When you decide it’s time to join the gym, or you’re looking for a new fitness option, there are a lot of options to consider. All-inclusive clubs, specialty training gyms and aerobics-only facilities all make up today’s fitness club landscape, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years.

Depending on what you’re looking for, there can be quite a difference in price. A membership at the national chain won’t cost as much as one at the locally owned club, but you probably won’t get all the perks, either. Just like everywhere else, you have to pay to play.

Here are some things to consider when weighing your fitness club options:

Machines and Equipment

Not all gyms have the same equipment. Some may have more elliptical trainers or treadmills but lack free weights or universal weight machines. The culture of a gym often has an effect on the fitness equipment that’s offered. The clientele may be more geared toward aerobics and cardio training, rather than weightlifting. Be sure to do a walk-through first to determine if the gym you’re considering has the equipment you are most going to need.

Cost And Contract

A gym’s joining fee, monthly membership fees and length of contract may be a major factor in your decision, so pay attention to what you’re paying for. Some gyms offer special discounts at the time you join, but then raise their rates after only a few months. Others offer incredibly low monthly rates, but their contracts are inflexible. It is common for gyms to require a 12-month contract, which ends up going to waste when the user doesn’t visit the gym very often. Read the pricing and contract details thoroughly.

Access And Location

One of the most important things you will need to consider is the accessibility of your fitness facility. Many gyms now offer access 24 hours a day, seven days a week by using a dedicated key or code. Determine whether a gym offering anytime access would work best with your schedule. Also consider the location of the gym in proximity to your house. If it is on your way to work or on the way home, that could motivate you to stop by more often.

Rules And Time of Day

While a Saturday afternoon may seem like the perfect time to go down to a gym and sign up, it may not give you the best look at your prospective gym’s culture. Schedule a visit when you are most likely to work out so you will know how busy it is during that time of day. A membership isn’t worth much if you can’t actually use the equipment. Also, be sure to check on the gym’s rules. Some gyms have rules about grunting or dropping weights during a workout, and those gyms are generally more geared toward cardiovascular training.