Before I became a personal trainer, I used 3 different gyms in London over the years, and another 7 since I qualified as a personal trainer in 2001.
Maximum Fitness Gym (Tufnell Park)
This was the first London gym I ever joined, a hardcore body-building gym in a large warehouse type space, with the longest dumbbell rack I’d ever seen before or since. One of my first personal trainers, a Russian bodybuilder called Sergei, helped me get to grips with the big 4 exercises: the barbell squat, the barbell deadlift, the dumbbell chest-press, and pull-ups.
Soho Athletic Gym (Camden)
Conveniently located opposite Camden tube station, this gym had a great layout and a good balance between cardio and resistance. Bright and airy, it had an energising feel which I really liked.
Cannons Gym (Cousins Lane, London EC4)
The most visually impressive of all the gyms I’ve used, Cannons had a wide range of spaces for different exercises: a cardio room, a chill-out room with views onto the Thames, two squash courts, a weight-training room, and a large studio. It’s now been taken over by Nuffield Health gym chain, and this gym is called Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centre. It’s an architectural gem, with exposed-brick arched spaces, and two levels.
New Physique Fitness Centre (Ilford)
This privately run gym was small but well equipped with free weights, and pull-up bars. I hired a personal trainer here, who was also the owner of the gym, and he gave me some great tips on personal training skills.
Fitness First (Ilford)
This large and well equipped gym was almost too popular, due to its low membership rates, so it was too crowded for my liking even during off-peak times. However, I got some great kick-boxing personal training in one of the gym’s studios, which involved some of the most intensive workouts I’ve ever had.
This gym had a great layout, with the cardio machines arranged in a large circle facing a series of TV’s in the centre. There were some great pieces of exercise equipment too, including an abs-rotation machine. The personal trainers were friendly and clearly serious about their own fitness, judging by their own exercise routines when they were off-duty. This is now a Virgin Active gym.
Esporta (Repton Park, Chigwell)
One of my personal training clients lived in Repton Park, so I joined this gym for a few months. Although the range of cardio and resistance equipment was OK, I never felt energised here, as most of the members engaged in what I call ‘light-touch’ training. The free-weights area was too small for my liking. This gym is now a Virgin Active gym. The building was impressive, and the pool area had stained-glass windows, as it was the former chapel of a mental hospital!
Broadgate Club (Liverpool Street)
I had a guest membership here, and it was definitely the most plush gym I’ve used in London, and one of the more expensive to join. The changing rooms and showers were incredibly clean and had the feel of a luxury country-club, and the weights machines were state-of-the-art. This used to be Holmes Place’s flagship gym, but since Virgin Active took over the Holmes Place chain, it is now a Virgin Active gym.
Fitness First (Liverpool Street)
This is my current gym, and I learn a lot from watching the excellent personal trainers with their clients, and picking their brains. They’re some of the most dedicated and professional personal trainers I’ve come across. This gym might be too claustrophobic for some, being underground (beneath the concourse of Liverpool Street station) but it makes good use of the space. It’s currently undergoing extensive renovation and upgrade, and should be back in action in mid-January 2014.
Fitness First (Devonshire Square, off Bishopsgate, London EC2)
While my gym is being refurbished, I’m using this gym, just a stone’s throw away. It has a great freestyle area, with great range of kettlebells, but the free-weights area is a bit too small for me, and disconnected from the rest of the gym by a long corridor.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.