So your gym sucks? A lot of people have this same exact problem and its a tough one. Most places require you sign a contract to join or pay a higher monthly fee if you choose not to. If you signed a contract and you're having second thoughts, your options are limited. There might be a 30 day grace period during which you can cancel, but after that you'll have to pay a high fee to get out. Because of this, it's very important you research the gym and make sure its the right one for you. Before joining, there are steps you need to take to protect yourself.
Visit the Gym
Prior to signing a a contract, you need to do your part and make sure the gym you're joining is for you. Your first step is actually visiting the gym. You can talk to a sales associate about the gym itself (amenities, pool, locker rooms, hot tub, basketball courts, personal trainers, group exercise classes, child care), costs and contracts.
Make sure you come prepared with questions. If you don't know what you're looking for, they'll give you the standard sales pitch which will sound good but won't be the true picture of what they offer.
When you visit a gym for the first time, take a tour before anything else. If it isn't what you're looking for then there's no point in joining. How motivated are you going to be to visit a gym you don't like?
Visit a few more until you find the one you like. Even after you think you've found one, see if you can get free passes to go before committing. The worst thing that can happen is signing a contract only to be disappointed.
Once you've found a gym you like, you can start asking your questions. You'll need to know the monthly cost. There might be a different rates depending on if you sign a contract or not and if you're joining by yourself or including your entire family.
Ask about joining fees. The monthly fee might be low but they may charge a high amount just to become a member. You can also check web sites such as the Better Business Bureau to see what kind of complaints the gym has and how or if management resolves them.
If you are required to sign a contract, read it. Know what the cancellation fee is, know if there's a grace period in which you can cancel your contract without penalties, know how you can get out of the contract for free (moving, economic hardship) and most importantly know every single term of your contract. Don't hesitate to ask any questions because once you sign, you might be stuck.
Don't get discouraged if you can't find a good gym when you first start looking. Yes many gyms have bad reputations but there are a lot of good ones out there too. Some are run by families and others are national franchises.
The Bottom Line
Ask your friends, check sources online and make sure to do your own research with first hand observation by visiting the gym. If you do a good amount of research the chances that you'll be saying, "my gym sucks" will be a lot lower.