When you decide to commit yourself to getting back into shape, you have two main options for working out.

1. Join a gym
2. Buy your own fitness equipment

Do a search in your local area. You will likely find plenty of spas, gyms and exercise clubs to check out. The advantages of club membership include the use of a variety of facilities and equipment that would be unaffordable or impractical in most homes. The guidance of the club staff can help you make wise choices about how to best attack your fitness foibles, and the opportunity for social interaction with other club members will be attractive to some.

Potential problems with joining these mega-workout facilities include inconvenience, lack of privacy, ongoing expense and risk of contagion.

Depending upon your budget, membership dues can be steep, and there is often a contract to sign. You will be charged, usually monthly, whether you make use of the facilities or not.

Maybe you feel a bit intimidated or embarrassed if you’re out of shape and just getting started on a renewed exercise plan. It can take some courage to walk into an open gym and try to confront your physical challenges in a “glass house.” Trying to focus on your individual efforts can be all the more difficult if you’re distracted by worries that others may be watching with critical or scornful eyes.

Some people will buy gym memberships with all good intentions, but then find that they can’t make time to go as often as they had planned — their dues payments become a waste of money. When they do make it to the gym, there are crowded times, especially around New Years, when they have to wait for the machine they need to become available.

And if you’ve frequented a gym before, you’re well familiar with the unpleasant odor of your sweaty peers and the sanitary challenges that accompany so many people handling the same equipment, one after another. Gym owners do their best to enforce sanitary routines to mitigate such risks, but in truth, trying to get healthy at a busy gym can be hazardous to your health.

For these reasons, many prefer to get exercise equipment for home use instead. Here are a few things to consider before making a buying decision:

First, you need to sit down and figure out what your fitness goals are going to be. Set realistic short-term and long-term goals for yourself, so that you know exactly what you need to do and what exercise equipment will really help you get there. Don’t be tempted by the “miracle” contraptions pitched on late-night TV. Be honest with yourself and keep it simple. Your consistent action will produce better results than any shiny infomercial gadget. Try to identify the fundamental tools you will need — and that you will actually use on a daily or weekly basis to reach your goals — step by step.

And you don’t have to spend your hard-earned money on brand-new workout machines. Buying second hand gym equipment will save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars over the long run.

Check your local classified ads to find bargains from individual sellers. How many of your neighbors might have benches, dumbbells, free weights, treadmills, stair-steppers, ellipticals or even brand-name workout machines that were bought brand-new, but are sitting unused in the basement or spare bedroom? Ask around. You can do yourself and your neighbor a favor by taking neglected equipment off their hands at a discount.

There are also businesses that buy and sell used and refurbished fitness gear, both from private parties who lost interest and from commercial fitness centers that have gone out of business or upgraded their equipment to newer models. One of these workout machine consignment stores might be a smarter choice than a private seller should you experience a defect and need to make a return or get help. A retail business will charge sales tax, but can provide some more accessible recourse when a problem arises.

Ask a few questions regarding the age and condition of the machine and ask if you can test it out before you buy. Is there a warranty? The more questions you ask, the more comfortable you will be with your purchase of a used exercise machine.