As we enter January the annual event of taking stock of ones life and making decisions to improve our fitness, health and well-being is in the forefront of our minds.
Motivation runs high and as we turn our back on Christmas, our attention starts to focus on the coming months. Along with a New Year often comes the promise to ourselves this year I WILL feel fit and fabulous on my summer holidays.
To help you along your way this January I wanted to put some information out there to help guide those of you wishing to join a health club to help you make an informed decision.
Value For Your Money
Having worked in the leisure industry for the past 20 years I have a wealth of experience I can now pass on to you to, hopefully, help you make the right choices. For example; According to a recent study, did you know British people spend a whopping £37 million per year on gym memberships, exercise and slimming classes they never actually attend? According to this study, 77% of people spend money on health club memberships which they never actually use.
From my professional experience, I have noticed over the years people have a tendency to act reactively – We have an impulsive idea and act upon it without always thinking through the outcome long-term. Joining a gym in January is a great example of this.
Before you take the plunge to join a health club, are you aware there are different types of Health Clubs you could join? All vary in terms of facilities, prices, opening times and services available. To get you started, let’s begin with the choices on offer.
Know Your Options
When joining a gym there are generally four ‘types’ of health club based business’. All vary in terms of services offered, the type of facilities available, the pricing structure and the length of contract you are asked to adhere to.
In relation to prices most Health & Fitness Clubs will offer a ‘peak’ or ‘off peak’ pricing structure based on when you plan to use it. ‘Peak’ generally refers to Full Access, including use in the evenings and weekends where as ‘Off Peak’ is limited to weekday/daytime use at a discounted rate. Be sure to have this in mind when you sign up.
Often an overlooked point when people say ‘they are joining a gym’ is you may not wish to use the ‘gym’ at all. It’s worth finding out what other facilities and services are available to you – Please ensure you confirm which services, etc. are included in your membership and which come at an additional cost.
1. The Premium ‘High End’ Health Clubs
Normally, these clubs have a combination of four main leisure activities available. You will find a large, well-equipped Gym, a Swimming Pool (offering lessons, aqua aerobics and lanes for the more serious swimmers), one or even multiple Group Exercise Studios (offering a comprehensive/varied list of classes you can attend, often book-able) and/or Racquets facilities (in the form of Tennis/Squash/Badminton Courts, group training/1-2-1 sessions often available).
The Premium Health Clubs come with a premium ‘feel’ to them. You will find a private car park (sometimes with a car valeting service on site so you can have your vehicle cleaned while you workout).
They will offer a Spa (I.e. Steam Room(s), Saunas and Jacuzzi available as part of your membership to help you unwind) with additional Beauty/Holistic Therapies available at an extra cost.
You will also find a comfortable Restaurant or Lounge/Bar area with an inviting menu so you can unwind and relax after a long days work. Premium Health Clubs are as much about the relaxation side of enjoying your membership and not just the nuts and bolts of working out.
Changing Rooms are often large and comfortable with variety of soft furnishings boasting private shower cubicles, hair dryers and variety of added extras proving to be comfortable, convenient and feeling catered for.
Prices vary and are normally based upon location (London prices being the more expensive). You will receive a complimentary Health Consultation with a member of the Health & Fitness Team. This is an excellent way to get you started and motivated.
The consultation is part medical screen (to ensure you are fully fit to exercise) and, thereafter, a programme will be written for you tailored towards you achieving your personal goals. In addition, some clubs will go on to offer you complimentary re-assessments every 4-6 weeks to keep you motivated and to ensure your programme continues to be both interesting and progressive.
You should find the majority of the services are included in your monthly subscriptions but be warned you will be charged an additional fee for most 1-2-1 Training Sessions (i.e. Personal Training, Private 1-2-1 Swimming or Racquet Lessons, etc.) and, potentially, some Group Exercise classes (which should be clearly stated on the class Timetable) .
You should also read the small print of your contract. It’s a legally binding document which, in most cases, tie you in for anything up to 18 months (depending on the company you choose to join).
Expect to Pay: £60 – £120pp plus per month
David Lloyd Leisure and Virgin Active are the main Racquets, Health & Fitness ‘Chains’ in the UK. There are a variety of independent private Health Clubs up and down the country (Luxury Hotels often house their own Health Suites or work with a smaller chain… Another great option for local residents/professionals who travel).
2. Local Leisure Centre’s
Similar in many ways to a ‘Premium Health Club’ in terms of facilities – You often find a well-equipped Gym, a Swimming Pool, a comprehensive Group Exercise timetable and in some cases Racquets facilities offering Tennis Badminton and Squash.
Local Leisure Centre’s are also known to cater for small children in terms of Nurseries or Child Care Centres while you are working out (some premium brands will also offer Child Care.)
What you won’t find here, however, are the more premium ‘feel’ aspects of the experience. In place of a luxurious bar and restaurant you may find a small cafe or simple vending machines. There may be steam rooms and a sauna and sometimes even a spa but sometimes with an additional charge and often feel quite ‘disconnected’ from the centres main attractions.
The furnishings and changing rooms are much more basic and, while still functional, the overall feeling from the environment may feel a little more ‘budget’. The other angle here is you may not find free car parking available.
