Over the last 5 years or so budget gyms have grown in popularity, most of them a 24 hour gym. More and more gyms with a business model as lean as their members have been popping up. I wrote about my own experience of one, Pure Gym, and while I found it had some clear benefits (affordability, accessibility, and space to train) I did find the whole experience a little… anonymous.
For me, especially as a CrossFitter, the social aspect of training has a huge draw to it. I also like the fact that it feels personal – people say hello, the familiar faces are there and the staff know who you are. Budget gyms just don’t feel like that. Surely there must be a balance? Somewhere in between?
And there might just be…
I was asked to give my local Anytime Fitness branch a trial run and, intrigued on how it differed from the budget chains (there is an obvious difference in the price point), I of course said “yes”. I went to trial a yoga class on a Monday evening and had a quick tour of the facilities and had a chat with the manager.
Anytime Fitness is one of the largest 24 hour gym chains in the world and, as the name suggests, it opens its doors to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The site is staffed during normal office hours, and Personal Trainers also work various hours delivering induction sessions and teaching classes on top of training their individual clients. But, during the night hours, the space becomes a members only zone.
The model is pretty sound – costs are kept low by not employing receptionists and general fitness instructors to walk the floor and book people in to classes. Entry to the gym works on a key fob and security cameras and, as much as you might think you could get away with sneaking someone in, they are able to monitor this. There’s no pool, which also helps to cut costs, and the majority of classes are taught by the Personal Trainers, who see a reduction in their rent as the benefit.
A Personal Approach
But, unlike most budget gyms (and even a lot of premium gyms, in my experience) Anytime Fitness actually have a more personal approach to their members. Attrition is monitored and members whose attendance has lapsed are contacted to check up on them. After a certain period of non-attendance, members may also be offered an incentive to come back to the gym – for example a free Personal Training session.
Members also seem more friendly and welcoming, with a lot of conversations going on between people training while I was looking around before my class. Anytime Fitness’s membership base is mostly made up of 25-35 year-old men and women, and most members are members because they really want to train.
This could be partly because of the price point. The non-budget cost attracts members who are perhaps more serious about their training, and the 24 hour nature lends itself to shift workers, or young parents who might go to the gym late once their kids are asleep. In addition, research shows that gym usage is actually better when members pay at least £15 per month – anything less could be considered a sunk cost! This is why most companies offer subsidised, but not free, gym membership in their corporate benefits packages.
But, if you do want to save a bit more money, some branches (like the Harlow one) also offer incentives for recommending a friend to join – you could save £1 per month off your membership!
Training during the darkness hours is not for the faint-hearted; it takes serious commitment to get out of the door when it’s cold and dark and most others are in bed. But for some, it’s the only opportunity to train – when everything else is done for the day. Some people even say that it helps them to train better and in a more focused way, because the distractions of day-to-day life (social media, texts, phone calls and emails) are less likely to occur during those hours.
Another benefit of training during “unsociable hours” is that the gym will likely be a lot quieter – meaning less chance of a queue at the squat rack, and more chance of being able to do things like super-sets (or even tri-sets!) without getting dirty looks for hogging all the equipment!
For me, the main benefit of a gym like Anytime Fitness is knowing I could always get a training session in, no matter how short and sweet, at any time of day and even on bank holidays when most other gyms reduce their hours. It also gives me access to one of the best yoga instructors I know!
Stortford Yoga, despite the name, is also available in Harlow at the town’s branch of Anytime Fitness. Classes, run by Paul Capelli, are challenging, light-hearted and fun. Paul helped me get my first side crow, as well as helping me work on confidence with headstands. My flexibility and balance also improved a lot when I was able to go every week. Sadly, the classes Paul ran at CrossFit Raeda had to come to an end, due to dwindling attendance at the early time-slot of 6am (some people just don’t have it in them!) and my weekly yoga classes were no more.
I’ve been trying to find a way to be able to go to Paul’s classes regularly again for a long time, but unfortunately the ones that fit my schedule were either out of town, or at gyms where you needed a membership. But, with a double class on offer at Anytime Fitness (Mondays 7-8pm and 8-9pm) and membership opening up other opportunities for me to train, I might just be back to yoga more often! Watch out Paul…
Find Out More
Would you join a 24 hour gym? Or do you already train in one? I’d be interested to hear what you think!
To find out more about Anytime Fitness, head to their website – you can even get a free trial pass! To find out more about Stortford Yoga (available in Bishops Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Harlow) check out Paul’s Facebook page.
Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*.
Disclaimer: I received a free trial at Anytime Fitness Harlow, including the yoga class. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items or services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.