I'm currently a member at my local Fitness First gym. I've suffered the usual problems this brings (pushy sales assistants and the priority the chain places on money which sees it commonly referred to as Finance First) but I get good value for money from it given the number of classes I attend each week. A few days ago I scored a free pass to a nearby Goodlife gym through a PT I know who works there so I thought I'd take a look.
It didn't start too well as those in reception decided I was a potential member and immediately sent out a 'membership consultant'. I've been around a while and so can deal with the hard sell (the phrase "no, thank you" is incredibly powerful) but played along with it at first until rescued by the PT (tip for gyms: be less rapacious in this situation and you'll get a better reputation - and probably more sign-ups). I did ask for a tour around the place and found the facility to be far better than my current gym. Cleaner and brighter were the first two words that sprang to mind. Having windows on to the outside world brings in natural light which provides a very different feel from my current one which is in a former cinema. The layout seemed a lot better with the free weights section being placed upstairs at the far end of the space. That keeps the noise down - a big problem at my current gym which has the free weights right in the middle. It appears that almost every participant will be able to lift a weight but not get it back down closer than three feet to the floor before deciding that gravity can do the rest. The noise hits every other room in the place. This is especially annoying if you're in the meditation track of a BodyBalance class and have to suffer the sound of a random crump caused by people who are too bloody inconsiderate (and weak) to place a weight gently on the floor.
I did a couple of classes while there. The Pump one had the regular instructor missing and so had in a cover - who is my usual instructor at my current gym. Same good workout but in a much larger studio than I'm used to working in. Interestingly there were far fewer people in the class than turn up for my gym. I then did the class afterwards, reunited with my former boxing partner who had swapped to that gym a while back. It was as if we'd never been away as we spent more time laughing and piss-taking than actually punching. The instructor had previously taught at my current gym - as had the following one (although I didn't stay for that class). Overall I found the Goodlife gym to feel a happier and more social place. It's the vibe of the thing, your Honour.
Despite all this (and it being a couple of dollars cheaper a week) I decided to stick with Finance First for now. The main issue was the range and frequency of classes. These are the predominant reason I attend the gym (I'm a bit of a Les Mills junkie) and Goodlife was missing some of the strands I enjoy and had others on at times that I couldn't make. There are also some excellent instructors at my current gym and they are what make the classes worthwhile. When you get a really good one you don't want to risk going somewhere else if there's a chance they may not reach those heights. That's not to say they won't; it's just that you never know until you get there.
Next day I got a call from the membership consultant. I told him I was impressed with the place but that the issue with the classes was the reason I wouldn't switch - for the time being at least. I can see how they would be a great choice for people joining a gym for the first time. The advantage for all is that they provide competition for my current gym - and the consumer can only benefit when that happens.