Having started work in a new area a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to explore different gym options before (potentially) committing to one. I'm signed up for the Hampton Court Half in March, so while I'd normally just do the studio thing and take classes, right now I need somewhere that gives me access to a treadmill and where I can do my own thing for training.
Luckily, being in central London I'm spoiled for choice with a Fitness First, Pure Gym, Third Space and Virgin Active all within reasonable walking distance.
I hadn't had the chance to try the new low-cost, 24-hour style gyms that seem to have popped up everywhere so Pure Gym was first on my list -- also because they're the easiest to trial with day-pass options that are cheaper than classes at some high-end London boutiques.
I booked my pass in advance on their web site which was very easy -- pricing depends entirely on where in the country you are and the Piccadilly passes are obviously at the more expensive end of things, with a day pass starting at £11.99, 3-, 7- and 30-day options available, or a membership at £32.99 a month. Once you've registered they send you an email with a PIN number, which becomes your user password each time you go and unlocks the doors, which provides a certain level of security since you can work out 24-hours a day but there's no front desk staff (which keeps costs down).
My first impression of the place was good -- it was very clean, modern and easy to access. During normal business hours the outside door was open and I didn't need my PIN until I got to the entry 'pods' below. Those were a little weird and claustrophobic but you're only in them for a matter of seconds (assuming the technology works! Which luckily it did for me...).
There are a few trainers and staff in the gym during daytime hours but everything is incredibly well sign-posted so you can find your own way around. I got myself to the change rooms and found the treadmills with no problem.
The only issue I ran into was when I wanted to find the stretching/mat area after my run and was directed to a very small corner of the gym which had exactly two mats in it. And two people using them with no sign of leaving.
I really liked the ease of use of the gym, I didn't mind the lack of frills (I usually shower at home if I work out after work anyway, so often the designer soaps and GHDs are lost on me in the boutiques, though I do like the idea that I *could* use them if I wanted) and the fact that the memberships are so flexible was a great plus.
The big deal-breaker for me when thinking about using Pure Gym as my permanent gym of choice is really down to the lack of 'free' workout space with mats. I'm sure that cutting down on square footage is partly what keeps their costs down but mats are cheap and there were plenty of unused corners, so I felt that the lack of this was detrimental to my strength work, stretching and cool down.
The good? Cheap, easy, clean and flexible.
The bad? Little to no free space/mats for stretching and strength.
The final verdict: For a gym when I'm travelling or if I was seriously commitment-phobic, this would be a great option and I may still go again before I commit to a longer-term gym solution because the daily or weekly passes are so easy and it IS super clean and convenient. But in the long term I'm happy to pay a bit more to have all the equipment available that I need, when I need it. Sometimes basic can be a bit TOO basic.
UPDATE: I've updated this post to reflect the fact that there is, indeed, one free water fountain available at the Pure Gym at Piccadilly.
Have you tried Pure Gym or any of the other discount gym chains? What did you think?