Newest Review: ... on during the day and up til around 8 in the evening. - The classes change frequently - ocassionally there would be a dance class or a boxi... more
Getting Fit in My Fantasy World!
LA Fitness in general
Member Name: loulou22
LA Fitness in general
Advantages: Possibility to get fit and healthy. Nice pool & jacuzzi
Disadvantages: Expensive. Cramped. Rushed welcome.
Every now and again I like to live in the fantasy world of getting fit and going to the gym on a regular basis, as a result of this I have, in the past, ended up with a couple of gym memberships and the promise to myself of "this time I will use it".
La Fitness was my local gym in Sutton Coldfield and I was a member from September 2010 until September 2011. While my review will focus mainly on my local gym in Sutton Coldfield, I will point out that they have many branches all over the UK which can be found on their website www.lafitness.co.uk
I chose La Fitness as I had been a member years ago and they had sent me an email offering me a discount if I re-joined. In my memory I had enjoyed going and it was a good quality gym so why not give it a go again? The other bonus of this gym for me was that I would directly pass it every night on my way home from work so there was no excuses not to go and no need for motivation to make an effort to go as in my mind it would become part of my routine.
Signing Up for a Fitter and Healthier Life!
Being lazy and not feeling the motivation to go to the gym and take out a membership, I took the easier route of signing up online. This should have been a sign of things to come really! I visited the La Fitness website, clicked to find my local gym and after viewing the membership options I chose the one which would allow me to use the gym at any time during the day from opening to closing. There are other options such as an off peak membership which is slightly cheaper but only allows you to use the gym during the 'off peak' hours which is usually when everyone is at work and doesn't include the weekends.
Joining was easy and after choosing my membership type I simply filled in all of my name and address details. I selected to pay for my membership monthly as I had an email voucher code for a half price discounted membership for being a returning member. This meant that my monthly membership was going to be £19.99 per month instead of £39.99, paid by direct debit with the first payment being made by credit or debit card. The direct debit was easily set up by simply filling in their form online. Once all the forms we complete I was given a page to print out and take along to the gym with me where they would exchange it for a membership card and arrange a one to one session with a personal trainer as an introduction to the gym.
I should point out that in order to join La Fitness you need to be over 18, or over 16 with parental consent.
Right then, I suppose I better go and buy some trainers! Yes, you read it right, I joined a gym without even owning suitable trainers! Ah well, good excuse to go shopping!
The First Session
Ok, so one successful shopping trip later and its time to hit the gym. As I mentioned earlier, this gym was on my route home from work so I decided to go one evening after work to collect my membership card and arrange the one to one session. I took my gym clothes with me just in case they had any available while I was there.
When I arrived at the gym I parked my car in the large car park and entered the reception area. Things went well and I was given my membership card and a quick overview of where the changing rooms and toilets were. I arranged the one to one session for the following day and was given my La Fitness free gifts, which I will tell you later in the review. I was then surprised to hear that I could enter the gym and begin using my membership if I wanted. I was surprised as in the past I had to wait until I had been on a little tour of the gym and been shown how the equipment worked and how to use it safely, nevertheless I thought I might as well have a gentle session to prepare myself for the one to one the following day as again in past experience the personal trainer had really made me work.
So, my first trip to the gym in, well, a few years and I couldn't remember how the machines worked after such a long break. Plus from looking around the gym I could see that many of the machines had been upgraded or changed completely so unless you have the one to one session you are a bit in the dark on how to operate the machines. Nice and safe! During this first visit I was lucky as a nice lady helped me set the treadmill to run for 15 minutes and told me how to change the speed and gradient to suit what I wanted. This was enough for one day, I had a gentle jog and headed for home.
The following evening I had my one to one session. I can't remember the instructors name but he was pretty friendly and welcoming. To begin the session we sat in a room and discussed why I had joined and what I wanted to get out of this membership. I explained that while I wasn't overweight I simply wanted to get physically fit, tone up a bit and feel healthier in general. With this he got me to stand on a machine and hold a metal bar in my hands, this machine told him my resting heart rate, weight, BMI and how many calories my body uses in a day to simply function normally without any exercise. He then picked out an A4 folded piece of card with pictures of various exercise machines on it and began writing a workout schedule for me. As he wrote everything down he explained to me that I should try to visit the gym at least 3 times a week. I figured this was possible and planned in my mind to go every other day as this was easier than setting myself certain days and it would give me variation each week.
