PureGym – my first experiences

With the weather forecast predicting rain for days and it appearing to be accurate, I decided that outdoor running could do with a miss. I didn’t fancy using the turbo either so thought that a treadmill was the best solution.

I’ve been considering purchasing a treadmill for ages but the size and cost have put me off. Rather than invest, I decided to try one of the local gyms a try instead. Again, cost was an issue. I don’t want to pay £30 or more for gym membership as I wouldn’t need to use a gym regularly. Having said that, using a gym once or twice a week as a wet weather alternative to running outside as well as to provide cross-training would make some sense and justify the cost of joining a gym.

In recent months, I’ve become interest in Pure Gym. There’s one less than 10 minutes from home (Pure Gym Southampton)  in Bitterne, Southampton and quite a few around the country. Pure Gym offers a budget monthly fee of £17.99 for non-London locations plus a £25 joining fee (if you join a gym before it’s open the joining fee is reduced as is the monthly membership), lots of equipment, classes and no contract. You can cancel at anytime (simply by stopping the Direct Debit with your bank) or freeze your membership (for up to 3 months) at any time and simply pay £5 a month to secure your ‘price for life’. Add to that the fact that as long as you don’t cancel, the monthly fee won’t increase for life (unless VAT increases) and the proposition looks very attractive. Things get better though as you can set a home gym but use other Pure Gyms too. There are lots of FAQ (and answers!) on their website!

Unfortunately, there’s no free trial sessions although you can pop in and speak with the staff at any time between 6am and 10pm.

As I wanted to experience the gym, I decided to buy a day pass instead. These can be bought online for instant use for about £5.99 (depending on the gym). Having registered, filled out a ‘health’ questionnaire and parted with the money, you’re emailed a PIN number. This is used to gain access to the gym via a ‘turnstile’. this made me think of how a prisoner might get from one area of a prison to another…

I ordered the day pass at about 9am and it gives 24 hour access from the time of purchase. In theory, this means you could get multiple sessions in that time.

It took me 9 minutes door-to-door to get to the gym. Parking in Bitterne is free for 2 hours between 8am and 6pm (which constrains how long you can be at the gym) . Entry via PIN was simple and I was surprised at the size of the place. The venue was previously a 10-pin bowling alley and the gym is chockablock with over 220 pieces of equipment.

The gym was spotlessly clean, the equipment (at first glance at least) of a very good standard and in working order and overall impressions were high.

Although the venue’s air conditioned, it seemed slightly warmer than I’d hoped. My sole intention was to use a treadmill and there must have been 30 to choose from. As my visit was at mid day I’d expected the gym to be quite busy. However, there were about 10-15 people around. Most of these were male, mainly using weights. Midway through my session, a spin class started and that had a handful of female participants. There appeared to be one or two staff (although the gyms are open 24-7, 365 days a year, they’re staffed from 6am until 10pm. Safety of gym users outside these hours is via CCTV) and one or two personal trainers.

Using the equipment was easy. There are videos online with equipment usage instructions but the equipment’s use is pretty self-explanatory.

Leaving the gym requires you to enter the same PIN code as used to get in.

Overall, a very positive experience.

I’ve concentrated on all the positives primarily as there are so many:

– cheap
– open 24/7, 365 days a year
– lots of equipment
– clean
– free classes
– no contract
– easy to cancel
– freeze membership option
etc.

Pure Gym appears to have taken all the stereotypical issues with well known gyms chains (high monthly fee, year contracts, difficult to cancel, etc) and removed all of these barriers.

However, there are some negatives to Pure Gym from what I hear.

Firstly, all those positives have an impact on popularity. Although I’ve not experienced it, I hear rumours that the gym is saturated during the evenings (typically 6pm until 9pm). If this is the case, it could lead to members deserting Pure Gym in favour of other gyms that have available equipment. It doesn’t surprise me that the gym is very busy at peak times (and it’s not unexpected for a popular gym) but this has less of an impact for me as I’m likely to use the gym during the day. Not everyone has this luxury though and Pure Gyms could be a victim of their own success. This could be improved by opening another Pure Gym in the Southampton area (the nearest to open soon is Portsmouth Pure Gym). I’m sure there’d be ample demand to have one in a more central location.

Other negatives include:

– The gym doesn’t have wifi. This is to save cost but for an extra charge per month of a quid or two, it’d be useful
– Some of the facilities including showers and toilets aren’t well ‘signposted’. It was unclear where the men’s showers were. There appeared to be showers separate from the female changing rooms but it wasn’t clear at first who these were for.
– Showers are only available during staffed hours – to maintain the safety of users so not really a bad thing

A couple more things before I finish. Contacting the gym manager is easy and his responses are rapid. Pure Gym also has a very responsive Facebook page and Twitter presence.

My plan is to visit again before my day pass expires and to consider whether to join. I’ll let you know!!

Update

I went back to the gym this morning. Again, it was quiet with maybe 15 people in the gym engaged in different activities. Most of the treadmills, static bikes, cross-trainers etc were unused.

The one thing that’s putting me off joining is the joining fee. Still deciding…

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