When it comes to finding the right gym I feel like I step into my own real life version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – nothing is quite right. Now, I love going to the gym, but over the last two years or so I’ve tried rather a few of them and have finally found somewhere that really just meets my needs. So here’s my little synopsis of the pros and cons of the gyms I had to go through to find one which was just right.
The Small Health Club
My first foray into the weights room all started at the health club right by my work. Location-wise it was perfect; a half hour train ride, a two minute walk from the station and then just five minutes into the office. I’ve always preferred being a morning gym-goer, so a gym close to work really suited me. Mornings were also fairly quiet and I never had to wait for the squat rack. Some of the guys in the weights room were pretty yelly though, and while I now understand heavy lifting better so that doesn’t worry me, at the time I was a weightlifting newbie and I found it really distracting and intimidating. Moreover, the weights section was small and even with just a three to four of us in there it felt crowded, plus, the showers were skeezey which considering the price really was not forgivable.
Pros: Convenient location, good equipment
Cons: Small weights section, yucky changing room
The Chain Gym
Reaching the end of my tether at the local health club and feeling a bit lost in my training I joined a group class of other women wanting to lift weights and get strong. I’ve previously written a post on this, that I later edited because I really retract my original recommendation. I learned a lot and met some amazing women who I still regularly meet up with and speak with pretty much every day, however, sadly when the vibe with the coach heading the programme turned it really turned. The gym itself was a fairly low-cost chain gym and you got what you paid for. Equipment was basic but had everything we needed for training. It also was a pretty large gym floor so there was plenty of space for four of us to workout together, though when the classes expanded to eight (split into two groups), it became a little more crowded. The changing rooms were disgusting though and not looked after at all. I ended up avoiding the queue for a cold shower by just showering at work. It was also really out of my way in the West End so my mornings were super early and I was getting pretty fatigued.
Pros: The course meant I progressed quickly and gained huge confidence in my training and ability, I made amazing friends and the space and equipment was ideal.
Cons: Gross changing rooms, not an ideal location for me for home and work, and a sad end to the course that has left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth
The Super Snazzy Gym
Bored of grimy changing rooms where you’re scared to walk barefoot I was seduced into the world of luxury gyms, signing up to an extortionate membership in the West End again. The facilities were incomparable with anywhere else I have ever trained – think top of the game gym equipment and luxury shampoo and conditioner in the waterfall showers… If I worked closer I probably would have stuck this out a little longer, because honestly, it made gymming a bit of a dream escape. That out of the way commute though still really took its toll on me. Add in that I had a not so great experience with the personal trainer assigned to me (I have the worst luck with personal trainers!) and how crowded the gym could be in the mornings, I decided in the end that it really wasn’t worth the money for me. A friend and my sister both still train here and love it though, it just wasn’t right for me in the end.
Pros: High tech equipment, great classes, beautiful changing rooms with fluffy towels an luxury products
Cons: Hellish journey meant I was super tired and started skipping a lot of sessions, another bad coaching experience sadly, very expensive
The Powerlifting & Bodybuilding Gyms
It wasn’t until I went along with Tomato to his local gym that I really realised what it is I’m looking for in a gym. I’m looking for somewhere to train with others who are working on similar goals and supportive of those on similar fitness paths. Walking into Physical Culture was like coming home. It was no frills – just power racks, deadlift platforms and cable machines. I was in heaven. People talked to each other, spurred each other on, no judgement or snobbery tolerated. Following this I finally got myself down to Squats Gym, an old-school bodybuilding gym literally eight minutes walk from my house in Streatham. Again, it’s no frills but the welcome I received when I first rocked up was all I needed to know I’d found my ‘just right’. It’s small but has everything I need: power rack, squat rack, dumbbells, kettle bells and a treadmill to force myself into some hill sprints. I now just shower at home and treat myself to my own fancy shampoo & conditioner with the money I’ve saved on membership costs! All the guys who go in the morning now say hi to me or wish me a good day when they’re headed out. I’ve only been training there a month but I already feel like a regular. I love it. Plus, I now roll out of bed at 6am and am in the gym by 6.15am which has made such a difference to my sheer exhaustion!
Pros: Fits my training style, friendly and welcoming, zero commute
Cons: Basic equipment could be a turn-off for some (I just don’t really mind funnily enough)
Through my quest for ‘the perfect gym’ I’ve really re-evaluated what I want out of a training environment. I always thought that I wanted that ultra-luxurious, exclusive ambiance, but actually when I had it I just wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. For me, training in a smaller, more weights focused environment has made me far more comfortable. I totally recognise though that starting out this kind of environment would have completely intimidated me. It’s so interesting how my training needs and wants have developed as my fitness and training goals have.
My Top Tips For Finding The Right Gym FOR YOU:
I think the main thing to do really is to evaluate the things that are important to you when it comes to the gym. Assess the below and rank them by how likely they are to make you happy in your training.
– Location: are you happy to travel or do you need a convenient location to keep you going?
– Cost: are you more likely to stay motivated if you’re paying a high membership price, or do you need to keep costs down?
– Facilities (including changing rooms!): What equipment do you need for your workouts? How important is having those extra little touches for you?
– Atmosphere: Does a busy gym motivate you more than a quiet one? Do you just want to get in and get out, or are you looking for a closer knit community?
For me, it’s clear that eventually a community vibe and less travel time were the most important elements, after, obviously, having all the weights I need for working towards my goals. But what matters to you? Let me know in the comments, I love to hear from you! Oh, and if you’d like to see the gym I’m so happy in now you can check out my little vlog for a sneak peak tour.