My journey to that healthier place!
Now I don't know about you, but the word "gym" in my mind was on par with "dentist": an unpleasant experience, often painful, usually expensive and yet you know deep down that "it's good for you" so you make the effort to go. I had had two prior experiences of gyms, one at university which was pretty good when I could be motivated to go (which was hard as a student!), and one at work which was very limited in equipment and was barely ever open. Anytime Fitness was my first experience of a public gym, and I am not gonna lie, I was intimidated by the prospect of trying a gym again. This is a real thing, it's informally known as "gymtimidation". I think I was just trying to talk myself out of it. What if I didn't fit in? What if people watched me? What if I didn't like it but felt obliged to stick it out? I was determined but also anxious. Good old Anytime Fitness Eastleigh, my local, have the foresight to put their information leaflets OUTSIDE the gym so someone as apprehensive as I was (and I can hardly believe I was that person now!) can easily nab a leaflet in passing and mull over it later. Definitely a smart move. It's likely I would never have ventured through the doors without this. Now I may have opted for Anytime Fitness over any other fitness club because of their advertising and convenient location, but as I have researched it, I have come to appreciate more and more the whole franchise model and what it represents.
The fifteen clubs I've visited (for "research purposes"!)
Anytime Fitness is a rapidly-growing fitness club originating in Minnesota, USA but now has thousands clubs across the world. [For more information about its rapid growth in the UK, click for this article.] One of its obvious selling points (as strongly hinted at in its name) is that it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All 4000+ clubs are open right now and members can work out at any of these anywhere, anytime. Knowing I could go at any time at all, coupled with my local gym's very convenient location, is what drew me to the club initially. Besides this convenience, other attractive features are its individual showers/toilets/changing facilities. I have no desire to get changed in a group locker room, thank you! I'm not in school! The equipment in the clubs is of very high quality and the overall appearance is professional, clean and welcoming. And let's not forget cost - Anytime Fitness is very reasonable in price. I wouldn't be a member if not!
I think this short video nicely sums up the selling points of the Anytime Fitness franchise. I am not going to name names but let's just say I can think of examples of the high end and low end gyms that are cited in this video. Anytime Fitness really is a perfect fit bang in the middle, and it meets every requirement of mine.
"Your local gym might be great but they can't all be like that"
Hmmm, you'd be surprised! I travel a fair bit for both my hobbies (geocaching can do that for you) and work, and my curiosity has taken me to all the Anytime Fitness clubs in the map below, and each and every one of them has the same great feel about it. Yes, they all have their respective strengths and selling points, but the brand is just so attractive. What I have really felt with Anytime Fitness is how your own personal goals are completely respected and encouraged. You are not just a number; you an individual, whether you aspire to lose weight, want to tone up, get some serious muscles, stay generally fit, take part in classes, train with friends, work with a personal trainer etc., anyone can work out here. Anyone. (Even if you have no arms or legs - yes, seriously: click to watch). It just feels like one big loving family community too, and more on that later.
These are the Anytime Fitness clubs I've visited ... so far!
Acclaim for Anytime Fitness Eastleigh
I may have visited fifteen gyms at the time of writing (probably more by now) but I can't begin to comment on how they function on a day to day basis, their staff, the community of local members, the problems that are encountered or the new equipment that is brought in. Just like you can't really write a comprehensive review of a restaurant based on one meal there or discuss the finer points of a hotel based on one stay. But Anytime Fitness Eastleigh has seen me come through their doors regularly for several months now and I feel better placed to give it a comprehensive review. Given how similar the various Anytime Fitness clubs function, I would imagine a lot of what I put in my review could be translated into your local gym. The only real way to find out of course is to visit yourself!
|Inspirational quotes are commonplace!|
As I mentioned briefly earlier, you probably need some motivation to go to a gym; mine was that I was finding that I was putting on more weight since taking on a more sedentary job and clothes weren't fitting so well any more. I was struggling to shift the weight but I desperately wanted to and determination is required if you want to make a success of a gym membership. There aren't really any shortcuts with this! Being a member of any gym at all, or even venturing inside one every so often will not be enough to help you with your fitness goals; you have to really want to improve and be prepared to put in the time and commitment.
