7 Things We Don’t Like About Gyms (& How We’re Different)

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At RSF Improve, we call ourself ‘the gym for people who don’t like gyms’.We know it’s a weird tagline for what is, well…a gym.But RSF Improve was founded on basic pillars upon which it still stands today, almost one year after opening.After working for years as Personal Trainers in commercial gyms, us coaches at RSF decided it was time for a change.We grew to dislike the ‘big box gym’ environment as we felt it just didn’t offer enough to its members.

Here’s a few things we didn’t/don’t like about gyms, from a member’s perspective:

1. Queuing for equipment at peak times

How many times have you walked into a gym after work, taken a look around and thought “well bang goes that workout”, because every squat rack, bench and barbell is being used?

Or maybe you’re looking to get some cardio in on a treadmill, but there’s a queue behind it with people moaning and groaning if you spend more than the suggested 20mins on a piece of kit.

Maybe you’ve walked in, looked around and just walked straight back out.

Either way, it’s no way to train. And the answer isn’t to go when it’s totally inconvenient for you either. Who in the blue hell wants to lift at 3am?

How we’re different…

We’ve got 6 squat racks at RSF Improve and have a maximum of 16-18 people training at the facility at the one time.

This means that we’ve got a maximum of 3 people per squat rack (although it’s usually 2 per rack), which ensures minimal hanging around and maximal  work towards our members’ goals.

2. Being a nameless face in the crowd

Everyone wants to feel valued. Whether it’s at work, at home, at their local coffee shop/pub or at their gym.

But the new wave of gyms are staff-less and have turnstiles instead of receptionists. People are literally being ‘greeted’ by a computer and being left to their own devices.

That’s cool for the anti-social types, but for us gyms are about human interaction; about helping members towards their goals and generally having a bit of banter.

The direction the fitness industry has taken with an influx of cattle-market, airport-themed gyms just wasn’t for us.

How we’re different…

We’re a small and tight-knit community at RSF Improve where everyone is greeted by name by not only us coaches, but also by other members.

All of our members are in a private Facebook group with each other so that they can interact with each other out-with their training time.

We host regular in-house seminars on topics such as self-defence and nutrition so as everyone can get to know each other. And also do individualised weekly reviews to make sure we can help and support our ‘peeps’ through tricky times and dips in motivation.

3. Not knowing what to do

The number of people who wander around gyms aimlessly, guessing their way through their workout, without ever really knowing whether or not they’re ‘doing it right’ is alarming.

That’s all good and well if someone’s simply looking to get out the house or trying to clear their head, but if it’s bodily change they’re looking for then they need a little bit more direction.

They need to know what they should be doing and they need to know how to do it.

Big box gyms just don’t lend themselves to that happening for a large enough percentage of their member base for us to ever have been happy with.

How we’re different…

Everything we do at RSF Improve is coached. That means that our members either train 1-to-1 with a coach, in a group of up to 6 people with a coach or in a group of up to 14 people with a coach.

Every time our members come in they can look at ‘the board’ and see what they’re going to be doing in their session. Us coaches are there to guide them through it, help them with technique, push them to do more and also hold them back a little if we feel it’s the right thing to do.

4. Having to think

The last thing most people want to do is get off work and then have to put more brain power into their training.

The lion’s share of gym goers are there to manage their health, decrease stress and offset the damage their diet and lifestyle is causing. They don’t want to have to think about exercise selection, training volume, technique, periodisation and all of the things that us coaches specialise in.

They want to show up, switch their brains off, get through it and go home.

That’s why the previous point about ‘not knowing what to do’ exists. In fact, it’s usually not because people don’t know what to do, it’s because they don’t want to have to think about what they’re doing.

How we’re different…

As we mentioned in the last point, everything our members are going to be doing is up on the board for them to see before they start. We do their thinking for them, we plan their programmes/workouts and ensure they’re progressing. All they have to do is show up and ‘do’.

That being said, we’ve got some members who love the nitty gritty of exercise science and want to know as much as possible about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it; but the majority are there to sweat, smile and get stronger in a fun and friendly environment where they can switch their brain off and know they’re safe.

5. Intimidating weights rooms

It’s pretty much common knowledge that lifting weights is the key to physical change. It’s more enjoyable that running for hours on end and it helps achieve that toned look.

But what no one seems to take into consideration before they join a gym to lift weights is that ‘inhabitants’ of a weights room.

Generally speaking, weights rooms are full of big, scantily clad, muscly dudes who grunt, slam and bang their way through their workouts.

Now, in our experience, they are absolutely lovely individuals…but they have to get ‘in the zone’ to train and that generally leads to, what comes across as, an aggressive and overbearing presence that the majority of people are simply terrified of.

This leads to the majority of members avoiding the weights room (yes, the one they joined to use and know they should be using).

How we’re different…

The difference with our place is that our coaches are always coaching. There’s banter between sessions and everyone seems to feel safe and secure enough to grunt, slam and make noise without anyone telling them to be quite or without fear of scaring anyone.

This ties in with our peeps all having a platform by which to get to know each other (i.e. before, during and after sessions, in our private Facebook group and at our in-house events) and so they can simply be themselves without worrying.

6. Lack of nutritional help/advice

Everyone knows that in order to improve their physique they must exercise AND make changes to their diet.

Common knowledge, isn’t it?!

But in big, box gyms the help just isn’t there. The staff are either not there at all (in the turnstile gyms) or they’re not qualified/well read enough to offer good enough help.
This leads to people plugging away, training (what they believe to be) hard but not experiencing the changes they’d like.

Now, this happens everywhere…but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say to a member of staff:

“Hey, I’ve been training a while now and haven’t achieved the results I would like. Could you give me a few nutritional pointers that’ll help my body change?”

How we’re different…

All of our members have access to us coaches whenever they need us. They can ask questions in our Facebook group, email us or ask before, during and/or after their sessions.

We send all of our members our nutrition e-book and host regular in-house nutrition seminars to ensure they’ve got the knowledge to make changes. They can also raise their hand in their weekly reviews and let us know that they need a bit more help on X, Y or Z and we do the best we can to make sure they’re on the right track.

7. Mirrors

This one’s a contentious one, because, on the one hand, mirrors are a fantastic coaching tool. We can have someone watch their own technique, give them a few pointers as to how they could improve upon it and then have them watch themselves again having taken the pointers on board.

It works really well as a coaching tool, but what we found over the years was that the majority of people who use gyms avoid mirrors like they’re fire-breathing spiders from the gates of hell.

Particularly the people we’re used to training. They just don’t like being put in front of a mirror.

The only place that has mirrors than a commercial gym is Kim Kardashians walk-in wardrobe.

They’re freakin’ everywhere, and that (in our opinion) just makes things a little to too uncomfortable for the majority of people who us ‘em.

How we’re different…

Well, quite simply, we don’t have any mirrors.

This is a huge talking point for most of our first-timers in that they’ve finally found a gym they don’t have to feel self-conscious in or walk around with their head down in case they catch a glimpse of their own reflection.

As we mentioned earlier, mirrors are useful coaching tools, but we’ve managed to work around not having them thus far so we reckon we’ll stick to being ‘mirror free’.

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