As gym memberships spike in the New Year, here’s what you should know before signing that contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Briana Brewer is no stranger to the gym, and she is kicking of 2018 the best way she knows how: joining a new gym.

“I usually am joining a new gym almost every year," she said. "I've been working out for over 12 years, so I like to vary it up. So I look for something different and fun."

Brewer is not alone. Gyms across the metro are seeing their annual New Year’s spike of new members.

“We'll probably see a good 20 percent to 25 percent increase probably in the month of January,” said Helena Vilott, head trainer at Orange Theory Fitness. “We’ve had a lot of new members coming in, a lot of people trying us out since we’re kind of a newer concept that has been around for about seven years with our particular gym. But I think, overall, gyms around the city, you’ll see a big spike.”

But joining a gym can be tricky. That's something Deborah Jones and so many others have found out the hard way.

“When I signed up for the 16-week program, I was promised personal training, individual meal plans, 24-hour access to the gym," Jones said of her former gym, which is no longer open. "I was also promised that they would keep track of the number of times that I attended the gym in order to make sure that I met the program requirements.”

About a month in, Jones said she noticed a few inconsistencies.

"The promises that were made weren’t followed through with, and when we noticed that, we just wanted to check everything out,” she said.

What Jones discovered was the gym hadn't been keeping an accurate record of her attendance, and she wound up stuck in a contract. She also paid $160 upfront, which is money she hasn't gotten back.

“When you're trying to go out and get fit, it takes enough motivation as it is," Jones said, "and to then have to add this additional frustration when all you're trying to do is be healthy -- livid is an understatement."

This is a hassle that Kat Kuhn wants to avoid as she tries to get fit for her wedding later this year.

“I think I just kind of steer away from the ones that make you sign a contract," Kuhn said. "I want to be able to cancel. If I have to pay a cancellation fee or stuck in for a year, then I just go to the next gym. There's so many options out there that there is no need to get in those sort of situations."

But with a little time and some reading, Brewer said the only struggle you will have to deal with is keeping up with your workout.

“Just make sure it's clean. That's a big one," she said. "So that way you know the owners actually care about the gym. (Make sure) the front desk is friendly, that they care about every single member, that they are not just looking for members."

Here are a few more tips before committing to a gym:

  • Read the contract thoroughly.
  • Take a few days to think about the gym you are joining before signing.
  • Know what your cancellation policy is.
  • Get a written copy of your contract after signing up.
  • Do not pay upfront. Pay in installments, if you can, so you are not locked into a bad deal.