Ah, the age-old question many of us ask ourselves. We signed up for a yearlong membership with the best of intentions, but now we’re just not so sure it’s worth the expense. So how do you decide if it’s right for you?

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

1. Are you getting the most bang for your buck? Several factors can be considered when answering this one. If you belong to a gym, are you spending a lot of your time there waiting for machines? Or is there always a good selection for you to choose from? Does your gym have trainers, and if so, are they attentive, on time and flexible? I once went to a gym where the personal trainer sat next to me sipping her latte, checking Facebook, and carrying on a conversation with another trainer — all while she was supposed to be guiding me through the proper way to do crunches. Thanks, but not worth my time.

2. Is the gym convenient? How far do you drive to get to the gym? Is it in the lobby of the building where you work so you can easily go on your lunch break? Or are you driving 15 minutes each way (meaning it may be more trouble than it’s worth)?

3. What kind of baby-sitting do they offer? This one is crucial for moms who are home with the kids. My gym offers two free hours of baby-sitting every day. Which means I can go to the gym, drop my kids off, and not even work out. Sometimes I’ve just sat at the coffee bar with a friend or worked on my laptop for an hour. If you use the service, it’s well worth its weight in gold. Then again, if the baby-sitting isn’t all that great (i.e. the room is dirty, they leave your kid in a dirty diaper for 45 minutes till you come back, or your kid is crying the whole time because they’re ignoring him), then this may be a reason not to join.

4. Will you work out at home by yourself without it or not? This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. Some people need the social interaction of a gym to work out. Whether that means being motivated by the girl with the six pack next to you on the treadmill or the camaraderie you find in group classes, a gym can provide something that working out alone in your bedroom or basement doesn’t. Also, climate can make a difference. If you live in Florida, biking or jogging outside year-round is a viable alternative. If you live in upstate New York? Not so much. A gym can also provide a safe place to work out when you’d rather not go walking outside alone in the dark.

Though at first glance, a gym membership may seem like a “luxury item,” getting and staying in shape can mean a healthier body and a healthier mind. If you can do that on your own, more power to you. But this is one of those times when there is no clear-cut answer. Bottom line, friends? Know yourself, know your budget, and know what workout style suits you best.

— Chanie

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