Making Your New Gym Membership Work Out

Every January, NBC Bay Area responds to viewers whose New Year's resolution has put them in a bind. If you've just started a new gym membership, we want to help you avoid the problems and challenges some new gym members encounter.

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Membership fees at 49ers Fit are, appropriately enough, $49 per month.

Among the friendly faces you'll find at the NFL team-owned gym in southwest San Jose is personal trainer Candice Cornejo. She showed us around the 36,500 square foot facility, complete with a 100-foot miniature replica of a football field, high-tech recovery lounge, and dozens of exercise machines.

"We have dumbbells, weightlifting... lots of fun stuff," Cornejo said.

The trainers at 49ers Fit are pumped -- partly because of their ownership's surprising season, and because it's the time of year when gym membership surges.

"It's super exciting," Cornejo said. "You're coming here to better yourself."

If you got a new gym membership this year — perhaps as a holiday gift, or a New Year's resolution, you might feel eager and energized. You're also paying dues to your gym of choice. But realistically, Cornejo concedes many new gym members might quickly give up, and start squandering their membership fees by spring.

However, she insists you can avoid that with one step.

"Make a plan," Cornejo says. "You want to set realistic goals, so that you're still coming in February and March."

Working Out on a Budget

If cost is stopping you from joining a gym, there are a number of ways you can shrink your waistline and your bottom line. Click here to learn more.

nbc responds gym

NBC Bay Area Responds is asked to tackle gym complaints year-round. Most involve contract disputes. You need to know what you're getting in to: are you starting off with a free trial membership? Or, is it actually a long-term commitment with one free month? Are your membership fees on auto-pay or auto-renew? What about canceling? Are there penalties?

That's where we see the most disputes: canceling. It's what happened to Susan Mister and her husband, when they left their Gilroy gym after it closed its swimming pool.

"It was not that easy getting the money back," Mister said.

Today, Mister is happy with her new workout studio, Fit 4 Life in Gilroy. But she needed our help last year, after struggling to get a $320 refund from her former gym.

"Reading contracts is important in anything, but in the fitness industry, you've got to know what you're getting into," she said.

Want to find a gym membership that is right for you? Follow these tips from Chris Chmura before you sign up for a new gym membership.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has an entire section of its website dedicated to gym contracts. It cautions consumers about "...high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations, and broken cancellation policies."

Back at 49ers Fit, personal trainer Candice Cornejo suggests three steps to get a gym membership off on the right foot:

  • First, ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Second, pay a visit to the gym yourself. "Ask questions," Cornejo says. "Don't be afraid to ask questions."
  • Third, read the membership contract, line-by-line. "Take your time," Cornejo says. "We'll email it to you."

If you have second thoughts or decide a gym just isn't for you, California law gives you up to five business days to change your mind about a gym contract. You can learn more by reviewing the California Health Studio Services Contract Law Legal Guide.

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