The other type of gym

Alex Bennett 08 May 2019

After joining Primal I went from being a heavy smoker & drinker who ate five guys every other day and chocolate in between meals to a much better version of myself. I quit the destructive behaviours and started training twice a week, then five times a week then twice a day five times a week. No other gym gave me the knowledge, confidence or will power to get to where I am today.

Setbacks and diet yoyoing aside my training’s been consistent and immensely enjoyable. I would never have thought 2 years ago I would actively list “fitness” as a hobby. Previous posts I’ve written have described why I decided to get into shape, what drove that change but I’ve never written specifics about what it is Primal offer that is lacking in other gyms.

A recent trip to a multimillion-pound leisure centre…

My brother is currently living with me while he is on a sabbatical from work, during this time he’s taken inspiration from me and decided to join a gym. Because I live outside of Leeds and he has no transport he’s joined a local gym crammed inside a massive leisure centre. This place has rows upon rows of expensive equipment designed to target single muscle groups (great if you’re a bodybuilder) and more treadmills than I can count (great if you enjoy ruining your knees) and it has an open door, no capacity policy in place I’m sure. I would guess on any given night if even 5% of the signed up members turned up to workout you’d have queues out the door to get in let alone use any of the equipment.

We’ve now been to this gym 3 times this week, two off-peak and one in the rush of after work workouts. Here are some of my observations:

The staff are, less than helpful

So I needed to find something to warm up with, a cursory glance proved fruitless, so where next? Well in most customer service industries you go and ask a member of staff whos very job is to be on hand to answer customer queries. Well apparently at this gym that’s secondary to standing around talking amongst themselves. After I finally managed to ask my question after feeling like I was interrupting a very serious conversation about the geopolitics of being a council run gym employee I was met with a tangible apathy.

Children are everywhere, most look unsupervised.

I don’t have an issue with kids in the gym if they are actually there doing something productive, but from what I’ve seen so far prattling about on equipment and not actually using it or running around have a laugh with friends seems to be their primary concern in the gym.

Where is all the decent equipment?

Congratulations, you have the largest collection of treadmills in a single space on earth. People who go to a gym, to go for a run, by staying in the same spot confuse me. Go outside and run it’s cheaper and more enjoyable… if you like that kind of exercise. I spent a good 5 minutes looking for some resistance bands to warm up, I found one, it was snapped in half. I wanted to do some back squats, they have one squat rack for the whole gym to share.

Why would you not put a cap on membership?

During the peak visiting time I had to wrestle through people who are both there to work and there to trick themselves into thinking they’ve been to the gym (reality check time: going to the gym and sitting on a machine on your phone does not count as “going to the gym”). Queuing to use certain bits of kit is soul destroying, especially when the 12-year-old currently “using” it is obnoxiously rude and despite malign intentions is not, in fact, using it at all. But no one is there to mediate, you can ask politely if they are done (or have even started at all) but sadly with a single member of clueless staff manning the door, you have no recourse when you ask them a fifth time to get out of your way. All credit to those who get up, decide “I want to make a positive change in my life” and then get on with it. But why take up space in a gym if you’re just going to sit and chat or play on your phone.

So during peak times, every treadmill is being used making a deafeningly annoying sound. Every dumbbell is being lifted, the single squat rack has someone doing aerobics in it and children and playing tag between machines. My idea of gym hell, certainly not somewhere I can focus on working to the best of my ability.

Why are people assholes?

PUT YOUR GODDAMN WEIGHTS AWAY! Seriously how hard is it? At one side of the gym, I see a group of teenagers throwing weights on the ground and wandering off. At the other, I see a hench dude do an impressive shoulder press then leave his racked barbell on the ground (maybe that’s where he found it?). You go up to the kettlebells or dumbbells and find a very sensible order of 10kg, 36kg, 2kg, 3kg, missing, missing, 18kg and so on. Hell would freeze over if you ever came to it and found a pair of dumbbells together. I know this isn’t the gyms fault, more the calibre of people who go there. I was raised to put things back where I found them myself, but when things are clearly in the wrong place I find myself organising. The kettlebell rack never looked so good, but that lasted about 30 seconds.

So why Primal?

It suffices to say that I did not enjoy my time at this gym and it gave me a much clearer picture of what sets Primal out from the crowd of cheap membership subscription farms. At Primal there is a sense of real community, people genuinely care that go, every member I’ve ever met and spoken to has had that internal discussion, made the decision to become a better version of themselves and then fights tooth and nail to get results.

The facilities are never crowded due to strict membership cap limits, I can go on a lunchtime during work or in an evening during peak hours and still get on with everything I need without falling over other people or fighting for equipment.

On the equipment front, there isn’t a single treadmill in the building, thank god. From an array of squat racks to neatly organised kettlebells and dumbbells everywhere, all equipment is there for functional training.

As a member, we get access to knowledgable and helpful staff who often go above and beyond what you would expect and regularly scheduled catchups to discuss goals and plan routines. It just feels more involved, more one to one, whereas other cheap membership gyms I feel I’m a lost in a sea of people.

The training at Primal focusses on fitness & health for each member over everything, your initial induction includes an in-depth mobility and fitness test which gives you a sense of things to avoid and things to work on so you can actually make good progress whatever goal you may have. In my time there I have not only stuck at regular exercise regime but made sweeping changes to my lifestyle, all of it guided by the Primal trainers. I’ve learnt how to cook, I’ve learnt how to train, I’ve learnt how to be healthy and happy.

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