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Ready to get fit? Get the right fitness club first

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Q: The holidays were wonderful, great fun, lots of family around and way too much food! I have got to get started on an exercise program. I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution. I have got to get fit. I need to get in shape. How do I go about finding a fitness club that best fits my needs?

A: Congratulations on deciding to make your New Year’s resolutions this year. Finding the right health club requires a little research on your part. They range from specialized high-tech weight-training facilities to all-purpose gyms. Some facilities are beautiful to look at while others get the job done with a minimum of frills.

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Here are some tips to get you started in your search:

Determine your fitness goals – What are your fitness goals (lose weight, build endurance, increase strength?) and how will you accomplish them (swimming, weight-training, yoga?). If you have a serious health condition, consult with a medical professional when setting your fitness goals.

Consider your budget – What monthly amount can you comfortably devote to physical fitness?

Shop around – Ask friends and coworkers to recommend facilities and pick three that appear to fit with your fitness goals and budget.

Check out the facilities – Visit each club on a day and time that you plan to use it to see how crowded it is. Is it conveniently located? Do you like the equipment, classes, amenities (child care, personal trainers) and hours of operation? Are you comfortable with the atmosphere and clientele? Note the cleanliness and condition of the equipment, work-out area and locker room, as well as staff member availability. Remember that facilities have personalities, so pick one that fits your style.

Talk to members – Are they satisfied? Have they experienced any problems?

Interview staff – Are staff members friendly and helpful? Ask about their qualifications, certification and education. If you aren’t comfortable and confident that you will receive the personal attention you require, you will end up not using the facility.

Review the contract – Walk away from clubs that pressure you to sign on the spot. In fact, take a sample contract home to read it thoroughly. Does it list all services and facilities and the hours of operation? Is everything that the salesperson promised in the contract? What is included in the monthly fee and what’s extra? What’s the total cost and payment schedule, including enrollment fees and finance charges? Keep your budget in mind and be realistic about what you can really afford.

Membership details – How long is the membership term? Can you go month-to-month? Some facilities give customers several days to reconsider after signing the contract; if so, get it in writing.

Cancellation policy – What are your cancellation rights if you move away, are injured, or the club closes? Will the unused portion of your membership be refunded? Those details should be in the contract.

Finally, find out if the club meets state bonding and licensing requirements. And, as always check with the BBB for a report on the facility before making a purchasing decision.

Good luck with making your resolutions a reality.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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