Give Me Exercise or Give Me Death

Okay, we said we were done talking about your gym contract, but there are a few more things we think you should know. Here's an incident that illustrates a bogus practice employed by a gym in Brooklyn. This particular club allows you to pay on a monthly basis by automatically deducting the fee from your checking account. However, when a patron we know wanted to quit, she had to mail a certified letter.

Then the gym could charge her another monthly fee until 30 days after it received the letter. In short, they made getting out of the contract as easy as settling a debt with the Mafia. Familiarize yourself with the club's policy on cancellations in order to protect yourself. Many of them require 30 to 60 days' written notice.

Beware of multiple-year contracts; few clubs offer them, and those that do may not be on sturdy business ground. Not only that, but you don't know where your own life will take you in terms of physical distance from the gym or from your personal preferences about where and when to work out.

Weight a Minute

Beware of multiple-year contracts; few clubs offer them, and those that do may not be on sturdy business ground. Not only that, but you don't know where your own life will take you in terms of physical distance from the gym or from your personal preferences about where and when to work out.

As a consumer, you have rights when you purchase a membership from a health club. (Remember that the contract not only spells out your commitment to the gym, but it also protects you against fraudulent acts by the owners.) In fact, most states have specific statutes that spell out consumers' rights when it comes to health clubs.

Below are highlights from the New York Health Club Statute. Check for specifics in your state.

> You can pay in installments or in one lump sum. Paying in full in advance may seem cheaper, that it may involve taking a financial risk you don't want to incur.

> A contract becomes void if the club fails to provide the services it offers in the contract within one year from the day the contract is signed.

> A contract should provide you the option to cancel within three business days after signing your name on the dotted line. Your notice of cancellation should be sent by certified or registered U.S. mail at the address specified in the contract.

> The buyer (that's you) may cancel the contract if you move more than 25 miles away from the health club.

That said, we don't mean to imply that every gym—or even most gyms—is out to rook you. Far from it. Most gyms are legitimate businesses that make a profit by providing good service. But, as in all things, when it comes to signing on the dotted line and handing over a check—buyer beware!

Now that you've had a chance to evaluate the idea of making a gym a part of your life, let's take a look at another viable option: creating a home gym that works for you.

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