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  1. Health

Know thyself: Find a gym that fits you

If you joined a gym back in January, chances are good that you're no longer going. (According to StatisticBrain.com, 67 percent of those who sign up for health club memberships don't use them.)

That cute little Lululemon ensemble you bought for inspiration? It's living a life unfulfilled in your bottom drawer.

The class reunion you planned to go to in August? Well, maybe you'll make it in 2026.

What happened?

You chose poorly, my friend. You joined a gym that wasn't a match for your needs and wants, and that one failure was enough to blow up your No. 1 New Year's resolution, your best "beach body by spring break" intentions and your last-ditch "svelte by summer, I swear" steadfastness.

Now it's September and time to do a little soul-searching. Or, better yet, some soulmate searching.

"You can work out anywhere," says Jeremy Stair, a personal trainer and owner of Rage Fitness, formerly EpocFit, in Tampa. "What keeps you going to a particular gym is finding people who will keep you accountable, along with equipment and classes you like."

That means knowing what kind of workout personality you have and finding a place that suits it. So we asked Stair; Ed Bogacki, owner of Gold's Gym in Tampa; and Ashley Ryneska, spokeswoman for YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, to give us some tips for finding a gym that fits, along with a few basics to look for when gym shopping.

Find your fitness personality

Knowing what might make you fail can help you succeed, our experts say.

If you're self-conscious …

Maybe you're overweight or out of shape, or maybe you're just shy. Every gym is intimidating at first, so don't make your decision based on who you think might be staring at you, Bogacki says. Everyone there is after the same thing: a better body and improved health. So focus on finding a gym that offers the equipment and classes that will get you where you want to be.

Besides taking a tour, you can do a little reconnaissance by checking out Facebook photos and watching YouTube videos to get a feel for the gym and how the classes work, Stair advises. And if you're still feeling anxious, consider hiring a personal trainer who will come to your home and work with you until you're ready to transition to the gym.

If you want a challenge …

Happy with your progress so far but want to take it up a notch? Some kind of cross training (weights plus cardio equals fat burning) is the best way to go, says Stair, who thinks people who follow the high-intensity CrossFit regimen are "the most fit people in the world." Just make sure you have a good coach who pushes you but also protects you, he says.

If you're motivated by competition, a gym that occasionally offers contests will provide an added incentive, Bogacki says. Many people get revved up by friendly rivalry, whether they're playing for cash, prizes or pride.

And look for a gym that is always evolving, with staff who can help you find new ideas and methods for training. "Left to our own devices, we often stick with the familiar and comfortable rather than seek new workouts or exercise variations," Ryneska says. "Often all someone needs is a fresh new approach to reach the next level of fitness."

If you're easily bored, stay away from repetitive programs or gyms that offer tons of equipment but no training. "If we aren't getting our desired results, we're more inclined to become discouraged and quit. To remedy this, find a program that speaks to you and stick with it," Ryneska says.

If you're all about having fun …

All three of our experts recommend joining a class — Aquacize, spinning, Pilates, Zumba — if you want to get social at the gym. If you're looking for a class with a more intimate feel where you might make some friends, try a smaller gym or avoid the busy morning and evening hours at larger clubs.

Classes also can add some structure to your workout, Stair says, so you aren't just wandering around wondering what to do next.

Finding a gym or club that has all the amenities you want — a pool, basketball court, day care, etc. — goes a long way toward building an enjoyable experience as well, Ryneska says.

If you'd rather go it alone …

If you're not a joiner, you'll probably be happiest with a gym that has good equipment and lots of it, Bogacki says.

Stair agrees. At a big gym, you can put in your earbuds, avoid eye contact and get your workout in without socializing, he says. "But you still need to push."

If you want to avoid the crowd ...

Join now — not in January, when the newbies are swarming.

A 24-hour gym also could be a good choice, but, Bogacki warns, make sure you know whether it's staffed around-the-clock or if you'll be left on your own when you show up late at night.

If you only want to play with girls/boys ...

There are gender-specific gyms out there, Bogacki says, if that's your thing. But if you're a woman who only wants to work out with other women, you'll also find there are plenty of classes that fit the bill at coed gyms. Even yoga and spin classes, which some men find appealing, will be 50-50 at best, he says.

"Men think about building muscle," Stair says. "They stay away from classes that aren't masculine enough." Zumba and other dance classes are definitely a safe bet, he says. And daddies seldom crash Mommy and Me groups. So go ahead and get out for some girl time.

Contact Kim Franke-Folstad at kffolstad@gmail.com.

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