Most local authority based centres up-sell themselves as being ‘local’ and don’t always offer a customer car park. In the cases when they do, it is often metered or a chargeable car park which will put your usage costs up considerably – Be aware.
The monthly membership options are often based on location but also facility usage. Membership or Pay-As-You-Go options are slightly more plentiful than premium brands. It all depends on your interests and requirements.
You may be entitled to a gym based consultation/programme, however, in some Leisure Centre’s there may be an additional charge – Do ask before you join.
Terms and Conditions attached to most Leisure Centre Memberships are more flexible than premium brands. This can be a good thing for people wishing to join and cancel according to their agenda… It can also be challenging for long-term members who do not adjust well to constant change – Personal preference.
FYI – Local Authority based Leisure Centre’s are often managed by third-party companies.
Expect to Pay: £20 – £75pp plus per month
This is a fairly new model to the UK, which is becoming increasing popular at an ever-growing rate. These facilities are often open 24/7, fairly basic, no frills.
The gym space can vary a far amount in terms of size and the changing facilities are pretty basic. No pool, often no spa or fancy restaurants here to enjoy. Some companies offer a small group exercise timetable but, compared to the bigger Clubs and Leisure Centres, may be more limited.
The option of classes is more often included in the price, depending on the nature of the class. The facilities on offer may not always be ‘staffed’ – The gyms may have the presence of Freelance Personal Trainers, but they often work to their own schedule depending on their independent business model.
Unique Selling Points
These type of gyms have two main USP’s. Firstly, a large majority of these companies are open 24/7 – You may not wish to workout at 3am, but once a member, you can if you wish! Ideal for shift work.
The second USP, is the average monthly subscription can range from £9.99 per month with NO long-term contract. In most cases, you simply cancel your subscription whenever you wish – Highly flexible. Some brands do offer a contract for the lowest monthly rates possible… Please ensure you assess your options before making any commitments.
Examples: Pure Gym, The Gym Group, Exercise 4 Less, Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, etc.
Expect to Pay: Around £9.99 – £30pp plus per month
Personal Training Studios
A little more rare but certainly becoming increasingly more popular are the small, 1-2-1 based studio gyms designed specifically around Personal Trainers working with their clients exclusively or in small Group Exercise Classes.
Unique Business Model
This model of business runs differently to most gyms. Normally, you can’t buy a membership and just show-up/ workout whenever you want. Instead, you simply Pay-As-You-Go for a pre-booked appointment with your Personal Trainer, organising your training around your free schedule/budget.
Facilities are often compact/intimate (expected due to the nature of the business), however, the space in which you would train would be cleverly designed. You can expect changing/shower facilities with all the exercise kit you need to achieve your goals.
Most importantly, you have 100% of your Personal Trainers attention from the moment you arrive to the time you leave. No wandering around the gym guessing how things work and what you should do next.
Expect to Pay: Location Specific, however, London prices can vary from £35 to £100 plus per 1-2-1 session
Examples: (My own business) Adappt Personal Training Solutions, Matt Roberts Studios and David Lloyd Leisure Studios.
What To Do Next
To ensure you get the most out of your membership and, most importantly, you stick to your new fitness goals, a little planning will be in order before you take the plunge.
Plan Your Usage
Consider WHEN you aim to train – A lack of time is the number one cause for not using health club memberships. Plan to programme your workout into your day and make your gym routine a new habit.
Secondly, decide WHAT you would like to do when you are there – You may not be a gym person, but may love classes. Assess the group exercise timetable before you join and commit to at least 2-3 classes a week for optimum results and value from your membership.
Choose Your Available Resources
You may prefer to swim, so check out the pool and its adult only swim times – Kids classes and aqua aerobics are great but not so much when you are trying to get your pool based fitness routine under your belt!
If you want to use the gym, you may consider hiring a Personal Trainer to get you started. If that doesn’t suit your budget, you can enquire about seeing one of the fitness team for a workout programme to be written.
If you prefer, you can go and do your own thing, however, whatever you do ensure you have a plan. The second most common cause people leave the gym is a lack of motivation, often caused by not knowing what to do once they are there.
Read The Small Print & Ask Questions
When joining a health club, ask questions about what exactly your membership includes. For example; Most health clubs will offer you an initial free consultation and programme to get you started but as I earlier mentioned, some clubs will also reassess your programme for you for free every 4-6 weeks or so. It’s a great incentive to keep going and good for your motivation to keep things varied.
Do Your Research… It will pay off – Some Health & Fitness establishments will offer seasonal (especially, in January and February) incentives to encourage you to join (i.e. Joining/Admin Fee Discounts, Free Guest Passes, FREE Trial Period, FREE Personal Training Sessions, etc.)
Have Fun & Enjoy Your New Experience
Finally, have fun with it! Starting a new fitness routine shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a fun way to spend your time and joining a gym is a great way to get some ‘me’ time away from every day life. Focus on feeling better rather than just pure stats. Try new activities like classes or sports activities to have fun training in groups. Once you start enjoying your membership, the likelihood is, you will stick to it long-term.
Have you joined a gym this New Year? Are you still considering taking the plunge? Maybe you have your own advice or thoughts on the matter. I would love to hear from you if you do! Please leave your thoughts in the Comment Section below – Happy New Year to you all!