towels

Which gym meets your budget and needs?

[Click here to read the 2014 update]

It might be a January cliché, but many people are looking to start a healthy regime after the excesses of Christmas, and gyms and fitness centres are all too aware of this. But which to join in NW6? I reluctantly left the comforting embrace of the sofa to do a tour of Kilburn and West Hampstead’s fitness facilities and find out who was offering what.

There are three price brackets: luxury, mid-range, and budget. There’s even some free options in there. Take a look and let me know if anything takes your fancy. Also, please let me know if I’ve missed any out! (You can leave feedback in comments section below or tweet me @ZENW6)

Luxury (£££)
Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage
Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more “health club” than gym, and this is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.
NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £99/mth + £30 joining fee
Minimum 12-month contract: £89/mth
(Special offer: join now and get January free, with joining fee waived)

Gloves Boxing Club, Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead
Specialised one-to-one or group training in this friendly, unintimidating boxing gym. Read about my visit to the club. Prices vary depending on class package/ type of training.

Current offers include:
10x personal training sessions: £400 (usually £700)
Bantamweight package (3 classes/wk): £60 (usually £69)
Lightweight package (morning/ Sat classes): £69 (usually £75)
Heavyweight package (all classes) £99 (usually £125)

Movers and Shapers, West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offer 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines. Free trials are available if you want to find out more (or look out for a review coming soon).

Minimum 3-month contract: Peak £125/mth; off-peak £99/mth. PAYG available.

Mid-range (££)
Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. Membership prices cover access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, sessions in which can be paid for separately.

Monthly fee (no minimum contract): £49.80/mth (+ £40.25 joining fee)
Monthly fee with access to other gyms in the network and racquet sports within Camden: £53/mth  (no joining fee)

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, Kilburn High Road
Bizarrely, membership here is structured around whether or not you get a towel each time you work out. There was a huge stack of them behind the reception desk when I walked in, and very white and fluffy they looked too. There’s a gym, fitness studio and 25m pool. If you’re a Kilburn-based towel fetishist, this is the place for you.

Minimum 6-month contract (WITH TOWELS): £58/mth (+ £30 joining fee)
Minimum 3-month contract (NO TOWELS): £49/mth (+ £40 joining fee)

towels

My Fitness Boutique, off Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers around 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice.

Example prices (from website):
Single class: £10
Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
30-day pack (unlimited classes): £55

Budget (£)
The Gym Group, Fortune Green, West Hampstead ()
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry.

£19.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee). No minimum contract.

It's not usually this quiet

It’s not usually this quiet

Fit4Less, Kilburn High Road
If you can see past the garish bright green walls, and aren’t bothered about classes or a swimming pool, this new no-frills gym might be for you. Friendly staff were on hand to answer questions on my visit, and personal training is available too. Initial feedback on Twitter has been positive.

£19.99/mth (+ £24.99 joining fee). No minimum contract.

Outdoor gyms, Kilburn Grange Park and Swiss Cottage.
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

  • Anonymous

    The outdoor gyms aren't suitable in the inclement weather. The equipment is also severely limited.

    'The Gym' in West Hampstead is poor in terms of customer service. It meets the basics, but it's appalling how lacking it is in equipment. There are also no paper towels to wipe down machines between uses.

    • Anonymous

      By rights, you should bring your own gym towel… non?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14061402848950054476 MrFrisbee

      Very rare there is a sweat problem there (on machines). Huge range of equipment and very rarely a wait for the running/cycling etc.

      Great value for money. Fairly "serious" atmosphere but generally very happy with it (been member for 2 years).

    • Anonymous

      The free weights section is also hideously under provided for the number of customers who want to use it having, for example, just one single Smith machine which is permanently occupied. For serious users, this is a REAL pain in the neck.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05009603961588104952 IJB2013

      That is why most people go for Adjustable dumbbells

      However, most people to visit the public gym just to make more friends.

  • DottyinLondon

    Virgin Active Cricklewood is quite a bit cheaper than its Swiss Cottage counterpart – I think around £65/month (so still not cheap). Perhaps slightly less luxurious but still has a pool, steam room, cafe etc and I personally find the clientèle there a little more "down to earth" (aka far less snooty!) too :)

    • sim

      I much prefer the Cricklewood VA. Agree better clientele but I don't think its any less luxurious. In fact it feels nicer cos there are windows and natural light. Plus big bonus is FREE parking.

    • Anonymous

      Also bigging up the Cricklewood VA – pool and jacuzzi etc are really nice and a good range of classes. My only criticism is that the steam room looks like its from the 90s.

