While it may have been your resolution to get fit and lose weight in 2017, the new year signals a perfect opportunity for gyms to lull you into an (at times) false sense of many happy returns.
Gym signups can be empowering but they can also be a complicated web of fast sells and fine print that, despite that free January join up, may lock you in to a contract for far longer than your resolve lasts.
Some people are happy to fork out more depending on their age and demographic and that's fine, as long as they understand what they're signing up for.
And amid all that resolution stuff, it's easy to jump in without doing your due diligence.
"We tend to operate on autopilot when it comes to gym memberships with people picking the chain they're most familiar with rather than the most affordable option or the one that best suits their needs," Jason Byrne, founder of fitness comparison website lookfit, told The Huffington Post Australia.
According to a national survey by the online comparison provider, that's what 86 percent of us are doing. And out of 500 respondents, 90 percent have never read the fine print on their contracts.
But it's not all bad news.
"One of the reasons I started this was because a lot of people were distrustful of the fitness industry," Byrne said.
"The whole landscape has had a bit of an overhaul in the last six to nine months as a lot of gyms realised people were unhappy and have made their options more transparent and more flexible."
Despite this, that fine print isn't going anywhere. Here's what to look out for to secure your best fit and know what you're paying.
Start with location
This may seem like an obvious step, but it's one not to miss.
"You need to weigh up affordability with location. There's no point driving an extra 45 minutes to save a few dollars if there is one right next door," Byrne said.
What kind of gym do you need?
There are 24/7 gyms, standard gyms and women-only gyms -- each with different offerings. Actually spend time thinking about what works for you.
"You may need a 24/7 gym because of your working hours or a standard-hour gym because you're interested in classes," Byrnes said. "24/7 gyms have less fixed costs so naturally they're cheaper whereas large commercial gyms, with more equipment, cost more. It really depends on what you're after."
Gyms will try to entice you in -- quickly.
Whilst it is useful to walk into a gym to chat through their offerings, be aware that they'll sit you down, looking for a sell. Don't succumb to the pressure.
"Gyms offer lots of promotional/introductory offers. It could be in the form of a free pass, trial, discount or even a 'join with a friend' offer," Byrne said.
But according to Byrne, if you do decide to join after these offers, you'll still be privy to some hidden fees.
There are joining fees, admin fees and the cost of your access card -- all things that can add up. And they vary from gym to gym.
"In most places, the joining fee will be between $50 and $75. Admin fees are similar. You can sometimes get that fee waived if you do go into the gym and speak to them in person."
But this usually involves an on-the-spot sale.
Be wary of lock-in contracts
Gyms can make it easy to check out, but very difficult to leave. Lock-in contracts can include steep exit fees or drawn out periods of notice -- and some gyms will insist on making an appointment to come in and cancel.
According to Byrne, the overhaul of the fitness industry has seen the introduction of more flexible and less enduring packages.
"Look for options like casual, pay-as-you-go bundles or a set monthly fee that has no exit span or lock-in contract," Byrne said.
But whilst these terms are more flexible, there is a downside. In some gyms, you'd be hard pressed to find a total price written down. Anywhere.
Byrne suggests comparing "apples with apples".
"Our users can filter their 'visit' length (whether this is contract, no contract, monthly, bundle pass or casual) so they are able to see what they are paying and compare different visit options."
"It really depends on what you're after. There's really no one size fits all," Byrne said.
"Some people are happy to fork out more depending on their age and demographic and that's fine -- as long as they understand what they're signing up for.
"Read reviews to see what others who have been there have said, and I strongly urge you read that fine print."
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