Allow me to set the scene. I’ve been up at the crack of dawn to go to circuits, I’m taking my last few sips of water at the end of a tough, sweaty class, and somewhere from the other side of the room, I hear the instructor mutter something about “changing your membership for the refurbishment next week.”
To some of you, this mightn’t be a big deal. But when you’re a creature of habit, and your regular gym of six months is suddenly closing for a week (yes, only a week, I know) for a revamp, it throws that week into flux. Add the fact that I moved house the weekend before into the bargain and that’s a LOT of change for 6AM.
All the same, I took the opportunity to try the other Pure Gyms closest to me*, so I’m sharing the love with my experiences, even if they are a little tainted by my love for St Anne’s Square.
*One of these technically isn’t Belfast but it’s close enough to fit the bill.
My regular gym: St Anne’s Square
Summary: Cosy, great equipment, corners to hide in when you feel silly mastering a new exercise, and classes that fit around my work schedule. Solid 5/5
Classes: This gym has the pre-office workout routine down pat. They have put together a programme of short classes, usually sandwiching a 15 minute abs class between two 30 minute classes, like pump, circuits or spin. That way, you can go for the 1 hour 15 minute killer, a solid 45 minutes, or a quick but intense 30 minutes. You could even top off your own workout with an abs class. It’s so versatile and exactly what I need.
Equipment: For someone like me, who has a reasonably good level of fitness, but won’t be entering any bodybuilding contests any time soon, St Anne’s is perfect for my needs. It has TRX cables, which are perfect for accommodating exercising to my weak ankles and wrists, it has kettlebells, which are at the core of my workouts, and it has a huge collection of cross trainers, treadmills and stairmasters, so you’re never waiting around to start your warm-up. It also has a weights room downstairs, but I’m not quite at that level yet… maybe by my next gym post I’ll have graduated to the scary room!
Changing Rooms: Lots of lockers, great quality showers which I never appreciated until I went to other gyms – to be revealed below. Not enough hairdryers or mirrors for 20 girls rushing to work, but a girl can’t have everything.
Alternative #1: Adelaide Street, Belfast
Summary: Cross trainers with annoying settings, hairdryers overheat too often, mostly geared towards heavy lifters. But on the plus side, good little rooms off the main gym for stretching, kettlebells etc. 3/5
(Disclaimer – my opinion of Adelaide Street may 100% have been influenced by my resistance to change, my bad bus experience and my horrible Monday in general. But some points still stand)
Classes: I can’t comment on the classes as I didn’t take any, but upon looking at the schedule, none of them seemed to fit with my morning routine. I’d either have to be at the gym from 6AM (I usually aim to leave the house then, and start a workout at 6.45) or finish at 8, battle the rush for showers and hairdryers, and hurry to get to work on time. Neither were ideal so I did my own thing. However, I was intrigued by some of the virtual classes, including virtual spin.
Equipment: I didn’t have time to explore completely but whereas St Anne’s is aimed towards the moderately fit of this world, Adelaide Street seemed definitely the opposite. It has free weights on both floors, and a dedicated room for barbells. Naturally, equipment like that attracts the posers of this world, and some very, very muscular individuals – not exclusively, but more than I’m used to. No TRX cables that I could see, I didn’t find the medicine balls, and almost couldn’t find kettlebells. But once I found the kettlebells, they turned out to be in a lovely private room that made my workout so much more enjoyable.
Changing Rooms: My changing room experience was a disaster. There wasn’t enough bench space, so I was relegated to the floor. The lock on my locker jammed, the queue for the showers (which resemble swimming pool showers more than the nice luxurious St Anne’s ones) was a mile long, and the hairdryer overheated within seconds of turning it on. On the plus side, there was much more mirror space.
Alternative #2: Newtownabbey
Summary: Out of the city centre, so much quieter. Changing rooms are a dream, all the equipment I could ask for (except TRX cables), good selection of classes. 4/5
Classes: In the 3 days of converting to Newtownabbey, I only made it to one class. Again, I’m spoiled with the short and versatile nature of St Anne’s Sq’s classes, but I can’t really expect that when I go outside of the city centre. Classes are between 45 minutes and 1 hour, but times were better suited to me than Adelaide Street. Pump on the Thursday morning was challenging and just what I needed after an indulgent week!
Equipment: Plenty of cross trainers to get me warmed up, and a great area for kettlebells, abs and stretching, with lots of mirror space, and all of the equipment lined up – kettlebells, light weights, medicine balls and steppers. It was the perfect corner for my usual Tuesday morning circuit. Again, no TRX cables that I could see, but I adapted my workout to suit!
Changing Rooms: As I said before, the changing rooms are an absolute dream. The showers are the same showers as Adelaide Street (St Anne’s obviously got preferential treatment in that department), but there wasn’t a queue at all. There were more hairdryers and mirrors than in any other gym, and I think I was in the company of three other gym-goers in the whole time I was there. The perks of being out of the city, eh?
Moral of the story? I’m very resistant to change when it comes to my gym. And it seems that Pure Gym has spoilt me for other gyms forevermore. I feel like I could definitely grow to love Newtownabbey, with the addition of some TRX cables and those snazzy showers that St Anne’s has. But unfortunately, for me, Adelaide Street was not the one.