Finding the best gym can be compared to forging a new relationship. With a bit of personal reflection, pre-planning, and some vetting, you’ll be on the path to what could be a match made in heaven (at least when it comes to this key element of your fitness journey).

Remember, you are investing your time, money, and energy into a gym, and you need to be certain that you’ve made the best choice for you and your training goals. You may be enticed to base your decision off of online reviews or friends’ recommendations, and while that’s an excellent starting point, there should be a few more components to consider.

1. Convenience

First and foremost, location is paramount. You know how you’ll be commuting to the gym and when, so you’ll need to figure out if you need it within walking distance from your home or closer to your workplace for a lunchtime cardio session. The more convenient you make it for yourself, the more frequently you’re likely to go, getting more bang for your buck. Coupled closely with location are the gym’s hours. If it doesn’t work for your schedule it won’t work for you.

2. Aesthetic

Go ahead and judge a book by its cover (or the inside cover). It’s hard to see all the bells and whistles of a gym from the outside, so just doing a drive by won’t cut it. Go see the insides for yourself, especially during a time of day you feel you would visit. What are your first impressions? What are your instincts telling you? Take note of the layout, headcount of gym goers, cleanliness, etc. If there is anything that stands out to you that you can’t live with or you see being a problem, cross it off your list. And fire away with questions toward your tour guide–that’s what they are there for.

3. Staff

Sizing up gym staff as a whole is a potentially unfair assessment. Feel free to ask what staff qualifications include or at the very least if there is a go-to person if you have general fitness questions. The staff aids in setting the tone of the gym.

4. Equipment

Equipment is one of the main reasons someone joins a gym. Knowing what types of equipment you currently need along with what you’d potentially like to use in the future is vital. While on your tour, take note of what’s available, overall condition, and quantity of more popular pieces, such as squat. racks, machines, and treadmills

5. Services and Amenities

If you’re someone who needs instruction or structure, you may be looking for a personal trainer or a class or two to throw into your workout mix. Locker rooms, showers, saunas, and such can be considered luxuries at some gyms. If any of these things make your must-have list, confirm their availability and cost (if any) before you sign on the dotted line.

6. Fine Print

Gym fee structures can vary deeply. Once you find a gym that fits into your budget, verify a few details to be sure. Along with membership fees, do they have any additional fees, like an annual equipment maintenance fee that gets tacked on or cancellation fees? If you decide to take a class or two, is that included? Here you want to make sure there are no surprises. Paying extra money unexpectedly can leave a bad taste in your mouth and potentially a hole in your wallet.

7. Members

The members of a gym are difficult to assess from the onset of a tour, unless you’re looking for one that markets to a particular group. You may be spending multiple hours a week in the gym, and no matter what, you want to be sure you’re in a welcoming, comfortable, and encouraging environment that will only make you want to come back again and again