Are Local Neighbourhood Gyms Better than Gym Chains? – Guest Post by Neeraj David

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Advantages of working out at your local neighbourhood gym over a gym chain


When you’re ready to commit to getting fitter and healthier by joining a gym, the big chains may seem like an obvious choice. They’re the ones that are in your face, with splashy advertising campaigns and killer deals. But before you rush off to sign up, take a moment to consider the downsides of joining a big box gym. You may just bypass the big guys and seek out your friendly local health club.


Big box gyms are popular, which means they are crowded. Your first challenge when you turn up at the gym is parking. Once you negotiate that challenge, which can often take 10-15 minutes, and are actually in the gym, now you’ve got to actually get on a piece of equipment.

At some of the big chain gyms you actually have to add your name to a waiting list in order to get on a treadmill. And, when it comes to weight exercises, like the bench press or squat, you’ve got to sit around waiting for the gear to free up. That will kill the flow and intensity of your workout. And it will leave you extremely frustrated.

Smaller, local gyms don’t have these problems. You’ll generally find that there is ample free parking. And, once you get inside, there is plenty of gear for everyone to use.

Impersonal Instructors

At every big box gym I’ve been to, I encountered instructors who were totally disengaged from what their members were actually doing on the gym floor. I used to think this was just my bad experience, until I read a survey, which showed the exact same thing as a common situation.

It may be a cliché, but the big box gyms, in general, are cold, impersonal and disinterested.

Let’s face it – the big box gyms are meat markets. Their interest is not in your success, but in your failure. If they can get you to sign up for monthly payments and then give up after 3 weeks, they’ve got it made. Your floor space can now be taken up by a new gym sucker – meanwhile they’re still getting your monthly payment.

What this means is that the instructors have absolutely no incentive in helping you to succeed – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Your local operator is different. He’s not interested in getting as many people in and out of the door. He knows that his business is built on word of mouth and membership retention. As a result, you’ll find personal trainers and instructors who actually care and will give you the personal attention that you deserve as a valued member.

Cookie Cutter Services as Opposed to Customised Workouts

The big chain gyms are like McDonalds when it comes to fitness. They will offer a range of classes and equipment that follow a standard pattern throughout their entire empire. That means that there is no room for individuality or customisation.

Contrast that to your local gym. They don’t have to follow a set script or answer to anyone higher up the chain. That gives them the freedom to provide new and cutting edge programs, group exercise classes and equipment whenever they want to.

Chain Gyms Tie You Down with Contracts

In a recent survey conducted by a consumer survey company, it was revealed that customers were more satisfied with smaller health clubs than their large chain competitors. One of the most cited problems with the big guys was problems that people have had with their contracts. The biggest issues related to unexpected hiking of the monthly membership fee, the inability to freeze the membership even though this was allowed in the contract, and difficulties with canceling membership. In fact, 38% of respondents who had canceled their membership at a large gym chain, were still billed after they had put an end to their contract.

Having a problem with the financial side of your contract is frustrating enough. When you’re dealing with a large corporation, however, the real pain begins when you try to get it sorted out.

When you join your local gym, it couldn’t be any more different. You are dealing with people who work and live in your community. They have a personal vested interest in providing you with the very best service possible. And, if you do have a problem, the top guy is never very far away.

Chain Gyms Have No Sense of Community

Big gyms are impersonal and often cold and sterile environments. Yet, for many of us, the gym is our ‘third place’. After home and work, it’s where we go to meet up with regulars who know and appreciate us. You will not find that kind of caring environment at a big box gym. But it is evident at many smaller, local health clubs. They’ve created a sense of belonging and comfort that turns the four walls of the gym into much more than simply a place to do squats and run on a treadmill. It has become the ‘third’ place’ for their members.


This is a guest post written by Neeraj David- a fitness, health and wellness expert with over 25 years of experience. After working in numerous health clubs in Germany, he currently owns two health clubs in Delhi-NCR- Craft Fitness Gym in Defence Colony, and David’s Fitness Studio in Gurugram. With many National level and State Level powerlifting medals under his belt, he has trained Bollywood bigwigs like Siddharth Malhotra and Rakulpreet Singh, among others.

David sir has also trained me on and off, over the course of many years, and I can personally attest to his incredible knowledge and instinctive understanding of the human body. If you would like more details about his gyms and personal training programs, please leave a comment below. Watch out for more fitness related content on my blog!


*This is not a sponsored post.

**Copyright in content belongs to and cannot be republished or repurposed without permission from the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.


  1. I have worked in both Giant chain and individual gym, although I have a different experience in both type of gyms. Rather than brand I always see how safe is the location and environment, are their enough spotters and variety and condition of equipments.

  2. This was really informative and insightful. Thanks for sharing this blog with us. Now I’ve no questions regarding which gym to choose.

  3. Great post and I am agree with all the reasons. indeed local gyms have so many benefits from free parking to personalized instructor, it has so many advantages. thanks to Neeraj for sharing this useful info with this post.

  4. great to know about the comparison. we generally get confused & favour famous chain gyms just with its brand name or publicity. with mentioned benefits- you are actually giving insight what is actually good about local gyms. thanks

  5. I am very glad that I came across this post, it was just today only that I was looking for some gyms in the neighbourhood and trying to figure out which 1 will be the best for me.

  6. Amazing and insightful post. The big chain gyms has a huge rush that lower the zeal and intensity of the workouts. Local gyms is spacious and provides best service for everyone. Great thoughts.

  7. I completely agree. These days there are so many gyms mushrooming around that it’s always wise to choose the right one. A helpful post.

  8. Even I agree with the points you gave above. I feel things are too formal at big chains. They are full of resources but lots of constraints. Local gyms are are so much better.

  9. The local gyms are fine for every day work out as we tend to be around our own area. But for fitness freaks or those who want to work harder on body then I would prefer the bigger gyms as they would have better equipments too.

    1. Yes it is important to choose a gym that offers the equipment you need. Fortunately Neeraj David’s is equipped the best for power lifting as he himself is a national level power lifter.

  10. That’s quite a practical take on the “big box” gyms and to a gym user, more than the “brand”, it’s the type of service rendered that matters more. All that we look for from a gym is “value for money” and “neighbourhood” gym provides a better deal in that !

  11. I am not a gym person and had no idea that there are so many differences between a local gym & big gym chains apart from the fees. Thanks for sharing, Noor!

  12. I think this guest post is quite useful to pick a better option for one’s gym requirements. Very relevant and logical points raised in the post. After reading this I am sure one can find a suitable one.

  13. So true. One more point your local gym guy will literally follow you if you are friendly with them. If you miss your workout he will ask about you from your friends. If he sees you having jjunk food be ready for some more exercise the next day.

  14. I had joined a big chain gym last year but wasn’t happy at all.. It was crowded most of the time and somehow the trainers didnt care.. Three months ago I joined a small gym in my area and I am very happy.. I could relate very well to ur post because I experienced most of the points you mentioned! Loved reading it 😊

  15. I always prefer big box gym over personal one. Because for a lazy person like me needs a lot of motivation and support. 😅😀. Hope you get my point

    1. Haha yes I get your point, but trust me I’m lazy too- you don’t need a big box gym, you need a good trainer who gets after your life! And usually you find more dedicated trainers in smaller gyms.

  16. Well stated. I can’t agree more that big commercial gyms being a unbridles ripoff. Like you said so well… these corporations are member companies. Not fitness companies. It’s all about member dollars. The brick and mortar are just the mechanism to collect. I hope this post gets shared a lot.

    David Githens
    Co-owner of Treasure Coast Barbell Club in Port St. Lucie, FL

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