Looking for a gym membership? Advice to follow

How to find a fitness club that suits you and get more weight-loss bang for your buck

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January is fast approaching and with it, our thoughts turn to resolutions, including that perennial classic: Get fit. Whether you choose a commercial gym or a private studio, the process can be intimidating and risky – and expensive. But with our five tips (and five traps to watch out for), you can get a great deal.

1. Know what you want
Need motivation to get going? Make sure your gym has a rich selection of fitness classes. More of a solo sweater? Go for a gym with a lot of machines and a subdued atmosphere. Also go for a visit of when you plan to attend, suggests Brad Lindsay of GoodLife Fitness. He also suggests complimentary trial memberships to get a feel for the venue. Caution: Don’t give out you’re banking information at this stage. “It shouldn’t be necessary for a trial,” says Lindsay.

2. Comparison shop
Scan deals online and negotiate. “Everything is negotiable,” says Taso Pappas of Extreme Fitness in Toronto. “There are good rates that aren’t advertised.” Caution: Be skeptical if a gym is pressuring you to pay the membership in full, especially if it’s at a substantially discounted rate. You risk losing your money if it closes.

3. Know your rights
Read the contract fully before you sign and know your rights under provincial consumer protection laws. And find out how long you have before you can cancel your membership without penalty – it varies by province. Caution: If you choose to change something, send a registered letter and keep a copy. “Mistakes happen,” says Lindsay. “As long as you show us the paperwork, we’re putting that money back into your account”.

4. Stand up for yourself
Don’t be intimidated or rushed into hasty decisions by overzealous fitness salesmen or personal trainers. Brian Gilbank of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada recommends a fitness assessment – during which members are given a tour, weighed, measured and taken through exercises for safety reasons. Caution: Fitness assessments are also the setting for personal trainers to sell their services and these sessions can be more about intimidation than empowerment.

5. Stay close to home
Gyms have high drop out rates. To avoid being part of this cohort, ensure the facility isn’t intimidating and that it’s convenient. “If the drive is more than six minutes, you shouldn’t think about it,” says Pappas. Make sure your gym’s right around the corner, and you won’t be making that resolution again next year.