Just what does it take to be body beautiful and sensible in 2019? How do you find the right gym for you? Out News Global’s own gym loving Steven Smith talks to experts and guides you on the do’s and do not’s and how to choose the right gym.
How many people have put at the top of their new year’s resolutions to join or to go back to the gym? Historically, only twenty percent of the people who join a gym in January stay the course and become regulars. A staggering 80 percent go once or twice or for a week before throwing in the towel. The only weight these people lose is the cash amount that the gym eagerly takes from the standing order each month.
Nevertheless, it has never been cheaper to go to the gym, with groups such as Easy Gym and PureGym opening their doors for as little as £28 per month. There is a whole world of gyms out there, from the Ritz type gyms such as Equinox to the middle of the road venues such as Virgin and David Lloyd.
The young LGBTQ generation is reported to be frequenting the gyms and fitness venues, turning their back on the bars and clubs that were so popular in the 80’s and 90’s. Body image is very important in this day and age, and stars like Mark Wahlberg get up at two in the morning to work out.
I have been going to the same gym for 25 years now: Soho Gym in Earl’s Court. It is next to my home and is nothing fancy, and at only £50 a month it did not break the bank. The gym was understated and always had some problems. However, it saw the likes of Princess Diana and Marc Almond work out there
The first rule of thumb is to make sure your gym is no more than ten minutes away from your home, as the temptation to stay in bed and not go will be increased with further distance. In addition, make sure it is next to public transport, so you can get to work or to your next appointment easily. (Editor’s note: our correspondent lives in central London. We understand that those in more rural areas may live more than ten minutes from their nearest gym!)
Back in November, my gym closed its doors, as did all the Soho Gyms that had been famous for their LGBTQ friendly atmosphere. The brand was replaced the following year by a group called PureGym, a budget chain based in Leeds and opened by 71-year-old businessman, Peter Roberts. Roberts stated that the key obstacle to overcome was the assumption that budget reflects low quality. There is no contract for this gym, so you can cancel membership at any time. This contrasts with the big gyms, who in my opinion make their money through those people who sign up and never go.
My first experience with PureGym did not go well. On arrival at the South Kensington branch, there was no-one around, so not the usual friendly greeting by people able to help. Keeping staff numbers down is how costs remain low, and in fairness, this is a good idea for those who are gym savvy.
However, being greeted by a tube-like door that requires you to punch your membership numbers in filled me with anxiety. Being dyslexic, and struggling particularly with numbers, this was a challenge, and I could not get in. Eventually, I noticed other people having issues surrounding a teenage lad who worked there; he did not look happy. He seemed to have zero empathy with my issue and actually snapped at me that I had not pressed OK after the number before he walked away.
The equipment was of excellent standard and very varied. For me, it is always daunting to go to a new gym, but at this branch, the lighting was rather oppressive , and the atmosphere always cold you need both of these to adds to an enjoyable experience and keep you going back.
The other thing that really stood out was the shocking smell of the changing room. Soho gym was well managed, and the changing facilities were constantly monitored. Luckily, I was not planning to shower at the gym. In addition, you should bring your own music because the radio playlist and announcements got irritating. Nevertheless, the gym is good value, and I later found out that you could buy a pass that opens the door for you so do not have to key in your number.
EasyGym of Oxford Street (Wells Street) runs under the same principle. However, they get it just right: you press numbers into a turnstile, and the trainers and staff are happy to help and have a really friendly approach. Although there is no reception, I was asked straight away if I needed help with anything when I was struggling to get a bottle of water from the machine. The actual gym has to be the best in London for that price; it looks like a major American gym such as Gold’s. Again, the changing rooms resemble a school. There are no frills, but it is a sensational gym with brilliant equipment and, at £29.99 a month, it is a bargain. It is extremely friendly; all the personal trainers smile and create a great atmosphere. You can bring your own towel, or you can buy one from the machine as you come in. An added bonus is that they have fantastic spinning classes. EasyGym wins hands down for me.
If, however, you regularly need to get changed for work or to go out after your workout, you might want to spend a bit more and go to the likes of Virgin Active Fulham, David Lloyd, or Gym Box. These places tend to have nicer changing areas, and some have swimming pools and other facilities.
The problem with these is that they typically do not put a clear price on their web page, so you have to deal with a salesperson, no matter how they term this. I e-mailed Gym Box asking how much it was for a month membership at Westfields and was quickly contacted by a sales guru, who ironically put me off straight away. Despite four e-mails to Gym Box, to this day I have never received a straight answer. Nevertheless, they are all nice gyms that, with the influx of cheaper gyms, may have to up their game.
If you have a higher budget, then let me recommend London County Hall for just over a £100 a month and £80 joining fee. It is luxurious and has excellent changing rooms. My friend uses it and it is great value for her as she lives in Oxford but works in London. She often goes to the gym after work and then changes for the theatre or dinner. Equinox is very popular in L.A., with A-listers attending the branch in High-street Kensington. However, at £250 a month and a staggering £400 joining fee, unless someone is training for me and sending me the results, this is not in my income braket despite its excellence. There are even gyms now that open 24 hours a day, such as the Gym Group in Fulham, so there is no excuse not find a time to go and work-out.
My great friend and celebrity personal trainer Patrick Toplis has a client list that reads like the credits on a Hollywood movie, including Gerald Butler, Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst, and pop star Marc Almond. He is a local legend in Earl’s Court and worked from Soho Gym Earl’s Court. He is now working at PureGym and offered to show me around after hearing that it did not go well. Big thanks to Patrick.
A personal trainer may sound like something only for the stars. However, this is far from the truth, and if you do not know a gym with great value for money, shop around, ask to see their qualifications, or get a referral. If you are trying to lose weight or just want to be inspired, it can be a real benefit. I asked Patrick (who, sorry boys, he is dating supermodel Samantha Tomlin but he is the king of Gay allies ) what to look for in a good personal trainer.
Patrick says to look for a trainer who has knowledge and enthusiasm and is gifted in the craft and is willing to listen to your needs. Explain your expectations; do not have someone training you for the London Marathon or to enter an Ironman if you are just looking to be trimmed up. Perhaps look for a trainer who has a body shape that you would like to emulate.
Their commitment to you should not last just for the sixty minutes of your workout sessions but should continue with nutritional advice and inspiration. Furthermore, the number one factor is empathy and interest in you. Do not pick a tyrant that makes you dread going, there needs to be a little humor.
Patrick is absolutely right; there are so many trainers I have witnessed chatting on their mobiles or looking into space. Make sure that you shop around. I highly recommend Pat. Prices can be as little as £50 a session and there are discounts if you pay in advance (24 hours’ notice of cancellation is required, or you lose the session).
An alternative, with an influx of workout videos and trainers online, is to start with some simple equipment and workout at home. This requires discipline and a knowledge of technique, as you can easily injure yourself at home
Good luck and Happy New Year!