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How Virgin Active Changed My Mind About Gyms

by Rhys Martin on Tuesday 3 March 2020



If I were to choose a Facebook status that sums up my relationship with gyms (‘gyms’ plural, because I feel like I’ve tried them all) it would be: ‘it’s complicated’.

When I say ‘it’s complicated’, I mean I sign up and hand over my hard-earned cash… then I don’t go. Yet I’m surprised when six months later the only thing I’ve managed to lose is several hundred dollars in membership fees. If this sounds familiar to you, I suggest you read on. After recently having a three-week trial at Virgin Active, Collins Street, I thought I’d share my experience. But first, a question I often ask myself: “Why am I like this?”

Why the ‘Typical’ Gym Experience Hasn’t Been for Me

It would be easy to mark down my lack of motivation or enthusiasm for the gym as pure laziness, but it goes deeper than that – I hope. The gym hasn’t played a part, or more importantly, hasn’t played a successful part in my life for three key reasons.

1. It Can Be Intimidating

Between all the mirrors (so many mirrors!) and the sweaty barrel-o-monkey-men grunting, flexing and strutting around – gyms can be a very intimidating and unwelcoming space. Especially if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey. In fact, it’s easy to have the impression that gyms are only for fit people. Strike one, ‘typical’ gyms.

2. It Can Be Tough to Know Where to Start or What to Do

So you’ve signed up, popped on your workout gear and walked into the gym… now what? Not knowing where to start or what to do can be a major hurdle to seeing the results you want and making the whole experience enjoyable. Nobody wants to look like they don’t know what they’re doing, and this is only heightened when it comes to our bodies and being in a very physical environment such as a gym.

For me, the traditional gym ‘onboarding’ experience has involved a quick tour of the facilities and equipment, and an offer for personal training sessions, which involves handing over more money. No thanks. Strike two, ‘typical’ gyms.

3. It Can Be Unenjoyable

Like chopping up carrots into tiny ‘fun-sized’ pieces, convincing yourself to go to the gym – and knowing what experience awaits – can feel like hard work that’s masquerading as an enjoyable experience. And while I hear you saying “well, it isn’t meant to be enjoyable”, I disagree, and so does science.

One of the three main drivers behind adopting a new habit and having it stick is a reward. If an experience isn’t immediately rewarding, most people will stop doing it. So if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing at the gym, it’s easy to lose motivation and purpose. Strike three, ‘typical’ gyms.

My Three Weeks at Virgin Active: Anything But a ‘Typical’ Gym Experience

Walking into Virgin Active’s Collins Street club, I immediately got the feeling that this wasn’t going to be a ‘typical’ gym experience. For a start, you’re met not with the intimidating visual of gym equipment and people working out, but by several smiling people at a concierge desk.

Once I scanned myself in, I was kindly offered a tour of the club. This was very handy, because the place is huge! The club is spread out over two levels, with the pool, rock-climbing area, and mind and body studio on level one, and everything else – free weights, cardio equipment, cycle studio and much more – on level two.

Week 1 Highlights: Dipping a Toe In


Not wanting to jump straight into the deep end of my Virgin Active experience, I decided to start with a swim in the 25-metre pool instead.

While the Swim Squad group class sounded fun, I decided to do a few laps solo. Swimming was good because I had a bit of a sore shoulder (something I would’ve usually used as an excuse not to go) and it provided a great low-impact workout.

No other gym I’ve ever been to has had a pool, so it was definitely something I could get around.


Still keeping things pretty safe, getting in a pre-work cardio session was the order of my next gym session. While most of the machines – think exercise bikes, treadmills, etc. – were pretty stock-standard, there were a few key differences that impressed me:

  • There wasn’t an ‘out of order’ sign in sight
  • The variety and number of machines meant I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted
  • All the machines were new and clean, with touch screens that allow you to access  pre-programmed workouts, TV channels, digital radio, and more

After working up a sweat, I headed for the change room. This is where the Virgin Active ‘club experience’ shines through. Firstly, I picked up a towel when I scanned in (and dropped it off upon leaving), so I wasn’t lugging around a wet towel in my bag all day – a small but nice touch. Secondly, the showers are stocked with Apelles hair and skincare, so I was not only clean as a whistle, but I smelled great too! And lastly, I made use of the Dyson hairdryers – ensuring I was looking sharp and ready to tackle the day.

Week 2 Highlights: The Wheels are Turning


I decided to kick-off my second week with a group class: RPM. Now, I had never done a group class at a gym before – mostly because they weren’t offered. So aside from knowing it was a cycling class, I had no idea what to expect.

Walking into a dimly lit room with total strangers was an odd start, but as it was 7am I appreciated it. Guided by a group instructor and riding to the rhythm of a specifically designed soundtrack, this was by far my favourite experience at Virgin Active. RPM takes you through sprints, hills and intervals – all while being encouraged and pushed by the instructor. I walked out of this class a little light in the legs, but well and truly riding an endorphin high.

Needless to say, I enjoyed RPM several more times over the weeks.


After RPM got the wheels turning, I thought I’d try my hand at Sprint, another cycle-based group class. Similar to RPM, Sprint is focused on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). As the name suggests, you sprint for intervals, with rests in between. The ultimate cardio workout, HIIT can help you lose weight, build muscle and boost your metabolism. With HIIT, your body can continue to burn calories for up to two hours after your exercise!

Take a look at this article for a detailed lowdown on indoor cycling.

Week 3 Highlights: Time to Chill

Hot Hatha Yoga

After the endorphin-pumping rigours of week 2, it was time for a change of pace – enter Hot Hatha Yoga.

Yoga has definitely not been on the menu at my previous gyms and it’s never been convenient enough for me to go to a dedicated studio. Really not knowing what to expect, Hot Hatha was the perfect entry point for a newbie like me.

With the temperature cranked up and an aromatic smell in the air, we were taken through straightforward poses, breathing, and meditation at an unhurried pace. I walked out of the class feeling taller, more limber and certainly more relaxed.

Gentle Yoga 

The final highlight of my Virgin Active experience was a Gentle Yoga class. After a stressful day at work, this class hit the spot more than words can express.

Gentle Yoga utilises Hatha principles, with less heat and more of a focus on breathing and stillness. Where I’d normally thrash out a bad day at work with weights or cardio, Gentle Yoga is a calmer, more Zen way of winding down.

Not sure if yoga is your thing? Trust me, yoga is for everybody. If I can do it, you sure as heck can.

Why You Should Give Virgin Active a Go

In conclusion, what impressed me the most during my three weeks at Virgin Active, and what really sets them apart, is the group classes. In a nutshell:

Every group class I went to was run by a knowledgeable and welcoming instructor. Not once did I feel intimidated.

The instructors guide you through and push you, which is great for beginners and pros alike.

The variety and convenient access to such an excellent range of classes helps make the whole exercise experience that much more enjoyable. If you’re sick of doing weights, give RPM a go. Feel like de-stressing? Try Hot Hatha yoga.

Virgin Active provides a full circle fitness experience, whereas more traditional gyms are a one-trick pony. Beat the boredom. Try something new. Make the most of great facilities. Give Virgin Active a go today.

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Not a Virgin Active Member?

Book in for a free guided tour. We'll show you all the facilities and answer any questions you may have. No obligation. Just lots of smiles. We'll call you to book your visit at a convenient time.

Book a Tour