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:
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
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
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’
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
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
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.
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
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
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.