Choosing a fitness club is a little more involved than showing up at a gym near your home or work and signing up. The reason most people stop going to a club they belong to is that it doesn't meet their needs. Asking a few questions beforehand can save you this disappointment or expense.
Tour the facilities at the time you're most likely to use them. This will be the best indicator of lineups and if the facility is over-used.
Look for signs of cleanliness, ventilation, and good maintenance of equipment.
Use a guest pass or a trial membership to try before making a commitment.
Ask lots of questions of staff other than the salesman. Talk to the members and ask how they like it.
Is the staff knowledgeable, educated and certified? Most aerobics and fitness instructors today have some level of certification. Are they motivated and customer-oriented in their work/workouts.
Is the staff experienced and knowledgeable about your desired fitness activities. A body-building gym may not the best place for aerobics, or vice-versa.
Do staff give you an orientation to ensure you are working out safely and most effectively.
The membership contract
Read it carefully. Ensure any verbal assurances are included in the written agreement.
Are you agreeing to a monthly, annual or a multi-year fixed term? What payments are required up-front and monthly?
Are you given a "cooling off" period, where the contract is cancelled if you change your mind without penalty. Often this is three days.
Check for consumer complaints with the Better Business Bureau ("BBB"). Is the club financially stable (maintenance is a good indicator of this)?