Should You Join an Expensive Health Spa?

In the past I have always been somewhat dismissive of expensive health spas like Virgin Active and LA Fitness. The problem for me has always been that they don’t actually offer you anything extra that you would need in order to get into shape that you can’t get from a dungeon with some heavy weights in it, and in fact I think many people who join health spas actually end up distracted by those extras rather than benefiting from them.

But then the other day I caved in and I joined Virgin Active myself for various reasons that I’m going to discuss. And now, with a little more experience of both ways of doing things, I’m going to answer the question of whether you should follow suit or stick to my old advice. So do you really need to join an expensive health spa?

Why Did I Join?

Firstly let’s answer that last question by stating that no, you definitively do not need to join an expensive health spa to get into shape, and in fact you don’t need a gym at all as long as you have some dumbbells lying around or a clear bit of carpet where you can do your press ups.

Whether or not you should join though is a different matter. Prior to joining the health club I’m at now I was going to a gym that was about two and a half miles away from me which was a good twenty minute walk in the cold, and my bad knee meant I could no longer jog there as I had been doing previously. Most of my working out then was done at home in my London flat which is probably about the same size as your dining room table. I was using a fold-up bench for bench presses which was kept under the bed and dumbbells stored down the side of the sofa and it took ages and created a lot of mess every time I wanted to do a workout.

Then my shower stopped working and I ended up having a lot of cold showers. This was about the time that I visited my friend Nathan at his gym in Oxford and had an amazing time in the hot tub and sauna after our workout only to come home practically glowing and feeling completely relaxed.

The Virgin Active near me is literally a five minute walk meaning I can get there more quickly than I can set up my bench at home, and it’s always empty and very well equipped meaning that in forty minutes I can do an incredibly good workout that I could never accomplish at home. And then have an amazing hot shower. I then had a bit of a windfall, and so yes, I caved.

Was it the Right Choice?

Since then I have been to the gym almost every single morning and I schedule in a good twenty minute session in the steam room afterwards too meaning I now start every day feeling very comfortable in my own skin and am seeing marked improvements in my physique. They have a punching bag and climbing ropes and everything. In this regard then yes, joining the health spa was definitely the right choice for me at this point.

But you mustn’t forget here that there were also many mitigating factors that influenced this decision. Particularly what’s important to bear in mind here is that my health spa was also much nearer and much quieter than the gym I was at previously. This meant that it was much easier for me to work out here and to fit it into my routine, which meant right away that I was a hundred times more likely to stick to any new training goals I came up with.

Now in this particular case the steam room and the hot showers were an excellent added bonus, and this combined with the fact that I get to use towels for free, can dry my swimming shorts there and borrow a padlock even just makes it highly convenient and even tempting to use. If these two gyms were to swap locations? Then I would have joined the cheaper one instead.

Strengths and Weaknesses

That said I am really enjoying some of the bonuses that come from the health spa way of life. I like being able to use some more inventive equipment for instance and I’m sure this is benefiting my workouts. Likewise I do really enjoy the hot tub which is just enough to motivate me out of bed when I don’t really feel like and I might one day try a class. Who knows?

But that said I also am now paying £60 a month instead of £10 for the privilege (which is about $100 versus $18 for those in the US) and that’s a big difference. In fact if you were to only use the gym once a week like some people do, that would be £20 a session… and that means you’d need to go at least 3 or 4 times a weeks for it to be anything close to a good deal. Which of course on the plus side is an incentive in itself…

The point is then that if you are in a position where the added facilities are genuinely going to make you more likely to go to the gym then yes it probably is worth paying at least a bit more within reason – though you can still get into just as good shape with a more standard gym if you have the hardiness to train in less plush settings. Much more important than any of that though is to join a gym that is convenient and practical – that means signing up somewhere that’s close and that isn’t too jam packed all the time. That’s what is really worth paying more for.



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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

Follow Adam on Linkedin: adam-sinicki, twitter: thebioneer, facebook: adam.sinicki and youtube: treehousefrog

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