I did the Bally's two-week deal back in 2005. When you go in, they'll probably offer you another deal that is better--I think I got a month free, but I had to sign up for membership. I could cancel anytime before the end of the month with no charges, but I did have to give them all my credit card info. You can still take the two-week deal if you don't want to give them your credit card info. I took the one-month free deal because I knew that I wanted a membership at this gym. It is within walking distance of my house and that was the most important factor for me--I knew I'd be a lot more likely to go if it was convenient.
My experience was incredibly positive; so much so that I sometimes sound like a Bally's commercial. The staff at my gym is super enthusiastic; I really credit them with giving me the confidence I needed to lose weight. I went in thinking the most I could hope for was to be in a little better shape; I didn't think it would be possible for me to lose weight. But they just assumed that I wanted to lose weight and acted 100% confident that I would be able to do it. I'm sure it was just a sales job, but it really got me thinking, enough that I did eventually start counting calories and have been pretty successful at losing weight. But I don't think I would have done it if they hadn't been so enthusiastic. I joined a 24-Hour Fitness several years ago and did not have nearly as positive an experience (and quit going after a few months).
I have been working with a personal trainer since I joined. I've had two different trainers and they've both been great. I consider them to be the number one factor in my success.
If you want the full work-up, make sure you ask for it because not all the trainers will do it automatically. I also spent a lot of time exploring the nutritional and exercise info on Bally's website. They have program that will plan out an entire week's menu for you based on your recommended calorie level--breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks--and they have basic workout plans online as well. I use their online food diary and exercise log. All of that stuff is free with your membership, so it's worth exploring. The food diary is just so-so, however. If I didn't have hundreds of custom foods already created on it, I'd probably switch to Fitday because I think it has better reports.
My main complaints about my gym are that it doesn't have enough of the elliptical machines with arms that move and they are slow to fix cardio equipment that breaks (they fix the weight equipment quicker, since there is usually only one or two of each weight machine). The vast majority of the equipment is in good working condition, but I swear, there's an elliptical that has been broken since December!
From what I can tell there are some pretty big differences from one Bally's location to the next. I've heard this from my trainer and on the discussion forums on their website. I've also experienced it myself when visiting my parents and using the Bally's near their house. The weight equipment there is a little older and not as nice as the equipment in my gym. On the other hand, that gym has a pool and a track, neither of which my gym has, and more of the ellipticals with arms that move. The personal trainers at my gym are fantastic, but from what I've read on Bally's own discussion forum, this isn't the case at all Bally's locations. My trainer told me that it really just depends on how good the head trainer is and what kind of tone he/she sets with the rest of the training staff, which makes sense. Same thing for the classes; I haven't really been impressed with the classes at my gym but I've read posts from people raving about the classes at their gym. It all just depends on how good the person who oversees the classes is.
My Before and After Pics
"Decide what you want; decide what you're willing to exchange for it; establish your priorities, and go to work." --H.L. Hunt
"Life has hills. Set the treadmill at an incline."