Gyms can be worth the money if you use them regularly and have a strict routine and fitness goal. However, what you expect and what happens when you join can be very different.
Here are some common misconceptions about signing up to a gym:
You'll go several times a week: Yes, you'll have the option, but you have to motivate yourself to go. Each time you skip the gym, your motivation drops. Don't become the person who signs up to a 12-month membership and only goes 3 times (it happens).
You'll go when it suits you: You'll choose a convenient time to go, like before or after work, but guess what? You won't be the only one with that idea. Be prepared to queue for equipment or go much later or much earlier to avoid gym congestion.
You'll be surrounded by buff people and posers: You may find the odd beefcake or Snapchat artist, but most people at the gym are the same as you. They want to get fit, and they are happy to spot you if you need help with heavy weights.
You'll get to use the best gym equipment: If cleanliness and brand-new equipment is what you want, you'll pay for it at a higher end gym. But even gyms that have old equipment should be safe enough to help you get fit.
You'll go to fitness classes: Most get oversubscribed, especially for classes that need lots of room, like yoga or circuit training. If you can exercise comfortably in a small space, this won't be a problem for you.
You could save yourself a lot of hassle by trying one of these first:
Pay for individual sessions: You don't need a contract, and although it's more expensive over time compared to a 12-month membership, if you stop going you could save yourself hundreds.
Find a 24-hour gym: These let you work out whenever you want. Most people go to the gym before or after work, so if you want a quieter gym experience try going outside of these hours.
Use a no-contract gym: These usually cost more monthly compared to a 12-month membership, but you don't sign a contract. This means you can stop paying if you stop going to the gym. This is a good way to trial a gym before committing long term.
Look for free inductions: Most gyms offer a free induction to show new members how to use their equipment. If possible, ask for your induction to be at a time you are likely to go so you get a feel for how busy it will be if you sign up.
Replace the gym completely: This depends on what you use the gym for, but you could replace most activities with a free version. For example, you could go running anytime, and almost anywhere for free, rather than using a treadmill.
If you value your time over your fitness, then busy gyms will be a nightmare for you. You could always try some of these alternatives instead:
Fitness apps: Your mobile's app store offers hundreds of fitness apps, from running apps, to workout apps that require no weights. Most offer a free version, so give a few a go and see what you think.
Start a slimmers club: Make the most of your work environment and start a slimming club with your colleagues. You can help encourage each other to stick to certain diets, which could actually mean you don't need to go to the gym at all.
Start a running club: You could organise a run around your working hours, with parks and even roads offering ample space to stretch your legs. It'll not only cost you nothing, but you'll get to know some of your colleagues better at the same time.
Create your own gym: Yes, this'll cost you money, but you could start small and pick up a set of dumbbells and build from there. There are often deals on home gym equipment, so look around and bag yourself a bargain.