I have sold thousands of memberships for hundreds of different gym operators over the past few years so I know the issues that concern customers. One common problem I come across is people who feel "ripped off" when they want to cancel only to discover that they have committed to a long term contract.

Virtually everyone who complains about contracts says they had no idea that they had committed to 12 or 18 months. Even if you assume that some people are being economic with the truth that does not account for the all the complaints I have encountered over the years. I do not think the clubs are being quite misleading but perhaps you should consider the following facts.

1. Remember the sales people at gyms are paid a really low basic salary and make up their money from commission on sales so they tend to play down any negatives about a contract.

2. There tend to be a high turnover of sales staff at gyms so please the best efforts of the clubs their sales staff are not always the best trained.

3. Sales staff know that any miss-selling is illegally to catch up with them because they are not around for long.

4. Some of the big operators change their deals so often it can be confusing for staff.

You may not think that any of this is a problem for you because you can simply cancel your Direct Debit and your club will always forget if you ignore their calls and emails. This may be true for the smaller chains or independents but the larger operators will definitely chase you for the money.

What you probably do not know is that you have signed a Credit Agreement which means the club are entitled to the full amount of the contract. If you do not pay up you will be taken to court and a County Court Judgment (CCJ) can be made against you. A CCJ is a judgment that is made if you fail to pay a debt. If you try to get a loan or mortgage the bank or company will do a credit check on you and if they find you have a CCJ against you they may refuse the loan or charge a higher interest rate.

There are some legitimate ways of rescing your contract but they are very limited and vary from contract to contract. For example some gyms will let you cancel if you move to a different area where they will not have a club – but you will have to prove it.

1. Do not sign anything you do not understand or are not happy with and make sure you read anything before you sign it. Even if the sales person "assures" you it is okay it's difficult to prove a verbal contract without witnesses.

2. Do not be too optimistic about how often you will use the gym to justify the price or length of contract. We all kid ourselves.

3. Do check how your club deals with cancellation. You will usually have to give a month's notice in writing even after your contract period has expired.

4. Do haggle with the gym for a shorter contract and better rate before you agree anything.

5. Do research the gym on Google and see if there are better deals online or any alternatives in the area.

6. Do join a different gym if the club you are talking to will not offer a deal – you'll be a lot happier in the long run.

Well I hope you find this article useful and good luck with choosing a gym.