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story.lead_photo.caption Isaac Williams

A gym membership is a great way to reach your health and fitness goals.

Consider these tips in order to get the most out of your membership:

Before joining

Goals — Before joining a gym, be sure to have some specific goals this gym will help you achieve. Do you want to train for a 5K or a marathon, lose a little weight, play racquetball? Make sure your membership will help you meet your needs.

Location — If your gym isn't in a convenient location, you'll be less likely to go. Consider if it is important to be close to your home or your work or both. If you plan to work out early in the morning, close to home might be best. However, if you'll be exercising during your lunch hour, close to work would probably be best.

Try it out — Most gyms offer potential members a pass to try out the facility before committing to the membership. The YMCA offers tours and visitor passes to help give you a feel for the facilities.

After joining

Try everything — Most gyms have a lot to offer, so be sure to try as much as you can. The Y isn't just a fitness center; it also offers basketball, tennis, volleyball, racquetball, walleyball, swimming, martial arts and group fitness. Find a routine that fits you, and you'll be more likely to stick with it.

Be comfortable — If the fitness center is where you'll spend some time, be sure you know how to use the equipment so you don't suffer an injury. The YMCA offers free fitness center orientations at all three locations to make sure you get the most out of your workout.

Take advantage of the classes — Most gyms offer a variety of group exercise classes, from step, kickboxing and Zumba to yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling. Try as many as you can that fit your schedule until you find one you really enjoy. There are more than 50 fitness classes available at the Y free with your membership.

Hire a trainer — A personal trainer can provide workouts designed to help you reach your goals. Not only do they ensure you are using proper technique and form, but they can also provide nutrition advice. In addition, they hold you accountable with your set, paid appointment.

Isaac Williams is the director of membership and risk management for the Jefferson City Area YMCA, where he has worked for the past 11 years.

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