Navigating the best health club deals

February 1, 2011 4:26:52 PM PST
For a lot of people the beginning of the New Year means setting goals. One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to get in shape, maybe joining a gym. But before you join one, 7 On Your Side has tips on getting the most out of a health club membership.

If you're going to put down good money to join a health club, you'll probably want to make sure you actually use your membership and the toughest part may be staying motivated.

The exercise floor is packed at the Berkeley YMCA. The facility is expected to get even more crowded in February, when new members join current ones to get in their exercise routine.

"Sometimes people put on a little weight and get out of their exercise routine so usually New Year's resolutions bring lots of people in January and February," says Berkeley YMCA fitness coordinator Lori Cable.

Berkeley resident Juliet Bashore signed up to strengthen her injured wrist and try out the classes offered.

"I also want to take advantage of the yoga classes because I'm a long time yoga practitioner. So this seemed like the best bang for my buck," says Bashore.

Getting started may be the easy part. The tough part is sticking with it.

"Health clubs make a lot of money on people who sign up and are there for a few weeks or a couple of months and then don't show up after that," says Robert Krughoff, the president of

Krughoff says his best advice is to avoid long term contracts.

"At least until you've been using a club for a year or two, then after that, you might want to make a long commitment because you know you'll stick with it," says Krughoff. has evaluated 154 local health clubs in the Bay Area and several YMCAs were ranked high for both quality and price. Not one size fits all, so look for something that fits your goals.

"I think that people should know what the club has to offer and realistically if they'll be able to take advantage of it. And if it's something that they would like to do," says Cable.

A swimming pool is great, but if you're not going to use it, why pay for it? You should set realistic goals, factor in how much time you really have, beware of high initiation fees, ask about cancellation policies if you move or get sick, and don't be afraid to bargain.

"Ask them what their best offers are and let them know that you're looking at some other clubs," says Krughoff.

After that, the rest is up to you.

"When I have a determination, I won't peter out," says Berkeley resident Wilbur Hoff.

"If I get here in the morning, I feel great for the rest of the day, and that continues to motivate me and make better decisions throughout my day," says Berkeley resident David Coy.

For the next two weeks, is making its Bay Area health club ratings available free of charge for 7 On Your Side viewers.