2. Important factors:
Gyms can vary significantly and my previous experiences hadn't ended particularly well, but I could see that people who went to the gym were able to show distinct improvement in their physical wellbeing and appearance and I was now in the right place to give it a go again. Anytime Fitness is focused on helping the individual with their own personal fitness goals and getting to that healthier place.
I truly believe working out should be fun. Yes, you heard me: FUN. My perceptions that going to the gym would be like the dentist and feel more like a painful but necessary chore have been totally transformed by attending Anytime Fitness. This place isn't scary, dull, intimidating or anything of the sort. It's like a second home! There are so many classes, bits of equipment and workouts through the app on offer that you could easily come here every day for the rest of your life and still be able to find a new way of working out. Variety is definitely needed to keep the interest up or you will start off being really determined (normally around 1st January!) and then by the end of the month, you'll be demotivated and bored... and then you'll quit. Anytime Fitness makes it easy to keep your workout interesting and productive.
I like to know that I can work out whenever I want to. Anytime Fitness could not be more flexible. You really can check in and stay as long as you like any time at all. Yes, at 2am on Boxing Day if you so desire. Yes, if you can't sleep, go to the gym. Go after work. Go before work. Perhaps don't go during work! No excuses, it WILL fit around your life. And being a member of your local gym gives you a fob that means you can swipe in to any of the other 4000+ gyms on the planet.
d. Clean and functional equipment and facilities
This is really important. What's the point going to a gym if you're only going to be frustrated by the kit when you get there? Fortunately the equipment at my local gym is lovingly looked after, fixed promptly when over-worked and updated regularly. In the few months I've been going, I have seen loads of new equipment come in and get put to the test. It's one thing to have fully-functioning treadmills, but believe me, you will want fully-functioning toilets and air conditioning too!
e. Friendly and helpful staff
Now the gym may be open 24/7 but you can't expect it to be staffed the whole time as well! All the staff I have met at Anytime Fitness clubs have clearly been passionate about their job and the people who come through the doors. This is a real incentive when it comes to sticking at a gym membership.
f. Good atmosphere and community
One of the things I was scared of before joining Anytime Fitness was being watched and judged. I was so wrong. No one really pays anyone else any attention there; everyone's just doing their own thing! And if someone does look at you, so what?! If I glance at someone doing exercises on the mats or in the studio, it's normally out of admiration and wondering what parts of their routine I can steal for myself! It's definitely not about judging people!
Anytime Fitness Eastleigh advertises really well. As mentioned above, it has information you can take away outside the doors so you don't have to even speak to anyone if you don't want to. The website is up-to-date and helpful and all the gyms I've been to have very active Facebook pages as well so you can get a feel for it before you go in. Our local gym does a fair amount of public advertising in the shopping mall or town centre. One Saturday as I was passing their stand, I decided to pause and chat with someone manning it. I don't remember who I spoke to now, but I remember being encouraged to take it further and pop in sometime.
4. Welcome and trial period
This is key. It is on par with the "you only get one chance to make a first impression" maxim that is spouted to you before an interview. If you go into a gym for the first time and the staff present don't acknowledge you, you almost feel like you don't belong. I'm not saying they should fawn over you, but a bit of recognition and interest is really important. This is where I cannot fault Anytime Fitness Eastleigh AT ALL. Since picking up a leaflet and chatting at the stand, I finally plucked up the courage to venture in during staffed hours. I met with a member of the team and we discussed what I wanted to get out of it. I made it clear that I wasn't ready to commit yet; I just wanted to have a look round and see if it was for me. I was offered a free three-day trial that I believe all clubs offer. I made the mistake of thinking these had to be consecutive days which I couldn't do, but Viki, the manager, was very flexible and said I could take them any time within the week so long as it was during staffed hours (as you don't have a fob unless you're a member). I really made the most of my trial period and each time I came back I was asked how things were going and whether the club was to my satisfaction. After my trial period I was followed up a week or two later by phone call which I found a really nice touch. There was no pressure whatsoever to join or make any sort of commitment; they just wanted to check that I had enjoyed my trial period and answer any questions I might have. As it happened, I was very impressed but I was due to go away and I said I couldn't commit to a gym membership for a few months. This was completely respected and I was not followed up again, but it was made clear that I could get in touch whenever I wanted.
