victoryExercise. Yes, there is no substitute for exercise for a variety of reasons. For our purposes it does indeed burn calories. Alas, your body is so efficient at holding onto fat that it lets it go in dribs and drabs but you really do need to get out there and move to make the pounds come off a bit faster and to keep your muscles, bones, and skin in shape. It is a blessing to help you maintain your new figure, too!

Of course there are lots of things that you can do at home: DVD’s of power workouts, home equipment, bar bells and the like. However, I found that for me having to get out and go to the gym was a real motivator because I worked harder and did not let myself off the hook. At home, I would get tired and stop. Oh, the refrigerator was right there, ready for me to have a nice snack. Bad idea. Don’t have that problem at a gym.

Gyms are great because many have group fitness classes, they have an entire array of equipment (which they have to maintain), coaches and personal trainers can be hired, and the friends you make there are pretty nifty like minded people, too.

Investigate gyms in your neighborhood. I bet you will have quite a few to choose from. Look at reviews in Yelp and Google (and take them with a grain of salt if you think it wise). Talk to your friends about how they like their gyms. Lots of them are having sales now (or in December) so take advantage of that. Some hospitals are now offering a “health-plex” kind of deal and those are pretty swanky (but pricy).

Just about every gym has a contract plan you can buy. Please know that getting out of a gym contract can be a real problem. They make it as hard as possible for you to quit. So, investigate the heck out of any place you want to attend before going in for negotiations with them. Be sure to comparison shop. Just about all of them have angry clients who wanted refunds or perfect cleanliness, or no fees of any kind and more more more. Make sure you understand what is realistic and what is just spoiled tantrums from others.

Comparison shop. Visit each gym you are interested in and see what they have. Ask yourself if you would really be willing to plow through snow and bad weather just to get to this gym if it is, say, on the other side of town. I do suggest looking only at gyms in your neighborhood or close. Trust me, it does make a difference.

Now it’s time to talk about the contract. You cannot change it, they hand it to you. Basically they are telling you that you will have to pay $X per month or quarter or year whether you go or not. That’s right, they can do that. Take it or leave it.

Here is how I beat the system: I asked them if they would give me a discount if I paid in cash (get a receipt) for two years in advance. I had the money and I got a nice discount. The catch? I go to the gym every day! I bet the manager sort of weeps every time I come it but that is the deal. I take classes 6 days a week (Friday they don’t have classes at times I like so I just use the machines for an hour). I am really super fit, have a lot of gym friends, and REALLY got my money’s worth.

So you see, I have a super cheap deal and I am really buff. That was the idea in the first place. I win. So can you.

On the other hand, if you find that you are not going so often (read “ever” after the novelty wore off) and you could really use that money for something else…that is going to be hard on you.It is basically gone and you won’t get it back. The only way to outfox the gym is by going. You also make yourself into a fox at the same time. Sloth is not your friend.

On the subject of personal trainers, BE VERY CAREFUL. They are unearthly expensive ($75 for half an hour where I come from) and might or might not be good for you (I had one who wanted me to get my heart rate up to 200 beats per minute—NOT a good idea, meathead). So, I think that you are better off with group fitness classes and your own routines rather than a trainer. My preference, also I am so over being told what to do by other people that it would not work.

BUT if you still want good guidance try one of the cheap and effective personal trainer apps in the smartphone! There are a load of them which give you a program you can work into over time that targets various muscle groups and your whole body. For less than $5 total you can get experts tell you how to shape up. Full Fitness, iCardio, Body Fitness, and Gain Fitness are all good ones. There are many more, too.

Good luck and happy hunting.

I lost 25 lbs from January 2011 to June 2011. It came off about a pound a week and I have managed to keep it off for 6 months. It has not been real hard but you do have to work on it. These are the things I learned when I was going through my diet, I hope they work for you.

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