After a summer of pain thanks to an unhappy IT band (and some physical therapy that showed me just how weak my hips and core were), I decided to get serious about strength training last fall.

Not knowing where else to turn, I Googled ‘strength training Washington D.C.’ Now, I might turn to Twitter, but back then I was just dipping my toes in the waters of fit bloggers, so I didn’t know many D.C. people. I mostly used mainstream media sources (The Washington Post and the Washingtonian were especially helpful) and I used recommendations I found there to narrow down gyms to visit.

Any gym that asked me to pay for ‘introductory sessions’ was right out. Any gym that wanted me to buy a membership AND pay for training? Nope.

I checked out several, but ended up picking mine based on three factors:

1. Comfort with the gym & personnel: I mean, this is the biggest one, right? I met with the owner, who recommended my current trainer. While the owner did try to sell me on a cleanse (no thanks!), he did a great job of matching me with my trainer, who is really cool and sarcastic. He’s also a run coach, so that’s been amazingly helpful.

2. Location: I needed it to be close to work and easy to get to from the Metro. The gym IS a bit far (I have to take a bus, generally) but I only go once a week and the bus runs all the time, so it’s fine. It’s also within biking distance, if I ever get my shit together and get my bike fixed up.

3. Price: I mean, I’m not cheap, right? But I wanted to keep from paying for lots of things I don’t use. This gym is pretty basic and has no membership fee. I just pay for the trainer’s time. Added bonus: I can use the cardio equipment as part of my training package.

Of course, the real key to all of this was making sure that I like my trainer, that I feel comfortable working with him and asking questions. I worked with a trainer at a gym once before and she always, always, always seemed bored. I was really out of shape then, so I’m sure I wasn’t an exciting client, but I really hated feeling like she always had better things to do. It was not a good relationship. And I’ve heard of other people working with trainers with high expectations – too high, really, for someone who just wants to shed a few pounds and not get out of breath climbing up a flight of steps.

So far, I think I’ve found a great balance – he’s realistic, doesn’t push me so hard I can’t walk, and every now and then reminds me of how far I’ve come. I don’t need constant encouragement – it actually makes me a little self-conscious – so a little goes a long way.

I’m not sure these tips are actually all that helpful, but they’re honest, at least. I went with my gut to some extent but it’s worked out really well.