The difference between city and country gyms

Posted by Katie

The rest of my week improved after scary Pilates.

I met with some trainers at the gym nearest my work. I must admit, I had an element of fear before going in: my boss attends that gym and she is a fitness machine. I know how much she does – and I don’t want to get sucked in the fitness vortex completely. Trust me, I obsess over enough things as it is.

But the people were friendly, competent and helpful. I got a notebook filled with free workouts, diet and general health advice as well as the promise they could find something that suits – if I joined.

Now, when I started this challenge, I wanted to come to the conclusion so badly that gyms are the expensive option – and if you can run and walk up steps or do aerobics, this may still be true. But this week has shifted my thinking: the community pool doesn’t offer Pilates, the YMCA charges extra for Pilates and the Pilates class offers no pool. So two of the only three things I’m able to do would cost extra by at least £10 a week.

If you can get a gym that charges no joining fee, offers everything you want and provides fitness plans and reviews for free, a gym may actually be the cheapest choice. Trust me, it kills me to write this. But consider: I spent £23.95 to go swimming and attend a single Pilates class in a week. This is half the price of standard month-long gym membership.

It’s actually quite good, as long as you go, and the best gyms provide incentives, treats or money back if you do.

According to Darren at LA Fitness – the only gym close to me – realistic expectations and goals make a world of difference when sticking to gym attendance."When you’re looking at joining a gym, make sure they ask you what you want to achieve and tell the truth!

“If you can only work out once a week, be honest so we can tailor a workout that will actually get you results instead of a workout that’s going to discourage you," Darren said.

If that’s not enough, the gym resorts to bribery. "At LA Fitness, we refund the £39 joining fee if you go to the gym at least twice a week for eight weeks. I’m so pleased that we do this; in many places I’ve worked, the biggest sticking point was the joining fee. And really, why should you be charged for joining? So, we’ve turned it into an incentive to keep coming."

Another thing to consider when joining a gym is the atmosphere you want. There’s a big difference between city and country gyms.

"Rural gyms have a bigger social element; people go there to get fit, gossip, have a coffee and meet friends. With city gyms, clients need different things like a good location and the latest equipment to get in and out. So in the city, it’s especially important – and the gym’s job – to make sure your workout’s not hindered by a lack of staff or slowdowns at the turnstiles. Everything needs to be available to you so you can get in and out quickly."

This coming week, I’ll be looking for the hidden extras and the expenses that really add up, so if you want me to look into anything, let me know in the comments.

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12 Responses to The difference between city and country gyms

  1. Richard says:

    Running clubs offer an even more affordable alternative with the benefits of being social also. At £12.50 a year my local club meets twice a week, including exclusive use of a track. Some free entries to local race leagues also provides useful goals to aid motivation. In terms of fitness it is one of the best, incinerating calories and a great cardio-vascular workout.

  2. Sara says:

    I have a cheap solution to the gym and it is fantastic! It is called FABS and for £10* per month you can get a personal fitness programme, diet plans and excercise classes, without having to leave your living room!!!! For more information simply drop me an email – – It really is great, I am a member myself!

  3. Holly says:

    You local council may do cheap pilates courses through Lifelong Learning – I know Tower Hamlets does – classes work out around £3.50.
    With regard joining fees, you don\’t always have to pay them. Wait until the end of a month to join a gym – the sales staff usually have hefty sales targets and many will scrap a joining fee if they\’re desperate enough for customers. If they say things like "10 free places left", then you know there are loads, they just make it up to rush people into signing up. I know…I worked for gyms for many years.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Have you checked out it is out door classes for fitness, very social. The first class if free and if you sign up within the 24h after it the joining fee is waviered. It is run by army and ex army members, price depends on region but there are monthly rates with as many classes as you like

  5. Patrik says:

    I just want to warn everybody of LA Fitness. I used to be a member until February this year when I had enough, managed to give my membership to a friend (not the most noble thing to do) and switched to Fitness First instead. LA Fitness is a gym that doesn\’t care about its existing members, only about recruiting more members to its already overcrowded gyms. I have written several times to LA Fitness, and so has my disgrunted friends as well, and we have never received a reply or an apology. It is true that most gyms give incentives as said in the text above, however LA Fitness does not deliver. My friend is still waiting on his iPod he was promised more than a year ago when he recruited a friend to join.
    I hope that my views on LA Fitness will affect many people in their decision to join a gym, because I do not wish anyone to have to endure this.

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