If you're preparing to take part in a marathon this year, there's no doubt that you'll be planning or are already taking part in a meticulous training session. Whether you're an experienced competitor or newbie runner, proper preparation is important when taking part in any marathon event. No matter how fit you already are, it's good to see how your body reacts when you choose to run longer distances – remember that most marathons are in excess of 10 miles (16km) long. If you've never run this kind of distance before, you can not expect to finish or avoid long-term injury without training.

The gym may seem like a good place to start as it's a space dedicated to getting fit, with very little room for procrastination. However, if you've never been to a gym before, there are a few things you should be aware before signing that membership contract. More often than not, contracts can be difficult to get out once signed, so you want to make sure you pick the right place from the get go.

The following tips are designed to help you pick the right gym for you. Getting properly prepared for a marathon or any other major event will be the key to your success.

Do not join in January – After the Christmas break is over, people become self-obsessed with the need to work off all the extra calories taken in over the month of December. Statistics show that gym memberships tend to soar almost 50% in the month of January, with almost 30% of these new members dropping off by Easter. Due to this surge in demand, it's more than likely that there will not be any sign up deals or good offers.

Do your own background checks – You may not have known this, but almost anyone can set themselves up as a personal trainer or teach fitness classes in a gymnasium without people asking of their previous experience or qualifications. If your fitness instructor is genuine, they'll have no problems in giving you their full name so you can check them on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS). The REPS website will tell you what they're qualified in, what they ' ve trained in and to what level. Sometimes, you'll even be able to see if they're insured. There are currently over 30,000 registered instructors on the database, so if you can not find your instructor on the list, there's probably someone close to where you live who can help.

Take a day off – You may find yourself seeing regular faces every time you go to the gym, but depending on what exercises you're doing, it's important to have rest days. Try not to be tempted to dedicate exercise every single day on the same part of your body, as this does not allow the body to heal properly. Weight training is great for building strength, but this kind of exercise causes minute tears in the muscle that need time to repair. Delaying this repair process can have a drastic effect on long term recovery. You want to be in peak condition for your marathon, so include rest days.

Try to avoid peak times – In preparation for a marathon, you'll want to able to achieve your desired workout while feeling comfortable and undisturbed. If you visit your gym during a peak time, you may find there are too many people around delaying the use of a particular machine, or even spoiling your concentration. As you can imagine, peak times are often evenings and weekends. If you're feeling up to challenge, why not visit the gym before you go to work. Most gyms come complete with sufficient showering facilities, so you do have the option of going straight to work after your workout.