Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Gym Review: Virgin Active Health Clubs - Melbourne

In my last gym review I looked at the very first proper gym I joined: Fernwood.

Today I wanted to review for you one of the more recent gym experiences I had - Virgin Active Health Club, Melbourne. I was a member for about a year, starting in 2011-2012. I only quit when I moved away and wanted to start rowing more regularly (and dropped down my hours at work, so couldn't pay all my memberships).

Virgin Active appears to be a huge brand over in the US, but has only reasonably recently come to Australia. In fact, they only have four gyms in the whole of Australia! (3 in Sydney and 1 in Melbourne, which is just rude, because everyone knows that Melbourne is the better city! Maybe they are just trying to get Sydney-siders as fit as Melbournians.)


The Virgin gyms are best for those who want it all. If you love feature packed gyms (which I must admit, I do) then this is the baby for you.

You really do need to do an introductory tour to get to see everything they have, but just to give you a sneak peek:

- over 40 a day. Yup, a day. Except on the weekends which is limited to about 10 classes. In absolutely everything you can think of, including Pilates reformer classes.

- swimming pool, with spa area (in the middle of the city!)

- large weights area.

- cardio equipment (I will admit that I never had to wait for a piece of equipment, though with all the classes and extras, I didn't spend as much time on the equipment as I do at other gyms).

- large spin classes.

- All the latest toys in gym equipment like Powerplates.

- Rock-climbing wall (yes, I'm serious about that, it was awesome if you just wanted to practice and build up strength).

- Sleep pods (basically, you can come in and just have a snooze. How great is that in a gym? You could program it to play relaxing music and wake you up after a 20min power nap.)

Other great benefits include:

- no contract. you can cancel any time you want. (or you can sign up for a 12 month contract).

- student and senior citizen discounts.

- cool memory key thing that remembers your workout program and so you just plug it into the machine and it tells you what to do (hard to explain, check it out).

- Because it is in the city, it caters to the working lifestyle, and offers short, sharp classes at lunch time that lets you work out and still leaves you time to get back to work. 

And the thing I liked is that you got all that for not that much more than any other gym. I compared to a few around, and it was only a few dollars a fortnight more expensive, which I was very happy to pay for all the extras.

However, there were some downsides:

- they have a joining fee which they NEVER waive. With Fernwood and other gyms, you can usually find a time to join when you don't have to pay. Not so with Virgin, and they never offer special deals on prices.

- They don't actually tell you the prices anywhere until you go in. However, from memory when I was going it was $25/week. 

- In the mornings before work, the change rooms are bursting. It can be hard to get mirror space or even find an empty locker.

- I missed my induction course, and then was too scared to ask for another, so didn't know how to use a lot of the weird equipment.

- Also, because there are so many people, and it is so large, it can be a bit intimidating.

- The weekend open hours aren't great, as they appear to believe no one actually lives in the city.

The hours are:
Mon-Thurs 6:00am - 10:00pm
Fri 6:00am - 9:00pm
Sat 9:00am - 5:00pm
Sun 10:00am - 4:00pm
Public Holiday 10:00am - 4:00pm

So how would I rate it overall? 

If you want all the extras, and don't mind being adventurous and trying out new things, this gym is awesome. It is especially great if you work in the city and want to go before or after work (and don't mind a bit of a crush). 

I wouldn't really recommend it if you just like doing the same thing at the gym or want a bit of help from staff. You could pay a lot less and get a lot more attention.

Finally, if you are a little bit self-conscious about going back to the gym, this might be a bit intimidating. I found a lot of guys just sit on the machines staring at you trying to wriggle their eyebrows. It was pretty uncomfortable at times.

But overall, I'm a big fan and would go back if I were back in the city, or they opened one in South Yarra.

Rock climbing wall!


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