Research - Talk to friends, neighbors and co-workers. Stroll around to see what clubs might be in your area. Check out local fitness pubs and Web sites. Go online to find details to help you narrow your list.
Location - If it isn't near your home or work, chances are you won't get there very often. Strategize the best and most convenient time for your workout. Avoid rush hour traffic or take a fitness lunch break by choosing a gym near your office. Early morning or late night routines work best in clubs near home.
Facility - Take a tour looking for cleanliness, equipment in good condition, club style and security in locker rooms or parking lots. If you like to workout on the cardio and weight equipment, be sure they have lots of what you will use. If you prefer to sweat in a class, check that the rooms are comfortable and have shock-absorbing floors.
Staff - Is a personal program set up by an exercise physiologist part of membership? Are there plenty of certified fitness professionals walking the floors to offer assistance and advice? It's a bad sign if there are just a couple of clueless cuties at the reception area and desks full of sales folks.
Amenities - Childcare, a swimming pool, basketball courts and free weights could be some of your must-haves. Be sure you get the extras that will help make you successful.
Ambiance - Environment is key. Don't overlook factors such as proper temperature control, which is crucial to a good workout. Are there plenty of fans and air conditioning as well as proper heat? What's the noise level? Are people friendly? Does it look inviting?
Classes - Can you take the classes you want, when you want? Look for clubs with trendy offerings, especially if you get bored easily.
Membership - Go when you normally work out and see if there are lines for equipment. Watch out for herds of muscle builders monopolizing the weights. Are there members like you? If there is an obvious age difference, you might feel uncomfortable or not find the programs suited to your tastes.
Sample - There's no better way to decide than to try. And, you can get feedback from current members. Most clubs offer at least a week free. Don't feel guilty about trying out several clubs. Be strong against pressure to sign up immediately for the "one day only special" or other high power techniques.
Contracts - Read the contract carefully. Ask questions and if there are any specials. Know you can negotiate. Are there any additional fees? What happens if you move in six months? What if the club closes down or moves? Be sure you know the facts before you sign on the line. Keep in mind, the best contract is no contract. Go for a non-committal month-to-month deal. That way, if you don't like the club after a few months, you're not stuck. With a month-to-month deal, you can easily move on to another club and stick to your 2010 plan.