      Also worth pointing out that VA do discounted membership for those under 26 so only costs me £50 per month, much more reasonable!

  • Anonymous

    I'm a regular at The Gym in West Hampstead and I find this the best of them all having tried many of the others. It's open 24 hours and so easy to get in and out. Contrary to what has been stated above, there are lots of machines and so many treadmills etc. It's not busy in the mornings and has all you need and is CHEAP. They do special deals every now and then. I pay £15.99 per month

    • Anonymous

      Completely agree. I have been a member from the start. £15.99? BARGAIN!

    • Anonymous

      There might be lots of treadmills at the Gym WH, but if you want to use free weights equipment, they have a deliberate policy of underequipping it, to avoid serious gym users who they feel might be in some way intimidating to women. This is ridiculous and leads to massive overcrowding in the free weights area at peak time to the point where after 6.30pm it is unusable.

      Give us an extra Smith machine and more weights now, the Gym! Sort it out.

  • Anonymous

    I was a Swiss Cottage gym member for six years and on the whole it was pretty good – very roomy, lots of light and space, and you rarely have to queue for anything. The pool is massive (unlike the one at VA), the range of classes is decent and most of the machines are up-to-date – they even have a couple of Power Plates if you’re into that sort of thing.

    BUT – the management is frankly inept. When things go wrong, like the air conditioning breaking, machines being out of order, or random membership issues arising, do not expect them to sort things quickly, if at all.

    Still, at half the price of VA, it’s an annoyance that most of us could probably stomach. Oh, and there’s no fixed annual membership, which is nice.

  • Mark

    As a regular swimmer at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre – thought it was worth mentioning that you can just turn up and pay £4.80 for an unlimited swim -(no monthly contract etc). The facilities are modern and it has none of the cliches of other council pools. Not perfect but a decent alternative for people who don't want to commit to a regular contract.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11710623816362851677 Kerstin Rodgers

    Very useful article. I'm at virgin active Cricklewood which has gone right downhill, looking shabby. I go for the proper swimming pool and yoga classes but they still have the same amount of yoga as they did a decade ago. The place needs updating plus it's really expensive.

  • Anonymous

    Just a quick word on outdoor gyms. There's also one in the Peace Park on Maygrove Road. It sits alongside an all-weather basketball court/five a side pitch, so quite good if you want to do something before/after using the equipment. Not great when it's raining tho'.

  • http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/search/label/zenw6 ZENW6

    Hi all, thanks for all your comments.

    @DottyinLondon and others- you’re right, the Virgin Active in Cricklewood is quite a bit cheaper than the Swiss Cottage branch. I just called them to confirm their current membership prices:

    Min. 12-month contract £66/mth peak or £55/mth off-peak (Current special offer: the rest of January free, plus no joining fee)
    Rolling month-by-month contract: £76/mth + £30 joining fee

    Re. The Gym in West Hampstead- this gym seems to divide opinion the most! There are some big fans of their basic no-frills approach, but (call me a diva) paper towels to wipe down equipment is necessary in a busy gym IMO!

  • Anonymous

    So bring your own paper doylies!…. The West Hamp Gym seems to have the most equipment and I have never experienced queues there.
    The outdoor “gyms” are frankly a total waste of rate payers money. They are useless. The resistance on the silly machines cannot be increased and all they are good for is for toddlers to mess around on them. Whoever designed them and decided to plonk them in parks is obviously not a keep fit sort and knows nothing about gym equipment.

    • http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/search/label/zenw6 ZENW6

      Well, I’m happy to bring my own towel, but some people find it a bit icky to wipe down the machines with their towel. Just a big roll of industrial tissue paper stuff would do the trick- nothing fancy.

      Interesting comments re. the outdoor gym machines. I did wonder how they could be used effectively with no resistance settings. However, I have noticed (adult) people using them, so presumably some people find them useful.

  • Josh

    Have recently joined The Gym. As a reluctant gym goer who felt working out a couple of times a week would be good to keep the winter pudding at bay, it is pretty much perfect. Five pounds a week for pretty good equipment is a bargain in my books. Who cares if they don’t have paper towels – seriously, take your own. And the whole internet sign-up and lack of staff is a big plus for me. Don’t feel like the trainers are constantly trying to upsell you on PT sessions etc. Only downside is the terrible music which I must suffer through if I forget my MP3 player.

  • Anonymous

    RE: GLOVES BOXING CLUB

    ——————————————–
    I’ve done boxing for a good few years and tried a lot of different boxing gyms in 3 different countries. Only when I’ve joined Gloves Boxing Club a lot of things started making sense. All of a sudden I’ve realized why that right cross always felt a bit awkward and why I often ended up off balance in a sparring session.

