Location: Aston University, Birmingham, UK (map)
Workouts: from workout diary
Gym and StudioAt the time of writing, we have been a member of this gym for a few weeks. Having just moved from a gym where there is an emphasis on cardio, comfort and studio classes, this is a refreshing change.
The main benefit is that the annual subscription is half what it was at the previous gym, because we are paying for just the things we use - weights and machines. To swim, you pay extra. You bring your own towel. There are not hordes of 'assistants' touting for personal trainer business. The studios are not perennially occupied by leotard-clad pilates devotees. No offence.
And best of all, it is quiet at 7am when we arrive because, as we all know, students do not get up until lunchtime.
Equipment-wise, it has pretty much everything - Olympic free weights with no shortage of benches, bars and plates. And not the crappy, plastic bars we had at the old place. The bars weight 20kg, as they should. A set of fixed dumbbells up to 50kg, an EZ bar, and a cable machine. Plenty of bars for hanging, and a novel assisted pull up machine that allows your feet to go through a more natural range of motion. The usually-empty studio at the back is good for sprints (it's about 18 metres long) and a bigger hall behind has some seating that's great for jumping. Lots of cardio machines, of course.
My only criticism? No set of fixed-weight short barbells, which are very useful for circuits. But we can use dumbbells easily enough. Oh - and you can't take cold showers. Otherwise, we like it.
Swimming PoolThe swimming pool is in the same building as the gym but appears to have been constructed 100 years previously. The row of alcoves on the upper right of the picture are actually the changing facilities. These small, brick-walled cubicles line the full length of the pool on both sides and are equipped with a single wooden bench and door big enough only to conceal ones most private areas. The unisex showers are a single, small, alcove at the end where I took the photo.
Aside from the Victorian feel and spartan changing facilities, the pool is fine and at about 30 metres long, just about the right size for sprint and underwater lengths. At our previous gym it was more like 25 metres which is a little small.
So far, my experience has been that at 7am it is possible to get enough space to swim fast lengths.