Here's the bit people get stuck on: paying for membership. I had had ample time to think about whether I wanted to make this a regular commitment or not and after a few months, I was true to my word and I came back to commit to membership. Viki explained the various options available to me, offered me a discount based on where I worked (!) and let me choose the option that worked best for me. I opted for a three month membership as I was still unsure I would have the motivation to stick at it for a longer period of time. I knew that previous gym memberships had fizzled out and I was reluctant to make overly-ambitious promises to myself. Alternative payment options on offer were six-months up front, twelve-months up front or direct debit monthly. I have obviously since renewed my membership and was happy to commit to a twelve-month plan the next time. Prices vary loads depending on a lot of factors but I am finding it is not that much more expensive than the dirt-cheap gym in a nearby town that I don't live anywhere near. Would I go there instead if it were nearer? Probably not, actually; I have no qualms paying a few quid more a month for all that I get back. Certainly my membership has now pretty much paid for itself!
Let's face it, a gym without equipment wouldn't be worth any amount of money, so I was keen to see what Anytime Fitness Eastleigh had on offer. A good range of clean and fully-functional cardio (treadmills, bikes, rowers, cross trainers etc.), resistance, free weights, matted area and functional training materials, and a studio where most classes happen and you can use the "virtual trainer" with pre-programmed workouts to follow. Personally I was intrigued by the punchbag, which was definitely prompted by Ed Sheeran's recent video for Shape of You:
Which leads me on to classes. I knew that Anytime Fitness offered classes but I still had some of that gymtimidation going on, messing with my head. I wanted to take it slowly and keep my distance from activities that could show me up to be rubbish at exercising in front of other people so I made the most of Anytime Fitness' 24/7 opening and came when it was quieter. But I couldn't help but notice people going into the studio each evening and getting a really good workout from whatever class they were doing. I didn't seriously consider joining any classes to start with but one day when I was trying my first fight with the punchbag, manager Viki came over and asked if I box. Er, no... No I do not. She got some hook and jab pads and taught me some skills there and then and I found I was actually enjoying it and craving more! She recommended I come to her boxercise classes, and well, I have never looked back! As a keen cyclist I also decided to commit myself to the spin classes.
|Spin classes at Eastleigh are second to none|
I have since tried a number of classes including boxercise, indoor cycling (spin), ladies' lifting, circuits, core & abs blast, body conditioning, and legs, bum and tums. The club also currently offers post-natal exercises, pump, HIIT, tabata and yoga amongst others. A variety of staff and personal trainers take the classes and they are all very different but it means there is probably something for everyone. My favourites by far are boxercise and spin, and I feel they complement each other well as I work different parts of my body in each class. Most classes here are free to members or £5 for non members, but they're very popular and it's recommended you book up a week in advance if you can. I'm very glad I started coming to classes. We all have such a great time together and it's a good chance to get to know people a bit better.
|Many clubs have punchbags. This one's at Dorchester.|
Boxing feels brilliant!
Gyms have the potential to be quite gross places. I mean think about it: recycled air, hot (in temperature) bodies, sweat drips coating equipment and the stench of body odour in the storage and changing areas. Anytime Fitness Eastleigh takes hygiene and cleanliness extremely seriously. The equipment, work out areas and toilets are being cleaned near constantly! And what impressed me most was that it was not just left to contracted cleaners (although cleaners do come in); the staff and personal trainers all take turns to roll up their sleeves and muck in too. Very impressive!
|Cosham's vanity station with things you may need|
|Individual well-maintained bathrooms (Wimbledon)|
|Farnham (above) and Worthing have private car parks|
11. Security and safety
Being open all the time but unstaffed for some of that time means that security is of great importance. All clubs worldwide are protected by electronic fob entry which members get when they join. Visitors to the club need to come in staffed hours and use the doorbell. Security cameras are in place all across the gyms and are monitored. Safety extends to the use of equipment too. Clubs should be equipped with emergency phones and first aid kits. Staff, when available, can advise on the correct way to use the equipment so don't guess and do yourself an injury!
