“ Address: Subunit 3&4 / 23 Penny Bridge Retail Park / Ballymena / BT42 3HB „
After some not so gentle persuasion, I decided to join a gym. My friend loves Fitness First, so I decided to join the Ballymena branch, as I was working in Ballymena at the time. I was also interested in their body balance class, so I decided to call in after work one evening. I am (as you can see from my picture) not quite what you'd call skinny, (personally I would say more hippoesque if that is a word) but in an aim to improve my fitness and to tone up I thought I'd join the gym.
The Ballymena branch is located in the Pennybridge Industrial Estate, just off the Larne Link Road and is fairly easy to find. One Friday evening after work I ventured in to see around and to discuss some of the membership options. I was greeted by a very friendly member of staff, who took me of a tour of the facilities.
First I was shown the health suite. This area has a sauna, a steam room and an aromatherapy room. The aromatherapy room is heated around 30 degrees and has a blend of different aromatherapy oils pumped through the room to aid relaxation. There are also 2 sunbeds in this area, which are available for an extra charge and are coin operated.
Next I was shown the spinning suite, although as there was a class on I didn't really see much of the room, and as I never ventured into the spinning room, I can't say much about it.
There is also a large freestyle room where most of the classes take place. I was also advised that if the room wasn't being used for classes, you could bring equipment in and work out if you wanted some peace and quiet or you could bring a CD and use the player in the room.
The next room on the tour was the main gym floor and the scariest looking room in my opinion! This included most of the equipment, including machines and a freestyle area with different equipment such as kettle bells, weight balls and steps. In the corner was the weights area, with free weights and some weight machines.
There is also a smaller gym room with some equipment, which is ideal for those who want a bit of privacy when working out or those (like myself) who were slightly intimidated by the main room. I usually stuck to this room when I was in the gym as it was quieter and didn't seem to have as many hardcore fitness fans as the main room. I could also get to grips with some equipment in this room that I wasn't as sure about using without embarrassing myself.
There is also a hair salon on site, with Fitness First members getting a 10% discount off their prices. They also run special offers, which are advertised in the changing areas and around the main gym floor. I have never used them, so I can't comment beyond saying that I thought their prices were reasonable.
I liked the look of the gym and decided to sign up, I wasn't pressured to sign up - in fact I was advised that I could go away and think about it before making my decision.
Fitness First have the following membership packages:
If you only want to use the Ballymena gym
If you sign up for 12 months £26.95 a month
If you sign up for 4 months £32.95
Pay as you go month by month rolling contract £38.95
If you want to use other Fitness First gyms
If you sign up for 12 months £29.95 a month
If you sign up for 4 months £35.95
Pay as you go month by month rolling contract £41.95
As my job was only temporary, I didn't want to sign up for a year just in case, so I decided on a 4 month membership. This was £32.95 a month by Direct Debit.
When I signed up I received a booklet with my gym information, a timetable of the classes and a rucksack. Inside the rucksack there was a small towel and a pair of flip flops. Also in the pack was a voucher for a free personal trainer session and a free sunbed session. I was also offered a further free sunbed session about a month after I joined, as they had increased the vouchers to two sessions for new members and since I had joined just before this increase, they gave it to me too. The sunbed sessions were £2.50 for 5 minutes and £5 for 10 minutes, although if you block booked 10 x 10 minute sessions, they were £3 each. I thought that I would have my personal training session early on in my membership. I wasn't expecting how hard he would push me, and I was so exhausted afterwards that I could barely walk to the car. The sense of achievement though overrode the pain and tiredness. I also managed to fall over halfway through this session, which, while embarrassing, it was something I can laugh at now.
I was advised that Mondays and Tuesdays were the busiest times and weekends were the quietest. With that in mind, I first ventured to the gym on a Sunday afternoon. I had the smaller gym to myself, although I wasn't very adventurous and stuck to the cross trainer and the bikes. I then went to try out the aromatherapy room, which took a bit of getting used to the smell, but I did feel myself relaxing, In fact, one man in the room was so relaxed that he fell asleep. I did leave when I heard the snoring admittedly. My friend gave me very good advice, ignore everyone else in the gym as they are only focused on themselves and how they look, not how you look. While I did spend time looking around on my first self-conscious days of exercise, I found this to be true. Everyone is focused on themselves.
There are lots of classes and most you just turn up and get stuck in. You do usually need to book for the spinning classes. There is also a weight loss your way class, which focuses on inches lost rather than numbers on a set of scales, which is a better measurement of weight loss as muscle weighs more than fat. The classes are split into groups:
Mind and Body, Active, Strength and Feature Classes.
Body Pump which challenges all your major muscle groups by using the best weight-room exercises like Squats, Presses, Lifts and Curls
Body Combat which is inspired by Martial Arts and draws from a wide array of disciplines such as Karate, Boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi and Muay Thai.
Body Balance which combines yoga, tai chi and pilates with meditation.
They had also recently introduced the Diversity Dance programme when I was a member.
I only made it to one class, which was the body balance one that I was interested in. I found everyone very friendly and the instructor was very welcoming. I didn't go back for two reasons, partly because I had hurt my wrist somehow, and partly because I was worried about the whole hippo attempting yoga positions from my exertions in the class.
I thought that I would have my personal training session early on in my membership. I wasn't expecting how hard he would push me, and I was so exhausted afterwards that I could barely walk to the car. The sense of achievement though overrode the pain and tiredness.
The gym was always very clean, and the equipment was well maintained. The showers always had a decent amount of shampoo and shower gel available and toilets were also very well stocked and clean as well.
I wasn't completely bitten by the gym bug and as I am no longer working in Ballymena, I cancelled my membership. Despite me cancelling my membership, I would definitely recommend this gym. My reasons for cancelling were personal and logistical and no reflection of the gym. I found everyone in the gym very helpful and friendly and always encouraged me. When I bumped into either the personal trainer Tomas or the guy who initially signed me up (whose name escapes me right now, sorry) they were always asking me how things were going and encouraging me. I felt right at home at the gym, despite my own negative body image. I would definitely recommend this gym to those who are either looking to start a fitness routine for the first time, or those just looking for a good gym to join in the Ballymena area.
Check out www.fitnessfirst.co.uk/ for further information about this, or any other clubs or to get a 3 day free pass for your local club
Review also on Ciao