym members are an astonishing 14-times more likely to accumulate the recommended levels of physical activity than non-members. So it's not exactly like gyms are worthless. However, if I've learned anything from my roughly 15 years in the fitness industry, it's this: There is no one-size fits all program to getting fit, and you definitely don't need a gym membership to get in the best shape of your life. So if your gym membership is dragging you down? I say ditch it. Here are a few signs it might be time to turn in your cancellation.

You haven't been in months

If you haven't been to your gym in months — for any reason whatsoever — it's probably time to cancel your membership. Sure, you've always got the best of intentions, and you've been hanging onto your membership "just in case," or because "next month it'll be easier to make it a priority," but let's get real. If you haven't found a way to make it to the gym even once in the last several months, you're just throwing good money after bad. Stop pretending it's worth it — it's not.

Rather than allow inklings of guilt to fester over the money you're wasting on your membership, ditch it, and commit to accumulating your recommended daily activities in other, non-gym ways. For instance, take a 20-minute walk during lunch. Do a 10-minute bodyweight circuit while you're waiting for dinner to cook. Go out with your friends and spend a few hours dancing. There are lots of way to rack up the minutes without setting foot in the gym.

You hate exercising in public

I have a gym membership, and I use it, but if I'm honest, I actually don't really like exercising in public. For one, I'm a solo-style exerciser anyway, and for two, gyms can be weird places. It's not unusual to feel awkward or uncomfortable at the gym. (Although, I'd like to state for the record that no one's actually watching or judging you, and if they are, then they're the ones with the problem.)

But if the thought of doing a set of squats in the midst of possibly roving eyes gives you serious anxiety, the possible benefits aren't worth the stress. Try a home-based workout subscription program like Grokker or Beachbody on Demand, or just stock up on some workout DVDs. There's absolutely no reason you can't enjoy a killer workout at home, where no one but your family can see you.

It's too crowded

Gyms are a dog-eat-dog business, a fact I know intimately since I used to manage them. An (unfortunate) byproduct of this fact is that it's not unusual for gyms to over-sell their memberships to such an extent that they can't support the ensuing crowds. If you have to show up 30 minutes before your favorite class starts to guarantee a spot, or if you always have to wait to use a treadmill, it's time to cancel your membership.

Shop around for other gyms or studios that have more equipment and space, and ask the sales rep how the gym decides when or how to cap their memberships or manage crowds. If you receive a blank stare or stammers in response, keep looking. Good gyms take care of the members they have by ensuring they don't oversell memberships.

"Your people" aren't there

Every gym has its own culture and tends to attract members with similar personalities and goals. None of these are right or wrong, good or bad, but they're not all right or good for you. If every time you hit your fitness center you're surrounded by people you have zero desire to even be cordial to, then chances are you're in the wrong gym. Ditch your membership and consider starting smaller. Recruit a couple friends to join you for a local boot camp, see about trying a few different fitness-oriented Meetups in your area, or score free passes to local studios (most studios have "first class free" passes) to test drive different facilities. If you find yourself looking around at a gym's clientele and thinking, "Oh, I might want to make friends with her," it might just be worth a new membership.

The fees are sucking you dry

When you're strapped for cash, that $100 monthly gym membership fee might not be such a smart investment. Even if you're a dedicated gym-goer, you may have to make a tough decision to support your financial health. The good news is, there are about a million ways to enjoy free workouts. You can take up running, follow free YouTube videos, or use a fitness app, such as the free Nike+ Training Club app to access videos and programs for practically every fitness goal.

It's just plain dirty

Gyms are hotbeds for germs, a fact confirmed by a 2016 (maybe not scientific) study conducted by Fit Rated that found some gym equipment has 362 times more bacteria than a toilet. Gross, right? Just think how much worse that might be if your gym has visible signs of being dirty!

If your gym doesn't provide wipes to wipe down equipment, doesn't require members to clean up their messes, and you haven't seen a staff member lift a finger to sanitize the floors or machines in who knows how long? Then you're probably not going to want to lay down on that sweat-soaked bench. Ditch the membership and go somewhere cleaner… like the great outdoors. Try a playground workout, where the monkey bars are at least getting sanitized by the sun's UV rays (to some extent), or just go for a run. Unless you fall, you don't have to touch anything that's not your own.

You don't use much equipment

When you pay for a gym membership, you're paying for all the amenities, from the showers to the free weights, to the group exercise equipment. Of course, very few people take advantage of everything available to them, but if you find yourself using nothing more than a yoga mat and a set or two of dumbbells, then it's probably time to crunch the numbers. Unless the physical act of going to the gym is what keeps you motivated (a completely possible situation), it might be less expensive to just buy the equipment you typically use and do your workout at home.

Of course, the cost-benefit analysis comes down to the cost of the equipment you use, whether you have space available at home, and whether you have the personal motivation to do an at-home workout, but it's definitely worth thinking through.

You have multiple gym memberships

Look, I've been there. As a fitness professional, there have been times in my life where I had a free gym membership through work, but because I worked there, I knew I'd never get through a workout uninterrupted. To solve the problem, I paid for a second membership I could use during my free time. Sometimes having multiple memberships makes sense. But if you're paying for two or more memberships, don't keep doing it indefinitely without periodically asking yourself if it's still worth it. At some point you may discover you're not using one of the memberships the way you thought you would, or your circumstances change, so you no longer need a membership near work and near home. If you're a multi-membership holder, analyze your costs and usage at least once a quarter, and when it's clear one of the memberships no longer makes sense, go ahead and cut ties.

The class schedule no longer works for you

The last time I asked my sister how she was liking her gym, she responded by saying, "You know, I love it, but I haven't been in awhile." When I asked why not, she lamented the class schedule, "My favorite Saturday class changed times, so it's just not convenient anymore, and their other classes are either packed or don't work with the kids' school schedule." Welcome to the world of adulthood.

When you're juggling work, life, kids, and social engagements, schedules are bound to change. And because instructors and gyms frequently have to adjust their schedules, too, it's only a matter of time before the workout schedule that once fit perfectly with your life takes a turn and no longer matches up. This doesn't mean you need to quit your gym immediately, but if you're someone who loves classes, and you go a month without finding a good class to fit your schedule, it's worth looking elsewhere. In fact, you may be just the type who would benefit from a boutique-style studio instead of a traditional gym. Studios are more likely to keep consistent schedules, even if they have to change instructors, simply because group classes are their bread and butter.

Gym management fails to address concerns

There are bad apples everywhere, and that includes the gym. If you're constantly feeling ignored or harassed by staff or other members, or if you've brought up concerns to gym management, but they brush your questions under the table, then you shouldn't feel obligated to spend another dime of your money at the facility. Ask around and get recommendations from family or friends on gyms with high-quality staff. There really is a trickle-down effect from gym management to the staff who report to them, so if there are problems with trainers, front desk members, or custodians, chances are the management is less than stellar, too. And you shouldn't have to settle for less.