• FF Team

Private Gym vs Health Club: Where Should you Spend your Money?



Everything in life is getting more expensive! So now more than ever we need to be ensuring every £ we spend is giving us the best possible return on our investment.


Most people tend to be relatively on point with their finances when it comes to food shopping bills, utility bills, mortgage payments, car finance, clothing expenses, credit card loans to name a few..


But when it comes to auditing our health and fitness finances and measuring the return on investment of this spend - we often fall short!


Q: Do you measure the returns from your health and fitness spending?

You most probably don’t - but you should!


The fact is that on nearly every large scale population survey that has ever been sent measuring peoples priorities in life and the importance of them, health and fitness always come up in the top 3!! Along with money and family respectively.


This suggests that health and wellbeing is seen as a priority for the majority yet our auditing of our health and fitness spending contradicts this.


So what could explain this contradiction?


I think one of the reasons to explain this apparent contradiction is a lack of clarity.

People lack clarity when it comes to where and how they should spend their wellbeing budget and allocated money, and they also have no idea of how to measure to see if they are getting a return from their wellbeing spending.


You can spend your money in a Health club, small private gym, leisure centre, home gym equipment, online programs, 1-1 personal training…it’s a mind bomb - no surprise it’s difficult to make an informed decision.


Hopefully this is where we can help…


Our unique perspective coming from working in the health and fitness industry for over a decade, and also having worked in many such establishments over the years as listed above - will help give you some clarity over where to spend your hard earned £.


We know from this personal experience having worked in David Lloyd at the very beginning of our careers, that many people want clearer answers on this topic.


So let’s get some clarity..


Below I will discuss 2 potential options of where to spend your money, with the aim to give you the clarity and understanding you need to make a better informed decision.


The options I will discuss in detail are the large health club chains and the independent personal training gyms, and when it comes to personal training and coaching, there is a surprising difference in quality between the two.


And YES to remind you, we have unique history here, so you can trust the info in this article is honest and real. Why?..


Because myself (Rich) and Joel started in David Lloyd back in 2009 as young, inexperienced trainers where we first started our careers. This gave us first hand insight into the practices and policies of these big health clubs over the 2+ years we were at David Lloyd.


We were ingrained into the systems of David Lloyd and learnt over the years how they ran their personal training business and viewed their members.


So let’s get stuck into it..


What are the key differences between a health club and a private gym?


Let’s start with the big health clubs like David Lloyd, Virgin health and Nuffield clubs.


Personal Training is a Low Priority


Personal training within these corporates is just one small part of the overall business. This means the importance they give to this type of service offering is lower and a smaller priority to them. The revenue they get from memberships far outweighs the money they get from personal training sessions, and this is reflected in the service provided and the investment put into coaches development.


In-experienced Trainers


When we personally worked for DL the majority of the personal trainers within our team were first starters and learning their trade (just as we were), which automatically means the level of coaching and customer service is lower across the board purely down to the lack of experience and knowledge of the younger, greener trainers.


Client-trainer loyalty poor


The turnover of staff within the personal training teams is ultra-high too, which can make familiarity and consistency difficult. Ultimately, it’s the members that feel the brunt of this most, as the strong relationship that might have been built up with one trainer can very quickly be taken away and expected to be immediately replaced by another new trainer.


Poor pay means the best move on


Unfortunately, the rate of pay for many personal trainers at these health clubs is pretty low and unsustainable for many once their salaried gym hours gets stripped away as they move through the “PT journey”. This creates a high turnover and replacement culture within these clubs, which also means the better, more experienced trainers are attracted away to other better paid, valued jobs.


Comfort zone training is rife


Heath clubs are lovely places to be, they are warm, comfortable, relaxed environments with lots of distractions all around. Although this is a big draw for many that join these clubs, when it comes to actually getting into the gym and working hard to progress health and fitness, this is much less common.


The amount of time we used to see members sitting on the static bikes reading their favourite newspapers or watching the TV’s, was amazing for us to see.


Now I’m not sure about you, but when i am working hard to achieve something valuable the last thing I can do is watch TV or read my favourite newspaper!! I am more focused on sucking every last bit of breath into my lungs before passing out (slight exaggeration but you get my point).


