If you are like most other people, you want to make a few changes this year. Maybe you want to lose weight, tone up or get off that blood pressure medicine. The first step for many is joining a gym. • In the coming weeks, you will see advertisements touting specials at fitness clubs. Some may offer no signup fees. Others may promote two-for-one discounts. But once you get past all the hype, even the best gym membership is worthless if you don't use it. • So remember one thing: When it comes to a gym and real estate, the key is location, location, location.
HOME OR WORK
Most folks exercise either on their way to or from work. Others like to break a good sweat during lunch hour. If your gym is 20 minutes out of the way, it doesn't matter how snazzy the machines are. Sooner or later, you will tire of the commute and stop going. If you hope to start an exercise plan and stick with it, find a fitness center that is conveniently located.
CREATURES OF HABIT
Think about your own hours. Do you have more energy at the start of the day, or would you rather exercise after work to blow off a little stress?
If you want to pump iron at 5 a.m., but the gym around the corner doesn't open until 6, then cross it off your list. It might be worth driving an extra 10 minutes if it means you can work out when you want.
The new trend is 24-hour fitness centers. Members are given a key or pass code so they can come and go as they please. These gyms are ideal for people with erratic or unpredictable schedules.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Before you settle on a facility, consult friends and colleagues. You may get some good advice, at least, on some places to avoid.
An added benefit is that you may find an exercise partner. It is easier to stick with a routine if you have a friend to urge you on. An experienced workout partner also may offer suggestions on how you can improve your regimen.
MAN VS. MACHINE
If you like an old-school workout — lots of pushups, pullups and crunches — then don't worry about state-of-the art machinery. If you want a Charles Atlas body, then find a gym with lots of free weights.
If the bulk of your exercise will be on a stationary bike, then make sure the facility has plenty so you don't have to wait. The same holds true for other circuit equipment.
YOGA, PILATES, SPIN
Do you flourish in a group setting? Then consider joining a YMCA, which offers dozens of different fitness classes. If Zumba sounds foreign but fun, give it a try. A good group class three times a week will get you in shape just as quickly as working out on your own.
The costs of gym memberships vary greatly. You may be required to pay an application fee up front in addition to your monthly membership dues. Some gyms allow you to pay by the month. Be wary of signing any long-term contracts until you are sure that the gym is right for you. Ask about trial memberships, and if they are available, work out for a month and see if the gym suits your needs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Chances are slim that you will find a gym that is perfect in every respect. Pick one that is comfortable and convenient so you will still be there this time next year.