It's easy enough to join a gym - but it's much harder to get into the habit of actually going. Susan Edmunds has a few tips.
Most people have one lurking somewhere. It's the guilty secret that is always in the back of your mind as you settle on to the couch in the evening or press the snooze button on the alarm in the morning. You have payments still dutifully going out, and every month you resolve to try harder to get to the gym, to use that neglected membership so it's not just your bank account getting leaner.
With a new year on the horizon, now is the time many people will start to think seriously about joining (or rejoining) a gym. How can you find a gym that you'll be able to stick with?
Don't underestimate the power of convenience:
Your first consideration should be where a gym is, and how it will fit into your existing routine. The most welcoming, well-equipped gym in the world could offer you a half-price membership, but if it's hard to get to, you probably will not use it. Look for facilities that are handy to your home or office. Plan when you would go. Could you fit in a workout on your lunch break, or before work? Could you go down the road after dinner for a late-night blast?
Ask staff what times of day are busiest:
Choose a gym that is not usually too crowded at the time you want to work out - having to wait for exercise equipment is very unappealing.
Look for a gym that makes you feel comfortable:
Staff should be on hand to show you how all the equipment works and you should feel relaxed, not intimidated.
Before you start with any programme, be clear about what you want to achieve. Talk to the gym's trainers about the best ways to get there. Most gyms offer six- or eight-weekly assessments to determine whether you are on track. But be realistic - don't start out hoping to workout six days a week and then become discouraged and give up when you can only do three.
Try to join a gym with a good range of equipment: doing the same workout all the time quickly becomes boring and unmotivating.
Get a gym buddy:
It is much harder to put off a workout when you know someone is expecting you to be there. Find a friend with similar fitness levels and goals, and resolve to go to the gym together. You can provide each other with encouragement and support - and it's more interesting to work out with someone else.
Read the fine print:
Make sure you are clear about what you are paying and what the subscription covers. A cheaper membership fee might not include group fitness classes, or use of a squash court or pool.
Make sure the facilities you are most likely to want to use are included in the price. Find out whether there is any free childcare available if you need it.
Read the contract carefully so you know what you are signing up for. What term is the membership for and what fees will you have to pay if you want to cancel it earlier?
Research the staff:
Before you sign up, find out what qualifications the trainers have. Are they able to advise you properly on form and injury prevention, are they strong enough to spot you if you need them to, and can they help you get the most out of your workout?
Take your time:
Ideally, your gym is a place you will spend a lot of time - it needs to be somewhere you feel comfortable and where you will be able to achieve your fitness goals.