Most people sign up for a gym membership with the best of intentions. They want to get fit, lose weight, gain muscle, and improve their overall health. But a lack of a time, slipping motivation, prohibitive costs, or a worldwide pandemic can cause those ambitions to fall by the wayside.

It’s at this point that a different kind of exertion begins—a prolonged struggle to break up with your gym, which are notorious for using contracts that are designed to make parting ways difficult. Fortunately, canceling your gym memberships doesn’t always have to be such a hassle. (Bear in mind it will likely be a hassle. Just not an unmitigated one.)

For the most part, gym memberships commit members to use of their facilities in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee, and there isn’t much recourse for someone who has simply changed their mind and decided those services are no longer needed. Gyms and their contracts typically only make exceptions in the event of disability, death, relocation, or the gym failing to provide services outlined in the contract. Absent one of these reasons, canceling without paying the remaining balance due may be at the discretion of management.

The best way to begin the process is to send a letter via certified mail informing the gym of your desire to terminate your membership with as much information as possible. Your name, address, payment information, and account information should all be included, along with your reason for canceling. This ensures a paper trail is being created you can reference in the event the gym claims they haven’t received your request.

Some franchise gyms, like Equinox, allow members to cancel at any time if they’ve been a member for at least a year and give at least 45 days’ notice. Planet Fitness bills monthly and asks for about a week’s notice. Absent any of the major life events mentioned above, these places might try to pin a cancellation fee or pro-rated balance due on you. Aside from speaking with management, there’s not much you can do about it.

Gyms may continue charging you fees even after canceling, in which case you should dispute the charge with your credit card or bank and have them reach out to the gym on your behalf. (Don’t cancel a credit card to avoid the charge, as that may result in your account being turned over to a debt collector.)

If written requests are being ignored and your gym is part of a national chain, you can write the corporate office with details of your issue and hope they’ll offer a prompt resolution.

The pandemic has put more of a wrinkle in this already-convoluted process. If you’re uncomfortable with returning to a gym, many locations should be willing to suspend your membership until you decide to return. (If a gym is following state reopening guidelines, canceling may be difficult.)

If you’re in a higher-risk category, obtaining a doctor’s note may go a long way toward resolving any membership issues.

To summarize: Keep a paper trail. Offer a valid excuse when possible. Be willing to absorb some of the fees involved. And sign that next gym contract only after reviewing it carefully.