    Gloves way of teaching is old school with massive focus on the correct movement and technique. It’s a great environment to learn and practice new things and it feels really rewarding when combinations come together in the end of the session. It’s perfect for improving your skills and getting rid of bad habits as well as trying boxing for the first time.
    ——————————————–

    Cheers,
    Tom

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14061402848950054476 MrFrisbee

    I used My Fitness Boutique for about 2 or 3 years (when it started up) and it is excellent value and run by a couple of great guys (local I think). Classes are good and varied and quite small. (FYI, it is located in the mews behind David's Deli).

    Only reason I stopped was due to taking up running.

  • Anonymous

    The outdoor gyms are good for elderly people I think but not for people who want to “pump it”. Let’s face it you’d be mad to spend alot of money on outdoor equipment in Central London wouldn’t you?

    I pay £19.70 to swim at any of the council leisure centres at any time. Usually go to Swiss Cottage, which is fine, can be busy or lots of children in the pool but pick your time and it’s good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03356390203584260587 Simon Woods

    I’ve been a resident in West Hampstead now for close to 4 years, and until 18 months ago, skipped from gym to gym in the area – bored, unmotivated, uninspired.

    Going to the gym used to feel like a chore, I seldom enjoyed the monotony of the generic gym, with line after line of expensive equipment, and little interaction with anyone.

    Then I tried Gloves on Broadhurst Gdns. Honestly, it was (is) completely different to anything else I’d experienced before – a fantastically engaging workout greets you with every visit, the ambience and feel of the whole place is enticing, and the personal and professional approach of the nationally known coaches is exemplary. I can truthfully state that Gloves converted what was a boring routine for me at previous places, into an engaging and enjoyable pursuit for a better body and health! For the first time in my life, I actually look forward to going to the gym. I’ve never been able to say that about anywhere before.

    Don’t get me wrong, if you’re looking for a quick run on a treadmill every now and again, this isn’t the place for you. It’s not the cheapest, but it is the most value for money. What I get in return for my monthly fee is above and beyond the monetary value. It’s more than just a gym, it’s a centre of excellence – the culture and dedication you encounter as soon as you enter the character of the red brick building is infectious!

    Whatever your goals – pop your head in and take a peek. It may be the best decision you make all year.

    Simon.

  • Tom

    I find The Gym’s equipment fine for the money, but unfortunately they’re a corrupt organisation hiding behind a welcoming face. I took up a pre-opening offer, being told that those signing up before it opened would be locked into £10 a month for life. When they subsequently put my fee up to £15, I queried it, with evidence of a conversation where I’d double-checked the agreement (they’d told me they’d discussed the issue at a General Meeting and had verified the original offer). However, they then basically told me to sod off and read the new T&C.

    The actual gym equipment is fine, but the hideous music (mostly teenagers’ R&B) is rammed down our throats with the accompanying, nauseating videos. At my previous gym they had music, but with BBC News 24 and Sky Sports News on with subtitles, which seemed very popular.

    The showers are bizarre in that there are no pegs to hang your towel on. This means people drape towels, and often items of clothing they’ve been wearing, including underwear, over the top of the cubicle doors – hardly sanitary. The showers themselves are on a timer and click on and off every 20-30 seconds which is infuriating and ridiculous. There are no soap / shower gel holders. These were installed at one point, then mysteriously removed. When I queried why, I was told the addition of them had been inconsistent with their other branches; idiotic. They also have the rudest cleaner, at weekends, that one could possibly imagine, barking out “use this one!” etc. when you dare venture into the shower area.

    All in all, desperately disappointing.

  • http://www.greenproindia.com/greenfit.php Fitness Equipments

    For me Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is in my budget.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454772363979643088 Cool boy

    The actual gym equipment is fine, but the hideous music (mostly teenagers' R&B) is rammed down our throats with the accompanying, nauseating videos. At my previous gym they had music, but with BBC News 24 and Sky Sports News on with subtitles, which seemed very popular.
    new songs<

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01697773085858811277 Joshua Pines

    Is there any scuttlebutt about the new JW3 having gym facilities? That's the norm with JCCs in the States.

    • http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/ WHampstead

      Not sure – good question! Not heard that it will, think it's more "cultural" than anything else. The website should launch very soon though, so hopefully all will be revealed

  • http://www.shapetrainer.co.uk/ Shapetrainer

    Every gym has different facilities and has different trainer.But the cost of trainer and gym depend on how much experience does a trainer has and what all facilities are provided in the gym..

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