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How to Find a Gym

Is that gym or health club really right for you? Here are 5 ways to assess whether a fitness club will work for you.

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2. Find Out the Gym's Membership Offers and Policies

Checking out a fitness club begins when you walk through the door. "Are you greeted promptly and professionally, without being railroaded into a room to be sold a membership, or immediately told about the special of the month?" asks Gregory Florez, CEO of Fitadvisor.com. "It's important that you feel there's a level of professionalism, that you're not just being greeted by a salesperson." It's always a good sign if the person at the front desk asks about your exercise goals, what types of classes you would like, and times of day that are convenient for you, he says.

Be sure you find out what kinds of membership the gym offers -- and whether they're varied and flexible. Ross says it's a "big red flag if the gym wants to give you a lifetime membership right away, with a large sum required up front, or if they want you to pay for several years in advance in exchange for a discount over the monthly rate. That is usually a sign the club is not doing so great financially, and they need some operating capital."

Watch out for hidden health club membership fees. Make sure you know exactly what comes with each level of membership. Will you have to pay an initiation fee? Which classes are included in which level of membership? If you sign up with a gym mainly to improve your golf game, for example, you don't want to end up being charged extra fees for specialized classes to help you do that.

But while you don't want to pay unnecessary fees, you shouldn't always go for gym with the bare-bones offer. A really cheap health club is likely to be a very crowded health club, so if privacy and one-on-one time with trainers are your priorities, consider paying a bit more for a more exclusive fitness center, trainers say.

Consider all of the cost factors beyond gym fees when deciding which gym is the right fit for you. If you want to work out on one of the evenings that you're responsible for watching your kids, for example, you might want to pay extra for a gym that offers childcare, Schiff says.

3. Take a Spin around Prospective Gyms

It's crucial to walk through a fitness club before you sign on the dotted line. As you do, keep your eyes open for small details. Check out the weight-lifting equipment. Is it working properly? "Does it appear to be well serviced -- is it clean and does it get wiped down after use?" asks Schiff. If a machine's out of order, ask someone how long it typically takes for repairs. Look to see if the weights are rusted or corroded, and even check out the leather or upholstery of the various machines.

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