Finding a Gym That's Right for You (cont.)

If you choose an activity you like, says certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist Lynn VanDyke, you're more likely to stay with it.

If variety is your thing, you need a gym with plenty of machines and lots of classes. If you just need to get in and out and sweat for 40 minutes, don't pay for all the extra classes and amenities you won't be using, advises VanDyke, who trains in Chester County, Pa.

If Pilates or yoga is what moves you, you might want to join a studio rather than taking classes at a health club, says Pilates instructor Tracey Mallett.

''A studio is generally a better setting to do that kind of exercise,'' says Mallett, who owns ATP Specific Training, a Pilates and physical therapy studio in South Pasadena and also teaches at a local YMCA.

That's because a studio is quieter and smaller, and instructors tend to be specialists who can offer more personal attention to clients, she says.

2. How Convenient Is the Facility?

Location is a major consideration, says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

''Think about the proximity of the facility to where you live or work,'' he says. ''The No. 1 reason people don't stick with (exercise) is lack of time. If it's not close to either where you live or work, it's more of a challenge to get there regularly.''

Decide when you're going to work out most of the time, he says. If it's in the morning or on weekends, a facility close to home may be best. If you want to fit your workout in during lunch or after work, choose a gym close to work.

''Any place more than 3 to 5 miles away from home or work, and you're more likely to make excuses not to go,'' says VanDyke, who used to manage a fitness facility.

Mallett, a mom of two preschoolers, enjoys a rare luxury living in Los Angeles. Her studio is four-tenths of a mile from her home. The YMCA where she teaches is around the corner.

''Less than four miles away is probably the best gym in town, but I choose to go to the little Y on the corner by my building,'' she says. ''If it's not close by, I'm not going to go. I don't have the time with two small kids.''

If someone in the fitness industry doesn't want to go 4 miles to work out, imagine how onerous this could get for the recreational exerciser!

3. What Kind of Credentials Does the Staff Have?

People often forget how important it is to have qualified staff there to guide them on proper alignment on a machine, or proper form in a class, say our experts.

''Interview members of the staff and a few of the trainers,'' says VanDyke. ''Ask [trainers] how they're certified, and do research on it yourself if you're not familiar with the credentials they tout.''

Though many clubs pride themselves on the quality and education of their staff, there are others who are less conscientious about certification, Bryant says.

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