Pumping pennies: A consumer's guide to gyms

Millions of Americans sign up for a gym membership each year in effort to work off those extra pounds, but many sweat the idea of just shopping for one? Are you a bit baffled on how to find a gym you actually like, at a good price? Fitness expert and gym owner Steve Zim shares advice on how to shop for the right gym to fit your needs:

There are a wide spectrum of gyms available! But the first thing you need to do when shopping for one is evaluating what you really need.

There's the lifestyle gym with all the amenities. Consider Sports Club LA, which offers a full spa , 2 basketball courts, 5 squash courts, rock climbing wall, boxing, pilates, and even a restaurant with a bar in it. But the executive membership here runs around 300 dollars a month.

Traditional gyms, like Gold's Gym, usually cost on average around $50 dollars a month: You'll get classes, traditional equipment. But if you want to come and not have to pay for all those amenities your not gonna use all those amenities, this is the place for you.

What I tell everybody is that you really gotta commit to about three times a week, then that gym is worth whatever you are spending on it, but if you are not gonna spend that kind of time, then you are really kind of throwing money out.

Negotiate Initiation Fees
When I come into a gym I like to make sure that I work that initiation fee down! That's the most negotiable part of the entire membership. Its an invitation for you to pay money so that you can pay money every month, that's easy to work with.

Avoid long term contractsI don like the two or three year memberships, because who knows whats gonna happen in two or three years. Are you still near here, can you break a contract, most contracts are not breakable, your gonna end up paying for three years and not be here, month to month might cost you a little more, but at the end of the year it probably doesn't, because you are in control of it!

Take a Tour See how many people are there! Tour the gym at the time you want to work out so you can see how crowded it is. Take a look at the equipment, make sure that's clean that there are things to wipe down the machines. Make sure there are not a lot of out of order signs on the machines, that will tell me a lot about how the gym takes care of itself.