TL;DR The gym facilities at Goodlife are good, but if you want a Personal Trainer then you have to fit your needs into one of their rigid programs.
Many people make a New Year’s Resolution to get or keep fit. Joining a gym can be part of that. GoodLife seems like a logical choice because you see them all over Canada. I joined up a couple of months ago and this is my experience.
Overall I have been impressed by the three facilities I have used – Yonge and St Clair in Toronto, Cedarbrae in Scarborough and Cobourg. They are all large, clean and have an abundance of equipment. They attract a variety of different people. There are some beautiful young things and some serious muscle-bound tattoed dudes. But there are also old guys (like me!), overweight people, people doing rehabilitation, and people who look like they were told to go by their doctors. People wear what they feel comfortable getting sweaty in. People are courteous and non-judgemental, and mostly everyone leaves everyone else in peace to do their own thing.
All the gyms have standard stuff such as exercise bikes, an area for stretching and floor work, a range of machines set up for circuit training, an area just for use with a personal trainer and a workout room for classes. The layout is different in each gym, which is annoying if you have a standard exercise program you want to do quickly and efficiently. Some gyms have additional features – the one at Cedarbrae has a sauna, the one at St Clair has a tanning bed. Some provide towels, others do not. (It would be nice to be able to compare them but the website does not make it easy to find the features of each gym).They provide free classes in a variety of exercise programs including yoga and spinning. I am not an expert, but these seem fine and are excellent value if they fit into your schedule.
Personal trainers are very useful, especially if you are new to working out. They are important to make sure that you do exercises properly to get the maximum benefit and reduce the risk of injury. It is useful to have someone to “spot” you while working with free weights, someone to push you to keep on trying and to ensure that your exercise program is balanced and designed to work on your weaknesses.
But here’s the rub: Goodlife has a rigid schedule for personal trainers. Once you have done the free assessment (a good half of which is just talking to a trainer) you can take six paid introductory training sessions. This is great as it allows time for you to learn a few exercises. Make the most of this time, ask questions, figure out as much of the equipment as you can. Try to figure out what you can do by yourself, and what you need a trainer for.
After the six lessons comes the hard sell. The trainer will try to sell you a $3,068 package of 52 additional lessons, two or three lessons a week for about six months. He or she will explain that this is needed to achieve the results you need and that nothing less will work. Once you sign up for this contract, it is difficult to get out of it, even if your circumstances change. Some people might find it helpful to have this financial commitment, but I strongly suspect the main advantage is to GoodLife’s bottom line and I also suspect the trainer gets a handsome bonus for signing you up. A rival gym which offers “Pay as you go” personal training says “Most other gyms succeed on the failure of their clients”. Someone who signs up for, and pays for, gym facilities or training which they never use is an ideal customer! If you balk at that price, you may be offered the $999 “Foundation” deal, which covers 18 sessions. You are only allowed this deal once, then if you want more you have to sign up for 52 sessions over six months.
There are apparently other GoodLife deals, but none of them are on the website, you have to meet with a trainer and negotiate. I thought I had a deal for 36 lessons for $2,400, which suited my need and budget, but my trainer’s manager said she was not allowed to sell me that program!
The other issue I find both amusing and frustrating is that the “integrity” of the trainers will not allow them to sign you up for only one session a week, you have to have two, or preferably three sessions a week. They say that they are professionals and it would be beneath their level of training and professionalism to allow a client to work out with them only once a week. It is good advice that if you want to get fit you need to work out two or three times a week, but that does not always have to be with a personal trainer. In my case, I am working to get fit for a long bike ride. The best training for riding is spending time on a bicycle. It is useful to spend some time working on core strength, mobility and balance, especially in the winter months, but once the roads are ice-free you need to have time to cycle at least a couple of times per week. You also need a day of rest and recovery time between workouts, so there really there are not enough days in the week for more than one training session in the gym and maybe a bit of stretching or a yoga class.
GoodLife does not seem to understand the basics of customer service:”The customer is always right”.
I am so frustrated. What I need is two sessions a week with a trainer for January, February and March, then one session a week in April and May, which I will combine with a lot of cycling and maybe a yoga class. That would set me up very nicely to do the 220km “Ride to Conquer Cancer” in June. There is no way GoodLife will sell me that package.
I am a doctor. I spent two years of my life studying anatomy and physiology full time in Medical School. I have dissected out the glutes, hamstrings, quads and pecs from a human corpse. If I want to buy one training session a week, I think I have earned the right to make that decision for myself, even if my trainer thinks I am wasting time and money. It is my money, and the trainer is being paid for his or her time.
I am a professional. I have integrity. If my patient says “I want the surgery, but I refuse to accept a blood transfusion”, or “If I have a heart attack, you can give me drugs but do not do CPR” I can explain that this is not what I recommend, but in the end the patient has autonomy over his or her body. He or she can choose what treatment to consent to and what to refuse, even if I expect that the decision will have fatal consequences. It is pure nonsense for a “Personal” trainer to claim that professionalism and integrity requires them to ignore the wishes and needs of competent and informed clients.
GoodLife is fine as a gym, but if you want or need personal training you should look elsewhere unless buying their $3,068 six month package suits your needs and budget.