I haven’t been a member of a gym for ages, so when Virgin Active contacted me about reviewing Health Club membership at Virgin Active Nottingham, I was in two minds, here’s what swung it for me:
1. I love the building. It’s an old train station, so when you swim, you swim along the platform which I think it kind of cool. I always think of gyms as boring buildings, so I love being somewhere steeped in history.
2. The Cafe. I know, going to the gym is meant to be about burning calories. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with the menu and found all kinds of delicious and super healthy treats on the menu. The menu items are all categorised by Burn, Build or Balance so you can make healthy choices depending on your goals. There is no missing out if you are burning calories either, this halloumi and spiralised salad was incredible.
3. Somewhere to work. I work from home usually, and while it works well for me, sometimes I need to shake that about a bit. After eating lunch I made a decision there and then that the gym would be a great place to come and refresh my mind and come and work once a week for an hour or two. Go for a swim, eat lunch and make the most of the cafe wifi.
4. Building new muscles. I love running and being outdoors, the gym always seemed too confining. But now I have a regular running and dog walking habit, being able to add in a gym session and swimming each week seems perfect. My half marathon really upped my fitness and my confidence, but there are still bits that running doesn’t reach. I know if I combine running with gym workouts I will have the strength and core to improve my running.
5. The Equipment. Virgin Active has really interesting, state of the art equipment. Shout our for Dani here, who did my induction and very quickly had me playing around with a circuit using equipment I had never heard of before. Battle ropes, VPIR, TIYR, kettle bells all sound intimidating, but all are really easy equipment to use. So much more interesting than other gym workouts.
Like this tyre, which you can flip up and down the gym floor, although you might only see me doing that if it is quiet, as it normally is in the day.
Once I have mastered a few of them and built up the muscles a little more, I might join THE GRID, a class using all the equipment. I have to admit to finding some of the classes a little intimidating as a newbie to the gym, but at the same time, I have noticed huge improvements each visit, so I am accepting that slowly building up confidence and courage to try new stuff is fine.
6. The Interior. I love that the gym is red, it’s my favourite colour and I could go on and on about how much I love the funky interior with it’s carefully restored architectural station features like tiles, brick work and high beamed ceilings. I love that the snack bar and reception have been built in keeping with the train station style, like railway station buildings or carriages perhaps. I would take my big camera and take lots of photos to show you, if it wasn’t a bit intrusive.
6. The Classes – The classes on offer are a bit bamboozling at first, I am hoping that in my remaining time I will get chance to try a couple more though. I was relieved to find a class on the timetable I had done in a previous gym life, and a class that I
I have done Body Pump at a local leisure centre, but found it hard to progress as it was seen as showing off if you added more weights than the rest of the class, so I am actually enjoying starting at the bottom of the class and challenging myself.
I found it a little intimidating at first and felt like I was one of the least fit person in the room, despite my half marathon under the belt, but over the last three weeks I have noticed my ability and the weight I can lift really increase. Body Pump tones really quickly and the music, the cheery instructors and the class always pull me through.
7. Curve These are running machines which are human powered, not electric, which makes me feel so much better about working out in a gym from a green perspective. Takes a bit of practice to get your balance and your rhythm, but that in itself means your core is working!
8. The Pool. The pool is warm, and I love the stainless steel against the brick and beams of the old station. There’s something rather charming about swimming along what would have been a railway track. I had forgotten how much a swim really sorts my head out. When Dani asked me what my goals were in the gym, I said weight loss, toning, but also destressing. My swimming session is a chance for me to really clear my mind, followed by a sauna and steam to truly melt away the stress. That’s so much easier in a quiet and beautiful pool. I had forgotten how much difference that makes, especially as I go to the gym off peak, when I can have a lane all to myself.
9 It feels friendly and anonymous at the same time. Being in the town centre the gym attracts a wide spectrum of people, while it has social spaces it has a very different feel to suburban gyms. There are no ladies that lunch or cliques, or gatherings of parents and toddlers, it’s mainly individuals who come to get on with their workout on the way to work or home. That suits me, I really don’t see the gym as a social thing, I get that from my running group, the gym is my time to unwind in my head. Saying that, everyone has been really friendly and keen to help.
10. The Staff. The staff at Virgin Active Nottingham are very helpful and genuinely welcoming, unlike some of the other gyms I have visited. I read that Richard Branson says put staff first and they will put guests first and it must work. On my first visit I didn’t realise I needed a towel and a padlock, and thought I would have to call it a day, but the friendly man on the desk loaned me both. The staff always give you a smiley hello or goodbye, even at 6.30am. I did laugh when one of the staff said ‘See ya Babe’. I feel a bit old to be called babe, but then I smiled, it’s nice when people of all ages get the same treatment.
11. Booking Online. It is so easy to view the timetable and book in for a class online, you can set up email reminders too.
12. Classes round the clock. As an early bird I love that I can go to the gym from 6.30am, this morning’s Body Pump class was dusted off before the school run. In the daytime the gym is much quieter. Being able to mix and match evening, daytime and early morning classes really suits my life as a freelancer.
13. The Results Combining my twice weekly running with a gym session and a swimming session over the last month has definitely seen me lose some weight, but I tend not to go on weight. The truly exciting bit is that I can now pull a buckle hole tighter on my belt and have fitted into a size smaller jeans once again – now that’s real progress. I can feel muscles I had forgotten about, and I am remembering just how much swimming destresses me.
Try a class I have never heard of before. The Grid or Street Dance.
Investigate guest passes and how I can get the rest of the family involved, particularly in swimming.
My membership runs out of Dec 9th, can I drop a dress size ready for Christmas?
Try and recreate that amazing salad at home.
Interested to know more?