Gyms and personal training

So I have a dilemma with exercise that I suspect a lot of people share: I’d ultimately like to have access to the facilities that many gyms offer, both the weights and the exercise classes, but the whole surrounding consumer setup is completely offputting to me.

First of course is the price structure, where they take money whether or not I use the gym. Smooth, gyms, smooth. (Yes, I am aware that they make more money — I assume far more, given how bad it is for customer perceptions of their industry — that way. But I am not interested in gyms’ profitability, in capitalism I highly value my right to be an utterly selfish consumer in that respect.) So, yeah. Is my (realistically) once-a-week-with-occasional-skips use of a gym worth $30 a week to me? No.

Assuming I got past that, here’s what needs to happen, for example, for me to join Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre’s gym, which is most likely because I’d like access to their pool rather than paying for a gym and a pool. First, I need to go there with my husband, because it would be a joint membership. OK, there go about ninety-five percent of my trips there. Secondly, my husband must either not be in a hurry to get back to work, or we must not have our bored toddler fussing at us. So, that’s the remaining five percent of trips. Then, once I did sign up, there’s compulsory personal training sessions focusing on my fitness goals. I can’t think of anything I find less inspiring, than to discuss my fitness goal “I enjoy moving my body sometimes” with people who are trained to equate fitness goals with either “I want to achieve top percentile cardiovascular or strength performance” or “I want to lose a fair chunk of weight”. I rather suspect this mismatch is deliberate too, because there’s no better customer than one who has been persuaded that they really need to keep this gym membership… for the far-away day that the sense of being too inferior a body to use the gym goes away.

3 Replies to “Gyms and personal training”

  1. I’m puzzled about your conditions for joining ITAC.

    Firstly, I don’t follow why you’d need to go with Andrew – is that a requirement of a joint membership?

    Secondly, in what way are the personal training sessions compulsory? When I signed up for ITAC, they had one complimentary session with a personal trainer (as opposed to a personal training session) where we went through, yes, my fitness goals, and he prepared a program for me to follow when I wanted to use the weights room.

    Thirdly, I think you’re being a bit unfair to yourself, “most” gym-goers and personal trainers with your concerns about the fitness goals part. When I had my meeting with the personal trainer, I told him I was absolutely not interested in losing any weight, but that I wanted to gain some strength (particularly in injury-prone muscles), improve my general fitness and stamina, and most importantly improve my bone density. He was very understanding and put together a program with those things in mind. I’m pretty sure you do have some ultimate fitness goals beyond the proximate “move my body sometimes”, and the trainers at ITAC are actually well-trained and deal with a pretty broad spectrum of clients in terms of age and ability (this isn’t an Oxford St gym!) and will be able to help you work out exactly what those are and what you can do to work towards them.

  2. Firstly, I don’t follow why you’d need to go with Andrew – is that a requirement of a joint membership?

    For signup, yes. Not for using the membership. But we haven’t even coordinated it for a one-off signup, and we’ve been trying for months.
    Re training, from the website:

    All memberships include a four step induction program and ongoing assistance where we work to keep you continually motivated and excited about visiting the centre.

    I think they have some material in the centre itself that is more strongly worded, stating that it’s for safety reasons and non-optional. I guess I will ask if it’s skippable. Because V is a member (for swimming lessons) I get their promotion material already, and it is highly food/body shaming:

    No matter how serious you are about watching your weight, practicing portion control and maintaining good eating habits, it’s easy to find yourself in certain situations that can really test your willpower. Here are some common “danger zones” to watch out for when you’re trying to stick to a healthy, calorie controlled eating plan.

  3. Any non-optional induction would almost certainly be along the lines of “we have to tell you not to run near the pool because of liability” and “don’t drop weights on your head or anyone else’s head”. I certainly don’t recall any induction along those lines, although I was a member a few years ago, when I lived in Ultimo. I had to make an appointment for the personal training session and they never asked me for any kind of proof that I’d done it when I showed up for fitness classes etc.

    Honestly, I think “we work to keep you continually motivated and excited about visiting the centre” (even if doing so takes the form of an annoying “how is your weight loss going?”) is a step up from an unstated “as long as you keep paying your fees we kind of hope you don’t show up because it means our resources will be oversubscribed, but we’ll make it a pain in the backside for you to cancel your membership” (cough Fitness First cough).

    I think more or less any gym is going to make the assumption that many or most of its clientele are there to lose weight (and they’re probably going to be right, for better or for worse), and target their promotional material accordingly, but that is not the same as assuming that every member either wants to lose weight or is wrong not to. My experience was that they were very supportive of my particular goals which explicitly didn’t include weight loss.

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