Are you a gym member? If so, you can probably relate to some of the most common complaints people have about their local gyms. As a London personal trainer I get a lot of business from dissatisfied gym-goers who have decided to ditch their memberships and train in their own home with me instead.
Here are the top 10 gripes:
Even the most exclusive gyms can get very busy at lunchtime (12.30pm – 2pm) and after work (any time after 5pm through to 7pm). The problem is often worse in low-cost gyms, which can even be too crowded at off-peak times. The ‘no-frills’ gym is a growing sector of the market, with entrants such as The Gym, Pure Gym, Fitness4Less, and Easy Gym.
It’s great if your gym is only £20.00 a month, but not so great if it’s so busy that you never get a chance to use the free-weights area.
2. Poor lockers
All too often the lockers are not big enough, or not clean, or broken. It’s really annoying to fill your locker with all your clothes, then try to lock it, only to find it’s out of order.
In contrast, I remember my guest-pass visit to The Broadgate Club (a Virgin Active flagship club near Liverpool Street Station) which had the best lockers I’ve ever seen.
3. Inadequate changing rooms
Dirty changing rooms can be really unpleasant. I joined a gym in east London a few years ago which had the changing rooms from hell: the floor and benches were strewn with apple cores, corn plasters, bic shavers, used tissues, and nail clippings.
My current gym (Fitness First Bishopsgate) is the total opposite, with a spotless and spacious changing area which is a real pleasure to change in.
4. Nasty showers
That gym in east London I mentioned with the changing rooms from hell, it had showers from hell to match. At least they were consistent. More nail clippings, more bic disposable razors, broken tiles, mould, and water temperatures which lurched from freezing to scalding.
One of my personal training clients got a guest pass to an exclusive gym in South Kensington recently which they told me had the best showers they’d ever experienced, but it seems you have to pay well over £100/month to get the really high-end fittings.
5. Broken equipment
There’s nothing more annoying than broken exercise machines that stay broken for months, particularly when there’s only one of that particular machine.
6. Dumbbells all over the place
When you want to work out with free-weights, it really kills the intensity of your workout when you spend half your time searching for a matching pair of dumbbells. The best gyms tend to have members who return the dumbbells to the rack. The worst gyms look like a bomb has gone off.
7. Missing barbell widgets
What’s the name for those metal clips which prevent the plates falling off the end of your barbell when you want to bench press or squat? Anyway, when they’re missing it’s really annoying.
8. Invisible Fitness Instructors
I’ve been to gyms in the past where the gym instructors are nowhere to be seen. On one occasion I did see a few standing outside having a quick smoke as I left. But this is the exception: most gym instructors and personal trainers in the London gyms I’ve used are excellent.
Generally, the cheaper the gym, the less attentive and proactive the instructors. They’re probably paid peanuts, and very de-motivated as a result.
9. Vicious membership cancellation clauses
Be sure to check the cancellation policy before you sign up for your gym membership. How many months’ notice do they require? What’s the minimum contract term? Some can be as much as 18 months.
10. Water fountains without any water
Either that, or fountains that dribble water so weakly that you’re almost sucking it out of the spout, which is probably not so hygienic. Good gyms have a good strong spurt of water and ideally more than one water fountain. It’s important to stay well-hydrated throughout your workout, and really handy if the gym provides water.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London.