We then left the room and headed for the gym itself, I was handed my workout card and given a quick tour of the gym and shown where everything was. He explained that I was welcome to use the water fountains to fill my water bottle and there was tissue provided to wipe the machines down after use, this was a lovely image to have in my mind of how much I would be sweating! Following the quick, and I mean quick, tour we proceeded to move around to all of the machines on the workout card and the instructor gave me a rushed overview of each machine, how to turn it on and off and input my settings, he didn't really check that I had taken in everything he was telling me and to be honest I was given so much information that I didn't feel confident about what I was doing at all. He then made sure I knew how to exercise without hurting myself and how to stretch off to avoid pulled muscles, well I'm sure knowing how to use the things properly, with confidence and a more reassuring explanation would ensure this even more! My one to one session was now complete and I was free to begin my workout. In total the session lasted about 30 minutes, including the time spent talking in the room. This was a big disappointment as the last time I had joined I remember the one to one session being a lot longer with the trainer making you complete the full workout to ensure that you knew exactly what you were doing and that you felt confident. I also remember being totally worn out for a few days afterwards! However, this time I felt fine, not even breathless and certainly not breaking into a sweat! I decided that while I was there I might as well go for it and do my first work out so off I headed to the gym area and its wondrous equipment.
The gym area itself is quite large and most of the space is taken up by many machines, this is obviously great in some ways as you never need to wait too long for a machine even in peak times, however it isn't so good in other ways as the machines are placed quite close to each other and in rows. I often found that I would be jogging with a view of someone's bum wiggling around in front of me or I would be wiggling in front of them. I found on the exercise bikes I was often distracted by the panting of a random person next to me pedalling like crazy with sweat dripping off them and flying in all directions. Ok, I know you get sweaty at the gym and you have to put effort in if you want results, but some people really took it to the extreme. The main equipment such as treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines and the dreaded cross trainer were all located relatively close to each other and even with the rushed overview I had been given I still found them quite easy to adjust and change settings on, however some people might not and this is where I think the instructor should have really checked that I understood what he was telling me. Each of these machines have a bar to hold onto and if you place your hands on the metal strip the machines display will tell you your current heart rate. The displays' also show calorie counters, timers and distance measurements among other things.
In the area next to all of these machines we have various weights' machines, which also contributed to my workout, although I would have quite happily skipped them given the choice as the big burly grunting men in the room were enough to put little me off completely, nevertheless I wanted to tone up as well as get fit so I resorted to taking my ipod to block out there sometimes disturbing sound effects! The weights area was connected to another exercise room containing loose hand weights, exercise mats, step boxes and blocks to make them higher should you feel the need to push yourself further. This room has mirrored walls so you can even watch yourself sweating your bits and bobs off!
Each exercise area contains TV's mounted high on the wall to watch cartoons while you work out, sometimes they have the music channels on and once or twice I remember seeing the news but it was mainly cartoons which made no sense without sound, but I was quite happy listening to my ipod and seeing Spongebob moving around as if he was listening to my music too.
So, I mentioned freebies earlier and I bet you're just dying to find out what they are! Well, first of all we have a nice looking purple sports bottle with a green lid, this sports bottle is actually quite handy and I did use it a lot, however make sure it is totally empty when you have finished using it as it does leak and I did end up with a wet passenger seat in the car when it fell on its side. Secondly we have a purple towel with the LA Fitness logo embroidered into it. This is also quite nice although it is tiny so don't expect to use it after a shower, you'll be lucky, or unlucky (depending on which way you view it) if it covered the essentials! Finally we have the purple and black backpack, this was possibly my most used freebie and certainly lasted longer than my gym membership! The backpack is a good size, as a guide, you can fit an A4 sized book in there and I have also used it for hand luggage a few times on planes, it has a few pockets contained within the bag which I found quite handy. The only thing I didn't really like was a large white LA Fitness logo on the black part of the bag, it really stood out and looked quite tacky, but hey, what more do you expect for a freebie that gives them free advertising!
La Fitness also has a couple of workout studios where you can take part in free fitness classes including yoga, circuit training and Pilates. They also have spinning classes for those who really want to push themselves on spinning bikes rather than exercise bikes. While I think it is great that these classes are free I never actually went to any as the timetable for the classes changed quite often and the classes I was interested in like Body Pump and Body Attack were held either when I was still driving from work or so late in the evening that I would have had to hang around for a couple of hours before hand.
They also offer swimming classes and family swim sessions but some of these you do have to pay extra for.
Swimming Pool, Sauna and Steam Room
The big attraction of this gym was the 20 metre long swimming pool which I thought I would use quite a lot. It looked clean and was almost always empty so plenty of space to relax and swim at my leisure. This was actually the reality of the pool as well, however I still didn't use it often as I hated the big see through glass panels backing onto the reception area. I know most swimming pools have viewing windows and in general this doesn't bother me, but when you are the only person swimming around and you see people walking past the window staring in it does feel a bit more like you are a zoo exhibit rather than someone trying to get fit!
There is a sauna and a steam room available, but I'm not much of a fan of these kind of rooms so I never used them. I did take full advantage of the nice warm Jacuzzi though on the occasions when I went for a swim.
