Should you go the
fitness club route?
By Erik J. Martin
WITH THE NEW year comes a renewed
wish to start fresh and make improvements,
including the goal to get ;t and ;t into that
bathing suit next summer.
It’s a big reason more than 12 percent of
health club members join in January, the
year’s busiest month for enrollments, per the
International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub
Association, which also reports that more
than 62 million Americans used a health club
Winning for losing
Daphne Mallory from Twin Falls, Idaho,
can vouch for the e;ectiveness of belonging
to a gym. She joined one two years ago and,
within seven months, lost 121 pounds and
won two area weight-loss competitions.
“I had lacked energy to spend time with
Membership has its privileges
my four children and was embarrassed to go
out in public,” says Mallory, 38. “But I made a
commitment to work out and change my diet,
and the weight has stayed o;.”
A;er researching ;ve clubs, she chose a
nearby facility with a ;exible monthly renew-
able membership and early-morning Zumba
dance-;tness classes. “;e key is to make a
;tness dedication whenever you become moti-
vated to lose weight, even if it’s long before or
a;er New Year’s,” Mallory says.
Joining a club gives members access to
multiple pieces of equipment, group ;tness
classes, personal training services and other
amenities they can’t get elsewhere, says
Michele Kerulis, director of the sport and
health psychology program at Chicago’s Adler
School of Professional Psychology.
“A gym provides a community of support
for people to help increase motivation and
accountability,” Kerulis says. “Plus, it may be
more cost-e;cient to join a health club than
to purchase home ;tness equipment.”
John Platero, founder and CEO of the
National Council of Certified Personal
Trainers, says there are fewer distractions at a
;tness center than at home.
Moreover, “when there are other people
around, you push yourself harder,” he says.
Fitness facility factors to fathom
Eager to enroll at a health club? Experts
recommend selecting one that provides:
• Convenient hours that ;t your schedule
• A variety of group ;tness classes
• An accessible location with ample
• Flexible terms—consider pay-as-you-go plans versus contracts that require longer-term commitments
• Valuable amenities, including modern
equipment, ball courts, pool, child care and
clean bathrooms, showers and lockers
• Sta; professionals, including experienced certi;ed personal trainers and ;tness
instructors, chiropractors, physical therapists, nutritionists and massage therapists
• A free trial o;er to test the club before
committing to a contract
Jason Stella, vice president of ;tness for 24
Hour Fitness, a San Ramon, California–based
;tness-center chain, says the club you pick
should also provide a process to help you get
acclimated to the facility and a ;tness assess-
ment before you begin your workouts.
“You should feel comfortable in the environment from the minute you walk in the
front door,” says Stella, a Costco member. “And
a ;tness professional should be available to
help you understand your health and ;tness
goals, why they are important to you and how
to accomplish them.”
Prior to enrolling, do ample research to
determine what is and isn’t included in your
gym membership. Some clubs charge one
monthly or annual fee that permits members
to use all included amenities, while others
have separate fees for classes, personal trainers, nutrition consultation, child care and
Before signing, review the ;ne print carefully on any commitment, particularly regarding costs, restrictions and termination.
“Be sure the contract contains no blank
spaces that can be ;lled in later,” says Angie
Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, which gathers
reviews of local businesses. “Also, learn if your
membership renews automatically and how a
relocation or injury could a;ect your contract. Ask questions about anything you don’t
Erik J. Martin is a Chicago-area writer.
PERSONAL TRAINER John Platero
suggests shopping several fitness clubs
and asking the following questions.
1. How long has the club been in
business, and who is the owner?
2. What are the renewal costs, and
what discounts am I eligible for?
3. Are the trainers and instructors
employees or independent contractors?
With the latter, what happens if this
person disappears with my money?
4. How and when will I be trained
to properly use the equipment?
5. How often are the facilities
and equipment cleaned, maintained
6. What club rules are enforced?
7. What are the procedures and
penalties for canceling membership?
Exercising your rights
The Costco Connection
Costco and Costco.com offer discounted
gym memberships. Costco members who
want to bring the workout home will find a
wide variety of exercise and fitness machines
at Costco and Costco.com.
In our digital editions
Click here to learn more
about how to choose a gym.
(See page 14 for details.)