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Thinking Outside the Gym Box: Big Gyms vs. Small PT Studios


It is impossible to nail down one definition of fitness universally applicable to us all. What ‘fitness’ means to one person may not be appropriate to another. It’s fair to say that as well as the obvious connotations of physical conditioning, ‘fitness’ encompasses much more than that.

It’s about mindset, relevance, context, and – particularly in today’s fast-paced society – about convenience. With goals and aspirations broad and far-reaching, and an industry awash with training techniques, theoretical thinking and daily innovation, it isn’t surprising that we each, as individuals, seek different things from the facilities in which we work out.

Changing trends: big brands vs small spaces

The rise of national chains during the 1980s brought with it a shift in perception towards the notion of ‘keeping fit’. No longer was it a luxury available only to those who could afford it; the ability to exercise conveniently had landed on everyone’s doorstep, even found its way into living rooms across the world, thanks to the advent of home workout videos. 

Today, gyms come in all shapes and sizes, from big name brands seemingly present in every city, to smaller professional training studios occupying any location that lends itself well to compact training under the watchful eye of a dedicated personal trainer. These smaller facilities are often owned independently by fitness professionals and cater to those looking to specialize in a specific form of training for their work, athletes involved in competitive sport or anyone on the lookout for a more intimate setting.

Many find larger facilities intimidating or overwhelming, with the range of equipment simply bewildering. Working out instead in a smaller setting, using less equipment more effectively and following instruction from a focused professional able to impart relevant advice specific to the exerciser’s needs, is an increasingly popular way to train.

Sessions with a personal trainer are also usually booked in advance, adding accountability for the exerciser and thus greater encouragement to attend, rather than having to rely on our own (somewhat sporadic) self-motivation. Membership to these facilities can be limited in order to both reduce overcrowding and to enhance the personal experience and quality on which these businesses are built.

Social drivers

For others, bigger facilities offer the variety, choice and convenience often beyond the scope of a small PT studio. Thanks to the likes of TRX®, Zumba®, Bokwa and Les Mills International - whose suite of hugely successful fitness programmes is now delivered worldwide - group exercise classes have captivated exercisers through their blend of music, mixed dance, aerobic and strength training styles and the stimuli provided by community and social interaction. Studio space in smaller venues can be hard to find, pushing group exercise enthusiasts in the direction of those bigger brands.


Large clubs can often offer more convenience with features like 24/7 opening hours and day care services, particularly handy for anyone juggling increasingly busy careers and family life. Drawbacks like longer lines during peak times and the occasional impersonal focus on sales can be swiftly countered by the pulsating atmosphere that these clubs exude, not to mention the exhilaration afforded by a length or two of an Olympic-size swimming pool, downtime post-workout in a bubbling hot jacuzzi, or a coffee with friends at the bar. Spa and beauty treatments pull an all-encompassing offering together, giving clients a more complete solution that the Davids to these Goliaths will find challenging to match.

Ultimately, selecting the right facility to help you achieve your personal fitness goals is all about making informed choices, often based around your circumstances. And with such a wide range of facilities all vying for our attention, those choices can be difficult to make, so do shop around and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Consider what you believe is best for you and then add a sprinkling of ambition to the mix; try something different, maybe even combine the two routes together (funds permitting!). Whatever choices you make, make them for you and try to stick to them.

Personal Training Studio
Choosing the Right Gym
Les Mills
Health Club Chains


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