People run on treadmills at a New York Sports Club Jan. 2, 2003 in Brooklyn, New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A new year often kickstarts plans to improve personal health. An often sensible first step is to find a good gym, though the process can often be overwhelming.

While there are plenty of gyms in most cities, it may be tiresome to find one that suits a person's specific needs. The first thing to do, Muscle and Fitness magazine points out, is to consider goals. If you're looking to lose weight through cardio-based exercises, make sure the gym has plenty of well-maintained treadmills, ellipticals or stationary bikes. If you're looking to work toward getting a body-builder physique, pay special attention to the free-weight section. That means, of course, you should tour a gym before purchasing a membership and most places are more than willing to show a prospective client around.

If you're worried about staying committed to your workout, it's also good to consider the gym's location when testing it out. Consider how working out will best fit into your daily routine, and, if at all possible, try to sign-up for a gym that is close to your home or place of work — that way it's convenient.

The Better Business Bureau has 10 recommended questions to ask before signing up for a gym, and it recommends you ask yourself about convenience and workout goals, as well as a number of other questions. It also has five smart questions to ask the gym before signing up, which are, "What are the terms of any introductory offers, will my membership renew automatically, how can I get out of my contract, what happens if I move and what happens if you go out of business?"

Joining a gym is a careful balance between costs and benefits, so it's important to research the total cost of a membership and to carefully consider what each place offers. Fitness Magazine ranked the best gym for different types of workouts, naming 24 Hour Fitness as the best "big box" chain and Gold's Gym as the best "sculpting studio." Men's Fitness has a pretty good list of the best deals on memberships, which included 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, Charter Fitness and Snap Fitness. When you ultimately make a decision, keep in mind that the average basic gym membership costs about $40-$50 per month with some kind of initiation fee likely attached.

Once you do join and start the climb toward your resolution goal, keep the big picture in mind to keep up your progress. In an article laying out 15 essential workout tips, Fitness Magazine recommends charting your progress, adding short sprints to your runs and allowing for 20 percent of the year as a time for more unhealthy living, among 12 other tips. Muscle and Fitness, meanwhile, suggests every good workout routine should included squats, a short cardio warmup and a week of significant rest every 6-8 weeks. Most gyms will have a staff of trainers who could also prove an invaluable resource as you work toward your fitness goals.