Joining a Gym in L.A.? Here’s My Take On It.

So, summer is painfully close, only weeks away in fact, and you’ve found you may have put on a few unwanted pounds. And your old gym membership expired! What to do? As for me, I joined the gym again, but it was no easy decision. I knew I  needed to do something since I was jogging less for many reasons. I tried out ClassPass first, and visited the Los Angeles Athletic and the Y, before finally deciding to join Equinox DTLA. Here’s my take on each of these– the good, the bad and the ugly.


24 Hour Fitness, DTLA – 2/10

I had been a satisfied member of 24 Hour fitness for 2 years (and long before that) most recently through the Costco special, going to other better 24 Hour locations. When I started working in DTLA, however, I started going to this location. What finally did it for me here was, and here comes the ugly, seeing a disgusting cockroach in the showers. I also never got reception down there (it is underground) and they don’t offer wi-fi. Needless to say, when my 2-year membership pass expired, my attention turned to other alternatives. If I lived closer to a nicer, super sport location, like the one in West Hollywood, I may have given this chain another shot. Their classes are okay. Oh well.


ClassPass LA – 4/10

I sincerely thought this would be a great option for me as you get so many classes to choose from throughout the city. The problem is that it takes so much planning, and you don’t really have a base. I like having a base and a little routine in my world. Also, I really didn’t like that I would be penalized if I missed a class. The thought of losing $25 kept me from signing up a few times when I wasn’t sure if I could make it, and so I hardly ended up going. You can only go to each venue (including chains) three times a month, which is also limiting. All and all, this is a unique concept that was just too much for me to keep up with logistically speaking. I think this model may definitely work for some people. For me, it may have been a lot more successful with a few tweaks regarding the rules of usage.

YMCA – 6/10

This was the strongest contender for me out of the more affordable options. They have several locations near me, including a brand new one in Koreatown. Unfortunately, I felt somewhat uninspired by the ambience at both. The crowd in Koreatown and DTLA, alike, leaves much to be desired, plus the locker rooms Downtown are very dated. That said, their monthly rates are super competitive and there is no contract to join, so I almost opted in. They have a pool and a sauna, as well as towel service, tennis courts and nice views at the DTLA location, but in the end, I still didn’t feel fully compelled to join either location. I think that if money were a real issue, however, this would have ultimately been my choice!


The Los Angeles Athletic Club – 7/10

For someone who knows they will mostly be in and around the Downtown area, this place offers a lot of amenities. It’s not just a gym but a social space with a restaurant, café, hotel rooms and more. I was mostly looking for a gym with a pool, and they definitely offer this, plus much more.

The biggest drawbacks here are the layout– you need to go up and down floors to get to all the facilities. It is just too vertical for me; a gym cramped in a high-rise. Also, it is under massive construction, which ends next year around this time (July 2016). The locker rooms will be redone and it is getting a major makeover, but who wants to go through all that upon joining a gym? I could see if you were a longtime member, but not for a new person just joining. Finally, their door service feels antiquated. I appreciate the old school or club feel (as a graduate of an Ivy league university and all), but the timing was off given the construction, and again, in my opinion, the layout is awkward. Plus, this option is totally inconvenient if you move away from DTLA, as it is not a chain with several locations. I may revisit this option in the future… especially in about a year. At that point after the renovation, my rating may change to 9/10 or even 10/10. Note: If you have a lifetime Bruin alumni membership, you may get to waive their expensive initiation fee. Also, they offer 3-hour parking validation.


Equinox DTLA – 8/10

I read all the Yelp reviews for this (and for the other clubs), and thought about this long and hard, but ultimately joining was a no-brainer. The facilities are state-of-the-art, though still not as large as I would like, and lacking a pool. But still, it’s got an abundance of ambience and the yoga, spinning and barre classes are just the best! Also, I got in while they had a special no initiation fee deal going on. There is a one year contract, but you can get out of it if you move, lose your job or get injured and have a doctor’s note. Fair enough. It is a lot more expensive than 24 Hour fitness (or comparable gyms like LA Fitness or Golds), but worth it in terms of the facilities, atmosphere and services, and like I said, the classes are phenomenal. If you go at least at least 3-4 times a week, you definitely get your money’s worth! Also, though I hate to admit it, paying a little bit more may actually make you go more!

Oh and you also have access to wi-fi, a small retail shop, Kiehls products in the showers, and Earth Bar. I would give this a 9/10 with a pool, and a 10/10 if it were bigger, especially the women’s locker rooms. I also wish we got at least 3 hours validated for parking instead of 2 1/2, but that is no big deal.


  1. While Equinox is of course amazing, I love how ClassPass let’s me find new workouts that I otherwise wouldn’t try! When I’m not sure what time I’ll be getting out of work, I usually wait until the last minute to schedule and it ends up fine. It’s definitely best for people who don’t mind running around town! Glad to hear that you’re happy with your Equinox membership!

  2. I live in southbay and also recently tried many gyms in the area from 24 hour fitness , Ufc gym , smaller boutique gyms, and finally settled with Equinox in South Bay . For a general fitness gym , Equinox offers top quality classes. What really won me over was ambience and super clean facilities. Also statistically 70% of Equinox club members go to the gym 4-5 times a week.

    • Thanks, Gymjunkie.

      I think Equinox is pretty great, as well, but was often too crowded and too expensive overall, in my opinion. I’m not at the Y anymore though. I’m going to give Classpass another shot next and maybe even the Los Angeles Athletic Club eventually. The price point there is similar to Equinox, but it has more of the old school private club feel, which appeals to me. And they have a pool. 🙂

  3. I left the YMCA to join Equinox. At first, the YMCA reminded me of NYC, so I liked it. But after several months, I realized the people weren’t inspirational, machines were out of date or broken, lots of homeless people just hanging out in the locker room, and the bathrooms were nasty. All that cost me about 50 a month. Equinox is $230 but it’s 10 or 20 times nicer, so it’s a bargain. I actually look forward to going to the gym now. When I’m in the locker, I don’t step in mysterious puzzles, the toilets don’t look like a murder scene, and the machines are all functional. The staff treat you like a rock star at a 4 star hotel. I love it. Can’t wait to check out all of the locations. The one that will be my base eventually opens in a few weeks.

    • Hey Chauncey Tom,

      Thanks for the comment. I actually canceled my membership about 2 months in for several of the reasons you mention (lack of inspiration and the locker rooms in particular). The machines were overall fine though, almost brand new from what I experienced.

      So, I’m still on the hunt for the perfect gym routine. I think I may try classpass again… and maybe the Los Angeles Athletic club again or some personal training apps and outdoor running meetups. Will write about that soon.

      Good luck at Equinox! I mostly enjoyed it while I was there. Sounds like you are, too. 🙂

  4. Curious what you would rate LAAC now after the renovation. I’m thinking of joining because I’m 30 and still eligible for the 128/month membership. I figure if the classes aren’t that great I can add on a low or mid tier Classpass membership and still keep my total gym costs under 210. I’m really hoping to learn how to swim, which is why I really want to join LAAC. Plus their new spa facilities seem great – 4 different types of saunas!

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