A while back I shared my experience with different gyms here in Spain (See: Finding a great gym…deserves a piece of cake.), but I talked more about the actual gym than peculiarities vs. gyms and working out back in the US. I’m a pretty avid exerciser (both in gyms and out), so I like to think I’ve seen some interesting things. Granted I’ve been away from the US for almost a decade and sometimes I don’t notice differences anymore, but… I’d venture to guess that some of this is unique to Spain.
- Saying hello and goodbye in the locker room. As with elevator etiquette, it’s quite normal here to say hello and goodbye when entering and leaving the locker room, despite people being in the middle of various stages of hygiene and/or undressing. Since in the US, silence is the golden rule, I was a bit confused the first time someone said hello to me as I was getting ready to get in the shower after a workout. Was she talking to me? However, nowadays I expect a stranger to greet me in the locker room. And I do the same.
- Inappropriate English lyrics. I’m all for music during group exercise classes that’s energetic and motivates you to work out. And if you can sing along even better. A few times in spinning classes though my mouth was wide open – not because I was singing at the top of my lungs because I was the only one who really knew the words – but because I couldn’t believe the lyrics I was listening to. Just wrong and totally inappropriate. All I was thinking was that no one else in the class seemed to be bothered by it (or understanding maybe), so I just kept on working out and waited for it to pass. In hindsight it was pretty funny, once I got over my initial – am I really hearing what I think I’m hearing- shock.
- Running with a baby stroller. The first time I went out for a run, pushing my baby along in his stroller, I was convinced that I had forgotten my shirt or pants. Why? Everyone looked at my like I had three heads. Something had to be off. As it turns out, it just isn’t that common to see a mother getting a good workout at the same time she’s with her baby. For me it was great; I got to spend time with the little guy and get an even-more challenging workout. I know back home this is definitely more common and the sales of specialized exercise baby strollers (like the BOB) are through the roof. But…apparently that’s not the case here. Being the only one definitely didn’t stop me, and in a few occasions I even got some local cheering on from passersby. Maybe I’ll start a trend in my residential baby-friendly neighborhood…
- Gym clothes be gone. After a good workout at the gym I like to stay as far away from my workout clothes as possible until I put them in the washing machine. Much to my surprise, one day I forgot my clothes in the locker room, only to go back later and find out that my spinning shorts and sports bra (not the top) had been stolen. I really don’t know who would want to steal my dirty gym clothes, but best of luck to them.
These are just a few thoughts from my experiences. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience if you’re reading this from over here in Spain, or maybe there are other peculiarities about the workout world back home that I’ve forgotten.
Just like maybe I could start a trend with stroller running, maybe if you’re in another country you could start a trend by starting to say hello and goodbye to people in locker rooms. Or you could just get that startled expression that I’ve seen in Boston after being away so long away and saying hi to people in the elevator…
Like a lot of Americans, especially those living in a city like Boston, I’m a fan of working out and going to the gym. Strange as it might seem here in Spain (or normal as it might seem in Boston) I can’t imagine not belonging to a gym.
As you may know, sometimes just getting the motivation to work out can be enough in itself, so you want to make sure you find a gym that’s inviting and makes you want to keep going back.
Now, here in Spain I wouldn’t say that people don’t work out because you can go to the big parks on any weekend and find them filled with people running, practicing yoga, skating, etc. (the weather definitely helps as well). But… gyms in general here definitely are not as popular. And you don’t have the same American craziness of everyone working out during lunch time and then eating lunch at their desks. From my experience trying out a few different gym chains here, I’d have to say that they can leave a bit to be desired….*:
- Urban Fitness and Electrification (San Bernardo area). I got electrified at least a few times every time I worked out here. Read again. Yes, shocked. The treadmills were insulated behind glass panels without much space between them and the wall. Now I’m no scientist, but I can only guess that so much energy with so many people running in such a small, closed space and so much built-up friction could be the reason. I would like to think it was just poor planning, but after a while I just got too nervous that “the big shocker” could come one day, and I quit. Aside from this, the gym itself was rather small and ordinary.
- Holiday Gym and the Whistle Blower (Bernabeu/Lista). Holiday Gym is a large chain with gyms all over Madrid. In general, these gyms are quite inexpensive and provide the basics to have a decent workout. Don’t expect anything special, and don’t expect great group classes. One of the main reasons I go to a gym is for the group classes like Spinning or BodyPump, etc. One day shortly after joining Holiday I decided to try out a Step class. Now, keep in mind that I had been going to Step classes for over 5 years back in Boston and considered myself pretty familiar with the moves… the professor was a whistle-blower. He didn’t talk much; he pretty much just blew a whistle and made crazy moves with his hands, and supposedly people were going to understand this. Needless to say, I don’t speak “whistle” and promptly left this gym.
- Fit Island and the Silence (Las Tablas). I tried out this new gym in my neighborhood not too long ago because of the location. It definitely has potential as it’s really big and has a lot of new machines. However, of the few spinning class that I tried out the professor was really new and with only a few participants, it wasn’t exactly the most motivating. Another problem I saw here was that there were no classes on Sundays (maybe this has changed by now).
….until I joined Go Fit (http://www.go-fit.es/Paginas/home.aspx) Go Fit does a great job of providing a full-service fitness center (fitness machine room, group classes, large swimming pool, sauna, children’s activity center, etc.) and a great cross-channel customer experience. How? Keep reading:
- Physical experience in the gym. The group class instructors, music, structure and overall energy are great. But Go Fit takes it one step further, adding surprises to excite its members and shake up the ordinary like Master Classes with guest instructors and special-themed classes (and I won’t forget my surprise with the Halloween dressed-up classes and contest).
- Experience outside of the gym. From time to time during the spring/summer the gym organizes group classes outside, under the sun, like during their “Olympic Days”, as well as organizes groups for running races and biking outings.
- User-friendly and updated web site. This might seem simple, but it’s not always that common to find businesses with an updated site with the latest news and schedules. Now recently, due to customer feedback, you can reserve spots in group classes through the site as well.
- Frequently-updated Facebook page with responses. Go Fit posts center updates/news and writes back to user comments and complaints. They listen to customers such as with complaints (including my own) about problems to find parking (they installed new parking this summer) and a request to have instructors names be listed on the schedule (now included).
- Interesting email newsletters. Just today I received the latest newsletter with info about signing up for a new “challenge” that the gym has set up: sign up for a team led by one of the trainers. The team that has run the most collective distance at the end of the month wins a number of prizes including workout gear and beauty prizes.
Overall, in my opinion, Go Fit provides a great overall customer experience and keeps on innovating. I’ll be curious to see what new events are in store for the coming months!
*Note: these comments do not necessarily refer to the current gym experience if the installations and/or classes have changed since I was there.