Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Gym: Fitness First, Tg Tokong (Penang)

Recently I joined the Fitness First gym which is located on the 4th floor in Island Plaza in Tg Tokong, Penang having spent a week or two deliberating over which one. The main contenders were:
  • Celebrity Fitness - Gurney Plaza (see previous review)
  • Fitness First - Island Plaza, Tg Tokong
  • G Hotel - Gurney Drive
  • Absolute Fitness - Heritage Club, Scotland Rd

Initially it was my intention to join Celebrity Fitness as it is a well placed and well equipped gym but, residing as I do, for now, in the Tg Tokong area I decided to go and have a look at Fitness First in Island Plaza as I always figure that if a gym is easy to get to, the more likely you will be to use it. At the same time I also had a look at the G Hotel gym and, while it is nicely kept, I always get concerned that hotel gyms lack the numbers of instructors that the larger gyms have and also offer fewer, if any, of the classes and group exercises often found in the big gyms. Hotel gyms can also suffer from being a little 'dead' which impacts on the social scene and the extension of the social circle that gyms often provide. Absolute Fitness I also discounted because, not owning a car yet, I did not want the hassle of having to get there each day.

So, on to fitness Fitness First. I went along initially without any appointment for a look around and was seen by a very pleasant lady called Geetha. She showed me around the extensive facilities which include:
  • Main gym with an extensive range of machines and free weights
  • Exercise cycle cycle training room (for led groups)
  • Large group exercise area (for led groups of aerobics and such like)
  • Rest and relaxation area (with free refreshments for many classes of member)
  • Well equipped changing rooms with showers
  • Sauna and Steam rooms

Geetha then explained the memberships. There is a wide range on offer (indeed you can even use the gym on a paid daily rate if you wish) but I opted for the 12 month membership having also considered the 3 month. I opted for the latter as it brings the costs down and I also do intend to train regularly.

Fees will vary depending on age, offers and promotions, and the length of time you join for. In total I paid RM 208 to join which comprised an admin fee of RM 109 and a Body First voucher for RM 99 (explained later). My fees for each month are then RM 130 which, for the level of equipment, trainers and classes I consider quite reasonable. The first month of membership they gave me for free and they also waived one or two other charges. For those over 55 years of age there is also a senior citizen discount. I won't list all of the classes available here as the list is extensive but you can see them on their website. Paying is generally done by registering a credit card (foreign or Malaysian) or, for Maybank account holders, you can also pay by an auto-payment monthly to Fitness First. For those that don't really want their credit card billed each month you can opt to walk in and pay cash before the 15th of each month which will prevent your card payment being processed.

When you join you will pay for a personal trainer (PT) on a promotion basis. The fees will vary between RM 100 - 150 depending on offers. For the first month at least this is essential as they go through a very comprehensive assessment with you and create a structured programme for you. The way it works is this. For the first month (which cycles on the date you join as opposed to strict calendar month) you attend the gym and see the PT 3 times. For the rest of that month you need to attend a further 5 times (or as much as you want over this number). The next month you need to attend on your own at least 8 times. At the end of the 2 months, if you have the requisite number of 'attends' the fee you paid for the Body First / PT will be refunded. You are then free to pay for the services of a PT as and when you require. When you join you will also be issued with a photo ID card which you swipe as you go in, which keeps tabs of you attendance (no matter how many times you enter on one day though it counts just once) and each time you complete a session with a PT you will be asked to sign a record.

Finally, another nice touch is that new members each receive a welcome pack which includes:
  • A rucksack
  • Earphones (to clip into the audio/video displayed for many of the aerobics machines)
  • Water bottle
  • Set of books covering exercise, diet/recipes and a training log
  • Two guest passes to use as you wish

So far I am very impressed with Fitness First, the costs and the service. The staff and trainers are all very friendly and professional and the range of led group exercise is extensive. The sheer numbers of machines and equipment should mean you will rarely wait to use anything, especially if you train in non-peak times. As the months go on I will participate in more group sessions and will report on these as time goes on. For now though I can thoroughly recommend Fitness First and for those wishing to arrange an appointment or chat about membership Geetha can be contacted on: +60 16 471 4790.

NB: From 30 November 2012 'Fitness First' was taken over by 'Absolute Fitness' and the gym is still operating.  I am told by members that I know there that there have been a number of changes, including some upgrades and improvements.  I think the gym will still be a good consideration for those seeking a gym in this area, or one  that's near a supermarket, allowing you to top up on provisions after your visit. Absolute Fitness also have a Facebook Page here.

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