Back to basics: Council Leisure Centres

Girl squad goals with Wild Trail Runners, photo c/o Paul Ngui

Council leisure centres seem few and far between in London, with fancy-pants boutique fitness studios popping up all the time, especially compared to my home city of Edinburgh. When I lived in Edinburgh I was a member of Edinburgh Leisure – the biggest physical activity provider in the city developed on behalf of the city’s council – and I was perfectly happy with the service, using their well-equipped gyms and going to regular Les Mills classes like BodyPump and BodyCombat.

In London we are overwhelmed with choice from independent studios on our doorstep offering every type of workout under the sun for a very hefty pricetag. I was sucked into this lifestyle when I first moved to the city, visiting different studios every week using ClassPass, finding my favourites and then spending money on single studio memberships of those I loved. The novelty wore off though and I no longer wanted to spend significant amounts of money shimmying my way around London’s fitness scene. I took a step back, thought about what I really wanted to get out of the workouts I was going to and signed up for my very local Nuffield Health Centre. It’s perfect. It’s basic, especially compared to what I was used to, but functional, and I find I’m getting more out of the membership because it’s so close and I can go to the gym/pool anytime and create my own workouts.

Everyone Active is the UK’s longest established leisure contractor operating over 140 sports and leisure centres in the UK across 40 local authorities. I tried rock climbing at Seymour Leisure Centre last year, one of the 8 gyms in the City of Westminster that’s benefiting from a £9 million investment thanks to Everyone Active, and as well as improving the health and fitness facilities they’re also introducing hot yoga classes to the centres.

Climbing walls and hot yoga studios are not something I’d usually associate with a more basic, older style council gym, so I was excited to see the facilities for myself.

Myself and keen yogi friend Emily went along to Queen Mother Leisure Centre in Victoria to try the 7am hot yoga class and I was really pleasantly surprised. The room was nicely lit, mats and blocks were provided and the style of the class was comparable to one of the many hot yoga-only studios I’ve been to in the city. We were treated to a lovely vinyasa flow-style class, perfect for wakening up our bodies in the morning before work, with some great variations between poses that I hadn’t tried before.

So don’t knock your local council gym, go in with an open mind and you may just be surprised. If you’re in London check out the newly refurb-ed Everyone Active centres, where you can also try the Hot Yoga exclusively for just £20 for 20 days. See you on the mat?

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