I recently broke up with Gold's Gym Willow Lawn, which leaves me in search of my newest gym relationship. My three criteria are: cheap, geographically convenient and has ellipticals, treadmills and some weight machines. That's about it. After doing a lot of Google searching:
I discovered I basically have three gym options in Richmond:
- Join American Family
- Join Crunch
- Join the VCU gym
Richmond Gym Option #1: American Family
The first gym I headed to test out was American Family in Short Pump. My friend from work goes to American Family, so I could go for free on TGI-Mondays, which I've now been doing for about two months.
American Family is a nice, clean gym with basketball courts, racquetball courts, two floors of machines, a plethora of classes, a pool and an indoor track. Let me stress, American Family is a nice gym. The classes are a great workout, there are always empty machines and the people who work at American Family actually seem like they don't suck as human beings. I really like American Family. But I will probably never enroll there as a member.
I had two holdups of joining American Family: the location is far away and the price is astronomical. I could survive with the location because it's close to work and I would have a friend with me to motivate me to go, BUT the price would need to come down for me to even consider it.
Every week when I go to AmFam for free friend Monday's, I talk to a membership coordinator. My new hobby is emailing all of them to see who would give me the best deal. The very short answer is no one:
No one at American Family will make me a deal.
In my latest attempt at getting a deal (it's $60/month for a one-year contract plus signing fees), Paul responded nicely to inform me that they're not trying to compete with Gold's. Basically how I read his response is that Gold's is for poor people who don't care about amenities and AmFam is for well-off people who spring for all the nice things in life.
Honestly, AmFam doesn't want people like me. They don't want budget-conscious young people who want to live a healthy lifestyle and workout after work. They want the families (hence the name) with the stay-at-home mom who drives a BMW to spin class and drones on about her husband's work party.
Despite the fact that if they made me a deal to get me hooked to enjoying a classy gym now, when I'm in my early twenties and would then develop brand-loyalty and continue to patronize their gym for the next 60+ years of my life, they don't want me. I wonder if they know that keeping a customer is three times easier than getting a new one, so getting me while I'm young will reap benefits for the long-run. Cut me a deal now while I'm young and I'll be willing to grow up with your gym. But they don't care, so I'm not and let's move on.
Option #2: Crunch Fitness
When you first walk in to Crunch Fitness Glenside, the first thing you'll notice is that it's just one big room with machines. There's lockers and two classrooms, but essentially it's just one big room, similar to what I would think a prison gym would look like. I wonder if it will get louder as it gets busier (the Glenside location we tested out is within a month old). While American Family screams white privilege, Crunch does not. Crunch screams, "Come as you are and work out." As my eyes scanned the room, I saw families working out together, young singles breaking a sweat and older people living a healthy life.
There was no pretentious waterfalls encasing the stairs like at AmFam, and there were no meatheads busting weights like at Golds. It was the true average Joe gym. I did 20 minutes on an elliptical, cranked out some upper body exercise with some free weights and then actually got to use the cage to knock out some squats. At Gold's, which it prides itself on (in the female bathroom I might add), being where all the buff men go to workout, which means I never get to use the real weight machines because all the "real men" are hogging it. There's none of that at Crunch.
While Crunch Glenside's interior is sparse, and it feels like I'm working out in a warehouse, it's conveniently located and super affordable at $9.99/month with no contract, or $19.99/month for a pass with class access. Glenside is less than 10 minutes from my house, and they're opening a new location in Scott's Addition within a month, which will be about a 10-minute walk from my house.
Is Crunch nice? Meh. But Crunch is utility. It gets the job done and knows what it is: accepting of all budgets and workout abilities.
Option #3: VCU Gym
Cazey brags about how nice the VCU gym is, as it is one of the nicest undergrad gyms in the country. I was excited to try it out. When we walked it, it was right in the middle of Crunch and American Family. It was a remodeled warehouse of some sort, but much more-well done. It has a track, a pool, two floors of machines, as well as class space and side aisles to do crunches and stretching.
VCU also comes in between the pricing of both gyms, and middle of the road for convenience. I could find parking would become challenging because it's hourly and zoned parking around the gym.
However, it wasn't crowded, and there was every amenity you might want. I was busting out a great upper-body workout when one thing struck me. I was working out with college freshman boys. It became ringingly true when I was moving machines and jostled my headphone out to hear,
I totally forgot that gyms used to be a place to just loiter. And loiter they did. This group of five freshman boys stood around the machine's I was on for the entire time I was there. They were very slowly rotating one person at a time on a machine. At their pace, they would be here til midnight. While most of the time I don't care what people do with their gym time, I couldn't fully immerse myself on my workout because of the stares I could feel the entire time I was working out.
My Richmond Gym Comparison Conclusion
To summarize: American Family is beautiful but pretentious. Crunch is minimal but convenient. VCU is a perfect compromise, but the clientele is very frat-star.
My gym choice? Crunch Fitness. They have the bare essentials, which is all I ever use anyways. The price is right and it's wildly close to my house. Plus, they have free guest passes that allow you to try out all their locations (their Brook Road gym is much less prison than their Glenside).