|Dorchester's feedback station|
Anytime Fitness Eastleigh is phenomenal when it comes to feedback. I have tried out a number of methods of contacting the club and suggestions and comments are taken seriously and implemented where possible. When staffed, you can pop in and speak to a member of the team and feel valued. You can email, call, fill in a feedback form (I snuck one in once to see how long it would take to get a response. About 30 minutes was the answer!), message them through their app, through Facebook, through the website, through the surveys they email out every once in a while, etc. I have also contacted head office and had a very warm and friendly response back from them. Seriously, I cannot fault any of the Anytime Fitness clubs or offices that I have contacted with regards to feedback or their responsiveness!
14. Personal training and support
I have only had one taster twenty minute personal training session so I can't comment on them too much, but Anytime Fitness strongly advocates personal trainers and a number of them work in the club, getting their clients motivated and seeing results. Often there are offers and competitions to win free sessions.
In terms of more generic support, both the staff and the members I've spoken to seem only to happy to help out if they can, whether it be putting up the punchbag for me, attending to something or just engaging in conversation. I have never experienced anything but friendliness and helpfulness from my "fitness family".
|Solitaire in Swansea!|
Every club I have visited has music on constantly, one was tuned into a local radio station but otherwise they are just churning out the songs with no talking or adverts. The songs tend to be a combination of recent pop music (in say the last ten years) and faster club music that is easy to work out to. The music may be slightly on the loud side at some clubs so if you intend to bring your own to listen to, I'd recommend headphones rather than earphones, or choosing equipment that is not directly under a speaker! Eastleigh has also recently installed sound-sensitive disco lights for its studio which is fantastic and adds that something fun to your workout. I've been to gyms where the equipment just has a calculator-style display on it, but the Life Fitness cardio equipment at my local club is full of entertainment options that make a workout go quicker - a range of TV channels, Internet access (including YouTube shortcut), bluetooth capabilities, pre-recorded routes so you can imagine you're running in the beautiful scenery of New Zealand (for example) or cycling the Tour de France. There are also various screens showing you details about your workout, including how far along a race track you would be. In Fareham I played a game of chess for so long that I overshot the number of calories I'd intended to burn! Some of the equipment in some clubs is also equipped with Netflix. Come to the gym and do a half hour work out to your favourite programme and then feel less guilty about the time you spend in front of the TV!
The Anytime Fitness brand seems to be very good at getting itself out there. My local gym takes up a lot of initiatives to get people into the club to try it out and give it a go. They physically go out and meet the people of the town, but they also engage a lot online and update their Facebook profile. The website, as mentioned earlier, is also a good place to go to find out more about what a particular club offers.
The feel of an Anytime Fitness club is that of one big friendly family. I have never seen or heard anything that makes me feel any different. When people are taking part in personal challenges or beating records, they are rewarded and celebrated. Classes are a wonderful place to get to know other people better and the online community is a fantastic asset too.
|Setting some goals for the year!|
Besides all their fun and community-focused incentives, all the Anytime Fitness clubs I've been to seem to have various offers on all the time. This may be for membership rates (e.g. cheaper if you refer a friend, work for a partner organisation, win a month's membership in a competition etc.) Free trial periods for those considering the gym seem to be as standard. Offers also come in the form of bringing a friend along for free if you complete a survey, a free personal training session or discounted merchandise. Competitions and offers like these keep the place exciting and the members engaged.
|I love the various hoodies!|
So in conclusion...
Hopefully you've figured by now that I strongly recommend Anytime Fitness as a place to work out! I am pleased that I have been able to visit so many clubs as it has given me a confidence in the brand as a whole, and it means I haven't just "struck lucky" at my local. Take it from someone who really did suffer with gymtimidation only a few short months ago: this place can completely and utterly transform your attitude towards working out. It doesn't have to be horrendously painful and expensive; it can actually be fun and something you actively look forward to! Check out the website below, enter your home town and see if there's a club near you. And if there is... then don't be afraid: take up their free trial offer and experience for yourself just what a great place Anytime Fitness can be.