Choosing a new gym is a bit like online dating. Well, kind of... Just bear with us here, okay?
When asking yourself "which is the best gym for me?" you first need to find a gym you like the look of. A gym you fancy spending a couple of nights a week getting hot and sweaty with. A gym that shares your interests – from swimming to tennis, classes to weights. In short, you need to find a keeper.
Many gyms will offer a free 'try before you buy' day pass
We’re not saying it’s going to be plain sailing: there’ll be times where you really, really hate the gym. But ultimately, if you want a long-lasting relationship, it’s worth spending a bit of time filtering through your options to find the perfect match.
Read on for our handy guide to the giants of the gym world. Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for a first date – many gyms will offer you a free ‘try before you buy’ day pass.
If You Like Getting Sweaty With Others...
Once one of the more basic gym chains, Fitness First have really upped their game in recent years – updating equipment, renovating clubs and overhauling class timetables. The results have been impressive, catapulting them up a good few notches on the swanky gym scale.
We’re particularly fond of their freestyle group training. Held at regular intervals on the gym floor, you use kettle bells, medicine balls, weighted sandbags, plyo boxes (for jumping on), suspension straps and more to challenge your muscles and improve your fitness in just 30 minutes.
P.S. You have to watch this video, it's awesome!
If You 'Get About' A Bit...
[related_articles]If you move around the country a lot, say for work, it’s handy to be able to visit a gym in a different town. Nuffield Health’s new Multi-Club Access programme means you can do this free of charge – a service that many other gyms charge extra for.
Nuffield takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, so alongside the usual gym equipment, personal trainers and studio classes, you’ll have access to health experts such as physiotherapists, physiologists and nutritional therapists, and you'll get a thorough Health MOT when you join.
If You’re Into Water Sports...
With more than 100 indoor pools (including a couple of very posh ones), 15 heated outdoor pools and 40 kids' pools in health clubs across the country, Virgin Active is ideal if you’re a bit of a water baby.
If swimming’s not your bag, bypass the Aqua class and head straight for the gym, where you’ll find some top-notch equipment and also the rather strange looking Woodway Curves – non-motorised treadmills you power under your own steam.
If you’re going to try out the classes, we love the sound of ZUU Primal Power (below). Basically, you crawl around the floor pretending to be a bear for 20 minutes and burn around 300 calories in the process.
If You’re Not Ready For Commitment...
Don’t want to tie yourself down with a 12-month contract, signed in blood? One of the new breed of low-cost, contract-free gyms could be just what you’re looking for.
They may be ‘no frills’ but they still have everything you need for a decent workout: many have classes and loads of them are open 24 hours a day. And they’re cheap – Pure Gym starts at just £9.99 a month with day passes from £5.99 – because they save on 'luxuries' such as reception staff, towels, saunas and steam rooms.
If You Like Balls...
Okay, so technically they’re racquet sports not ball games, but you know what we mean. David Lloyd clubs boast hundreds of indoor and outdoor tennis, badminton and squash courts, and they have the largest tennis coaching team in the world.
The clubs have a real family focus, with kids’ pools alongside indoor and outdoor adult pools, junior tennis and swim lessons and crèche facilities where you can drop the nippers off while you hit the weights.
If You Like To Paaarty...
If gyms were people, Gymbox would be a beardy hipster pulling wheelies on his fixie. In the evenings, these London-based clubs have live DJs pumping out the tunes while you craft your guns and pound the treadmill. There are boxing rings for sparring and martial arts training, and loads of 'frames' – basically, massive climbing frames for hanging off, swinging on and working out with.
The icing on the ridiculously fashionable cronut is the creative class timetable. Beast yourself at Spartan Training, try your hand at Show Wrestling or choose from any number of other weird and wonderful workouts including Yoga Rave, Aerial Hoop (hanging from the ceiling in a hoop like at the circus) and American Football Fit.
Top 3 Tips For Choosing A Gym
As Phil and Kirsty will impress upon you: location, location, location. If a gym is within spitting distance of your house or work, you’re a lot more likely to go than if it requires a 12-mile detour to the other side of town.
2. Take a tour of the gym, at the time you’d be working out
If you love blasting out a session on the rower but there’s a 20-minute queue for machines at 5.30pm, you need to consider how much that’s going to piss you off.
Ask your friends about their gym. If you join a club they’re in, it makes it way easier to drag yourself out of bed for that 7am yoga lesson when your mate’s waiting for you.