I'm usually averse to 'the gym'. It conjures up images of the vain, lifting weights in front of a mirror as they grumble and groan with a sneaking smile of smugness spreading across their face. I prefer to exercise outside; yoga on the beach is my favourite, but living in the UK I tend to go for a jog, or run around my local park, and I'm going too fast (I believe), to take any notice of the faces of those I pass by. However, gyms do have their advantages; the private ones generally have an indoor pool, sauna, and (if it's fancy), a steam room. And since I learned how, I like to think I'm a mermaid.
With that in mind, I found myself going to the Virgin Active Gym, in The Printworks, with my boyfriend over the weekend. Neither of us have a gym membership at Virgin, but we decided to take advantage of the free weekend passes my boyfriend was awarded with his bank (Natwest).
Aside from being tied into a twelve-month contract (£44 per month), the gym was quite appealing. On level one, floor to ceiling windows look out from the cardio room onto the swimming pool, there were twenty running machines, the new TRX suspension training straps (which I've wanted to use since I saw them in Women's Health), and plenty of floor space with exercise balls and yoga mats for stretching. To the right of the cardio room was the machine room, which had all of the typical weighted machines – leg press, a handful of weights,
As the personal trainer took us downstairs we saw a body pump class taking place, which was surprisingly a small group of eight women, being led by a trainer with a headset.
Downstairs was also the 'main' weights and machine room, which was twice the size of the upstairs equivalent. There was an array of kettle bells, dumbbells, medicine balls, squat weights, pull up bars, etc, and the obligatory gym member benching more than his body weight at one of the machines.
Once our tour-come-induction had finished went to the pool. 20 metres of 4 feet deep water was stretched out before us. At the 'bottom' of the pool next to the female changing rooms is the sauna, and at top 'top' of the pool next to the male changing rooms was the large Jacuzzi. The steam rooms are separate, and located in each changing room.
Much to my delight the pool was more luke warm than icy cold, and considering we visited on a Sunday afternoon it was surprisingly empty, with only two other people in the pool, and two others in and out of the sauna and Jacuzzi.
After ten lengths and much needed soothing in the bubbles we decided to shower off and try the steam rooms. I had been hoping for a mind-clearing menthol, or at least aromatic fragrance to be wafting around the steam room, but alas it was just steam. Nonetheless there was plenty of space in the medium-sized steam room for another fifteen people, in absence of bodies, however I spread out and lay down, steaming my pores for a recommended ten minutes.
Gym membership costs £44 for a twelve month contract, which comes with unlimited access to the classes and use of all facilities. If you're not a sure about your commitment to the gym they offer a £55 per month rolling contract 'membership', which you can cancel at any time. In all honesty it is a very nice gym, and the trainers were knowledgeable, but the membership offers are a little out of my price range. I don't live close enough to the Virgin gyms in Birmingham either, to seriously consider joining. I will, however, take advantage of free use of the gym because sweating in a sterile, air-conditioned environment is my kind of gym, and like I said, I am a mermaid.