Now let’s contrast this to the smaller, independently run gyms.


Personal Training tends to be a high priority


Private independent gyms value their personal training service much more than health clubs, and put it to the top of their priority list. The income these privately owned gyms get from personal training is often the life-blood of their businesses, and this in turn means the stakes are higher to keep the level of service very high.


Experienced, knowledgable trainers


The vast majority of smaller privately owned gyms are set up and owned by personal trainers who have gained the experience, earned the financial backing and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit to match. This means the type of people that set up these gyms tend to be more successful and experienced trainers, which in turn gives them the ability to offer a higher level of coaching to their clients.


Saying this, obviously not all privately owned gyms are equal and the level of coaching you receive within these gyms can vary significantly, so do your research first.


Client-trainer relationship and retention high


The turnover of staff in private gyms tends to be much lower than the bigger health clubs, allowing for a much stronger client-coach relationship to develop and consistency to remain high. This can show itself in a better service and gives more time for compounding progress to be realised by each client.


The better more successful trainers stay


The business model of many small business gyms is one of either freelance or part-salaried trainers. Because of this, the trainers that base their businesses out of these gyms are acutely aware of the importance of retaining their clients and members to sustain their income, which ultimately pulls up the level of customer service and member satisfaction.


It’s because of this model that attracts and retains the stronger trainers in the industry, and tends to naturally weed out the less able and/or less experienced trainers to health clubs where they can rely on the larger pool of members.


Stronger focus on client progress and value


Simply put, the facilities and environment of the smaller private gyms is geared toward the actual value of the coaching sessions and less toward the facilities of comfort, as the health clubs are. This usually means there are less distractions and less options to relax in the smaller gym.


People who go to private gyms are there to work and progress toward goals, whereas it’s all to easy to get too relaxed and loose sight of why you join a gym in the first place at the big health club chains, like David Lloyd and Nuffield Heath respectively.


But what does this actually mean for me?


From our direct experience and insights above we can see there is a surprising difference in the priorities and coaching set ups of the 2 types of gym facilities, and it’s very much dependant on the needs and goals of the person to which one they ultimately opt for.


There is no doubt in our experience though, that if you are looking to join a gym that has all the nice to have facilities, loads of classes and a place to work and chill out with family in - then the big health club franchise is your best bet.


But if you are in the game of wanting, and for many requiring the best in coaching and personal training (do your research first), then the smaller, private specialist gym is your best bet.


This is especially true the more specialised your goals and health needs are, such as; back pain, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, post heart attack rehabilitation, post surgery rehabilitation, injury prehabilitation, sports performance training, chronic obesity, long COVID and more.


So to be clear, where should you spend your money?


If you’re happy and willing to blow a large chunk of your leisure budget on facilities, rackets and swimming pools whilst covering high overheads and manager salaries through your membership and personal training fees, then the leisure clubs such as David Lloyd, Nuffield Health and Virgin Active are your most suited solutions.


On the other hand, if you’re not worried about paying for all the facilities the health clubs offer, but instead want to make a sound investment in your health and fitness for long term success and meaningful lifestyle change, then the smaller, private personal training gym is by far and away your most suited solution in our opinion.


You see it all boils down to your most valued priorities in life and the choices you make with your finances.

With all this in mind, the best solution for you should now hopefully become much clearer and obvious when you next ask yourself “Health club vs private gym: where should I spend my money?”.


I hope this information was somewhat helpful in clarifying the Private Gym or Health Club debate, but if you wanted to discuss this in more detail, then please get in contact with us for a no strings attached chat.


Whether you are looking to join a gym for the first time,


your current gym contract is up for renewal,


or you want to measure more precisely your return on investment in your health,


get in contact with us to explore your best suited options.


We will happily discuss with you your priorities and help guide you in the right direction, whether that be the health club route, or the more specialised private gym like ourselves.


Invest well, Invest in your health,


FF team


P.s We have an offer on at the moment to test drive our private personal training gym before you buy, so this could be a useful option to explore for undecided people.


To enquire about this FREE TEST DRIVE click this link to get in touch

https://www.functionalfitness.me/testdrive


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