Keeping fit: it doesn’t have to break the bank. Nobody can deny that at Lancaster University we have a top-rate gym, filled with modern equipment and top of the line facilities. But that status comes with what I would rate as a rather hefty price tag. The gym is catering to both students and the public, but for myself and others the price is a massive discouragement: one cannot help but feel a little jilted when hearing about other Universities’ cheaper prices and, in some cases, free gym memberships. The ‘Just Play’ programme has made a massive difference in making the sports centre more accessible for students, but is that enough? For facilities that are meant to be intended for the student population first and foremost, I would hope for a little more consideration when it comes to my dwindling budget. If you’re really into your fitness, a certified gym rat, it might be worth paying the price for such good facilities but if, like me, you just want to exercise regularly to keep fit; it is definitely worth looking into cheaper alternatives.
First off, there are some hidden gems when it comes to gyms in Lancaster. Personally, my top choice is TrainTogether: a small yet functional gym tucked away opposite the infirmary in town. The staff at TrainTogether describe themselves as ‘friendly, passionate and hardworking’ and speaking from experience I can vouch that this is true. The easy atmosphere combined with skilled trainers and intensive classes really makes you feel like part of the team: intimate groups of under twenty people work together to fulfil personal goals. The gym itself is relatively small but functional, and never busy. The centre’s main benefit is the fitness classes that run all day, Monday to Friday, and they even offer a 20% purple card discount. A second choice is the ‘Inspire’ Lancaster health club in the centre of town. This gym offers tailored membership packages based around individual fitness goals, a range of classes, term-time membership deals and a student discount. If you are definitely looking to use a gym to keep fit, it is worth putting in the research and looking into alternatives to the University facilities.
If a gym isn’t really your thing or you’re hoping to try something a little different, there are other options to be found in Lancaster. If you want to try some classes without the commitment of a gym membership, for example, there are several pay-as-you-go fitness opportunities in town. The Urban Buddha, located at the Storey Institute, runs yoga and pilates classes for £5 at the student rate. The classes last up to one and a half hours and don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all meditation – while there is some relaxation and mindfulness involved, these classes are a heavy workout and will push your body to its limit. Alternatively the Trinity United Reformed Church Hall hosts Zumba classes for just £3.50.
The most recent fitness craze to hit Lancaster is Parkrun: and this is definitely a viable alternative to the gym if you’re hoping to work on your cardio and general fitness. Parkrun is free to join and takes place in Ashton Memorial Park, a gorgeous location for a jog. As part of a group the motivation and good-spirit is far easier to maintain, and the group regularly joins for a coffee post-run. If you can handle the early start on a weekend – Saturday at 9am – then this is a great option that leaves you feeling refreshed and empowered.
This is just a small sample of the cheaper alternatives available for exercise in Lancaster. When I first arrived at the University I naively assumed that the University gym was the best option – they must have our best interests at heart, after all – but now that I am in my third year and living in town, I have become more aware of the options available. There is really no need to fork out for a membership at the University if you’re just looking for a functional fitness studio or regular exercise. Take the time, do some research – and save yourself some money.