South Reading Leisure Centre is about 1.3 miles from the Whitley Pump. It takes half an hour to walk there, or it is right on the Emerald 5 bus route. I have to admit that apart from the famous purple tennis courts, I didn’t really know much about what the centre had to offer to southern Readingas; so I went to have a look.
I was shown round by operations manager Ken Hinds who explained all the facilities and classes that are available. Inside the building there are rooms with scary gym equipment, a massive sports hall, a spin studio, a second studio with mirrors for exercise classes, and a 25m swimming pool. The outdoor facilities are tennis courts and 3G (synthetic) sports pitches.
The closest I have ever been to a gym was wondering what to do with the fitness equipment dotted about around the circuit in Cintra Park. Gym equipment always looks frightening, but I was reassured that the centre has fully qualified instructors who are there to help if necessary. One-to-one personal training sessions can be arranged at an additional cost if you are really keen to improve your fitness.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 6.30am to 9.30pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 6pm.
The swimming pool
This is a big and airy 25 metre swimming pool, and hardly a whiff of chlorine could be discerned from our position up in the viewing gallery. It is a deck level pool where the water is at the same level as the surrounding walkway which makes it easier to get in and out, but there are also steps.
It is important to check the swimming timetable if you feel like a swim. The pool is sometimes used for classes such as parent and toddler splash and for school swimming during term-time. There are also sessions for adults only, women only, stronger swimmers and families.
During the current school summer holidays, there is an adult swimming session with three lanes (fast, medium and slow) from 6.30am to 8.30am from Monday to Friday. Swimming pool opening hours are different at the weekend, and closing times vary day to day.
A 20,20,20 class was taking place when I visited. This is an hour-long class with 20 minutes each of aerobics, toning and core exercises. Other classes include spin-er-cise, zumba, aquatone (in the swimming pool) and pilates.
Badminton, table tennis, tennis and 5-a-side football pitches
These facilities can be booked online (registration required) or you can contact South Reading Leisure Centre direct (see below).
The main hall at the leisure centre is also available for hire for events such as children’s parties and wedding receptions. The centre does not have an alcohol licence or cooking facilities.
How to book
The Reading Sport and Leisure website is very clunky, confusing and frustrating to use. It is probably easier to ring South Reading Leisure Centre on 0118 937 3399, or visit them, pick up a brochure and talk to the staff.
You can pay for each activity or class as you go to, or you can buy an active membership. There are four categories of membership at prices ranging from £17 to £35 a month: bronze (gym only), silver (two of swimming, gym and classes), gold (swimming, gym and classes) or platinum (swimming, gym, classes and racket sports). Membership allows you to use all leisure centres operated by Reading Sport and Leisure: South Reading, Palmer Park and Meadway.
A promotional six-week introductory platinum membership is available for £34.
Memberships would be a good deal if you planned to exercise regularly. For example a 20,20,20 class costs £6.55 and, if that is all you did once a week, it would cover the £22.50 a month cost of silver membership.
Discounted rates are available on memberships and activities if you sign up for a Your Reading Passport (YRP). All Reading residents over three years of age are eligible for a YRP, but a parent or guardian must sign the form for under-16s. Some swimming sessions are free if you have a concessionary YRP.