I’ve never been much of a scientist, in that I really don’t care why exercise makes me happy. It just does. What makes me even happier is when I get offered a free guest pass to the Virgin Active Health Club in the City.
To give a little background, I am a member of a gym. And by ‘member’, I mean it’s a free perk of the job – no complaints there. Offering sweeping twenty-first floor views from within the UK’s tallest building (although mostly all you can see are the skyscrapers opposite and the little ant people many feet below scurrying home), my gym is small and sweet. While there are no TVs, most of the equipment is pushed up against the windows – provides entertainment enough. Sometimes I do worry that an over-enthusiastic stretch might shatter those impenetrable windows, but mainly that’s just me being paranoid.
It does, however, make a difference when you go from bog standard to luxury in the space of a couple of days. Because the Virgin gym is nothing short of that. Situated on Old Broad Street, just a three-minute walk from Bank station, one can easily anticipate the kind of clientele who go in the week. We were there on a Saturday, so the place was hardly inundated with city boys, but I can imagine during lunch hours it gets pretty packed.
We had contemplated taking a swim (the pool remained more or less empty during our visit, bar a tanned man on a sun lounger looking like something out of Club Tropicana), but instead opted for just the gym. Good choice!
From what I saw, there were three studios, housing the latest in fitness technology. The machines were all sophisticated touch-screens, with built-in TVs and personalised exercise programmes. I spent an enjoyable forty minutes puffing away whilst gossiping on the crosstrainer. We finished with some exercise ball stretches and more gossiping. I had a look at the Power Plates (free, naturally), but hearing that they “really shook your brain” didn’t go down too well with me and my mild hangover, so I gave them a wide berth.
The changing rooms were a spectacle in themselves – luxury showers, white towelling robes, hair straighteners, sunbeds, large bottles of beauty products – all gratis. There’s also a free ironing service so for those wanting to go back to the office without creased clothes. Amazing.
Classes are included in the monthly membership fee (not small, but by no means extortionate for the services provided), and offer everything from spinning, to power plates, to traditional Pilates classes with torture chamber style devices.
If this one-off visit made me happy, then all I can say is that full-time members must be very happy indeed. At least until after January, when the gym guilt (paying, but not using enough) really kicks in.