Gym changing rooms, well that is an experience in itself! The changing rooms here are a reasonable size and they have plenty of lockers but as these lockers have no locks on them you will need to take your own padlock or take a risk if you don't have any valuables. There is a weighing machine which costs 50p to use and gives you a printout with your BMI, weight and height on it. There is a separate changing area for the swimming pool although I think most people just use the main changing area. If you walk into the swimming changing area then you will need to go barefoot or wear some of the lovely blue carrier bag style feet bags provided. There are mirrors, toilets and sinks which were always clean and fresh when I visited. There are showers located in swimming changing area. And of course, as with all gym changing rooms you will get the random women getting naked and flashing there bits about like they are amazing... in reality its actually kind of gross! I am the one who changes in a cubicle where possible or hidden under a towel when not possible!
As far as gym changing rooms go, I would say these were well looked after and thankfully there was never really a smell of stale sweat which you can often find in the gym.
So, in reality how often did I use my gym membership? Erm... I would say in a total of 12 months I used the gym and its various facilities about 12 to 15 times! My idea of going to the gym on my way home from work soon died off as I found I was often too tired after a day of printing. My main use for the gym was to kill my boredom if I had nothing to do at the weekend. I used it occasionally during the hot weather, yes, I'm sure we did have some, to go swimming after work as I found this nice and refreshing and enjoyed having the pool virtually to myself.
So, 12 to 15 times in 12 months wasn't really worth the £19.99 membership I was paying and I admit I should have known this is how it would be as I have done the same in the past. I did however get a new bag, water bottle and towel from the membership and the motivation to buy myself some new trainers when I first joined so it wasn't a complete waste!
Replacement Membership card
On top of my £19.99 per month I actually ended up paying an extra £5 as I managed to loose my membership card quite early on and needed a replacement. The receptionist sorted this out for me and I paid the £5 in cash to her. She gave me the replacement card straight away and as luck would have it I found my original one a few days later in amongst my dogs blankets of all places.
There is an overpriced shop area in the reception of the gym where you can buy anything from swimming costumes, goggles and a few sports clothes to vitamin and muscle supplements. As I said though, the shop is overpriced so unless you were desperate for the item there and then I would just wait and go to your local sports shop instead.
Membership to LA Fitness is a minimum contract of 12 months unless it is otherwise stated when you take the membership out. You can cancel it earlier than 12 months but you will have to pay an upfront payment of the remaining months fees, so you might as well keep it and get some use out of it every now and again at least. To cancel your membership you need to give 30 days notice. Cancellation is done over the phone and doesn't take long at all. I phoned to cancel my membership at the end of my 11th month to avoid having to pay for an extra month on top of the minimum 12 months. I had no problems with cancelling and the lady on the phone was understanding of my reason for not wanting to continue my membership, she did offer to give me a continued discount rate of £19.99 but I said for the amount of times I use it I would be financially better off to pay and use a public leisure centre.
The staff at LA Fitness in Sutton Coldfield are generally friendly and pleasant. If you have any questions and you can find a member of staff they will always help you out. The initial one to one session could be improved upon as it felt rather rushed and impersonal and I think if it was a person who had never used a gym before they might feel even more lost and confused than before the session!
Other members of LA Fitness in Sutton Coldfield are generally your regular Joes, I found that the majority were pretty much there for the same reason as me and wanted to either loose a bit of weight or simply get fit, most of these members were friendly and happy to help each other or even have a chat while rowing away on your imaginary rowing boat. The guys in the weight area were a little OTT for my liking and I did find them a little intimidating in their macho-ness but I got used to it and ended up laughing at their funny ways most of the time.
As with all gyms LA has its fair share of posers with their perfectly toned bodies and skimpy outfits who take their exercise extremely seriously. For me, I found these people amusing and spent my time laughing at them rather than admiring them as I could see that out of all of the people in the gym the majority were there for a reason and didn't really care what they looked like, hello, we're all there getting hot and sweaty so we can look good in public, not to look good posing around the gym itself!
The address for this gym is:
366 Gravelly Lane
It is located near to Chester Road train station and can be accessed by the number 66 bus route too.
For those with cars there is a large car park at the rear of the building which is free to use and during busy times has a man directing you towards the empty spaces.
The gym is open Monday to Thursday from 6:30am to 10:00pm, Fridays from 6.30am to 8.00pm, at the weekends it is open from 8:00am - 6:00pm which surprised me to begin with as I thought it would be more popular at the weekends.
Should You Join?
Well, if you have the dedication to go on a regular basis and get your moneys worth from your membership fee then yes, LA Fitness in Sutton Coldfield isn't a bad gym. I suspect that there are better and I do think a few improvements could be made. The machines are in generally good condition which I think is quite impressive with the lack of training you receive about how to use them properly. The staff are nice and helpful and as long as you don't mind the occasional wiggly bum in front of you and a sweaty panting random next to you on the bikes then you will be fine here.
I am only going to give the gym 3 stars as I don't like how cramped everything is and I think the initial welcome for new members isn't really that welcoming, the pool feels like a zoo with its viewing window and the shop is overpriced. Other than this though it is a pretty decent but quite expensive gym.
Thanks for reading :)