Gym memberships, zumba classes, recumbent bikes, LCD-laden treadmills — these are just a few of the toys on which you can splurge on your road to fitness.

The ordinary process of signing up for a gym or fancy dance, yoga or martial arts classes has the person walking into a gym or studio.

A guided tour follows, which involves watching a class or marvelling at equipment, which excites them enough to sign up for durations ranging from three months to a year. The one-year package always looks the best-deal given the cost per month and the free water-sipper or gym bag which are thrown in.

In case of picking up a bike, treadmill or an elliptical unit, the process turns more obscure. You get a pitch from a sales-person on a spec who tells you nothing about how it will make you fitter. Then you consider how much floor space you give up for the joy of sweating out for twenty minutes to an hour each day in the comfort of your own home, and surrender!

If the above worked and you now have a toned body with great lipid numbers, that is awesome! But if it didn't work for you, here's something to think about.

You stick at the chosen mode of getting fit for a month or even two, after which you drop it like a hot potato. In this case all your thoughts about getting the maximum benefit for the thousands of rupees spent goes down the tube with every passing day. The amount is higher further for unused bicycles, treadmills and personal trainer sessions. A more troubling outcome is when you stick with a workout diligently and you just don't see the results either aesthetic or health-wise. This is as good as money lost.

Set goals

How do you ensure that you are getting a bang for your buck? Start with a simple set of goals. Fitness goals are a great way to make sure you're getting results for your investment. It is important to stay realistic when it comes to these targets. Gym-rats are especially susceptible to burnout as they hit the gym six days a week and wind up feeling sore from over-training. Injuring yourself from ill-thought workouts is counter-productive.

The most objective target starts with getting sugar or lipid levels in check. Eliminating back and joint pain are clear-cut goals too. An effective orthopaedic and exercise therapist can help you draw up workouts for both.

Losing weight is a vague goal as you can get lighter without actually seeing any real improvement in your fitness levels. Getting stronger on the other hand in terms of being able to handle progressively higher loads or getting more flexible (such as touching and holding your toes) are tangible, quantitative and qualitative goals. These should be handy complements to your medical check-up.

Do trial-runs

Before actually committing to a year in the gym, ask for a week of trial classes. When you do sign up, do so for the shortest cost-effective tenure to figure out if it is something you can sustain and enjoy. Go in with a set of targets (both for health and aesthetics) which you can chat with the instructor about and get a sense of how they intend to help you achieve them. Before putting your hard earned money in a piece of equipment, take the time out and join a gym for month to see if you can keep at a single activity thrice or more for a week.

This can save you the pain of a boring workout and rusting equipment. Being able to sustain and enjoy workouts while seeing results are keys to justify a longer term commitment. At the end of the day, a workout is a great way to de-stress and improve the quality of life. If neither is achieved, it is money wasted.