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24-hour gyms muscle onto scene

Round-the-clock gyms prove a hit with fitness fanatics who work odd hours or prefer to avoid the crowds

It is 1am on a Tuesday and crane operator Muhammad Riduan is not in bed. Eyes wide open and brows furrowed, he lifts a barbell over his head.

In his quest to achieve the chiselled physique of a mixed martial arts fighter, the 38-year-old works out at Anytime Fitness Taman Jurong, a gym close to his home that operates round the clock.

He heads there four to six times a week in the wee hours as he works long shifts - he starts work at 8am and knocks off around 10pm on most days.

With two gym operators, Anytime Fitness and Gymm Boxx, opening 24-hour outlets since late 2013, it is good news for fitness fanatics such as Mr Riduan, who want to hit the gym past midnight,

Most gyms open until 10pm, though two big chains, Pure Fitness and California Fitness, run till midnight either from Mondays to Saturdays or just on weekdays.

Anytime Fitness, a United States- based chain, opened its first outlet in Singapore in Woodlands in October 2013. Since then, 26 more outlets have mushroomed islandwide, making it the biggest gym operator here. The outlets are open 24/7.

University student Shawn Lim (above) heads to Anytime Fitness Taman Jurong three times a week past midnight.

We don't want to fight with the crowds, which can be more than 100 people. Plus, it's the weekend, so we can sleep in the next day. 
 

MR ROYSON TAN (left, with his girlfriend Tiffany Yeo) on why they hit Gymm Boxx Bishan at 2am on weekends

Run by franchisees, the gyms are located in residential areas such as Queensway, Pasir Ris, Sembawang and Kallang. Each one is about 400 sq m in size and houses standard equipment such as cardio machines and free weights.

Anytime Fitness, which started in Minnesota in 2002, has more than 3,100 gyms worldwide and more than three million members.

Mr Maurice Levine, the chain's master franchisee for Asia, attributes the brand's exponential growth to a formula of giving members "unprecedented access".

He says: "Anytime Fitness is designed to remove the barriers to a healthier lifestyle and convenience trumps everything in the fitness industry."

Indeed, as Mr Riduan puts it, he can "now 'gym' whenever I want and working late no longer stops me".

He cheekily adds: "Sometimes, when there is no one around because it's so late, I grunt loudly when exercising and check myself out in the mirror."

Mr Levine says 20 per cent of its members work out after regular work hours, past 9pm. He declines to reveal membership figures in Singapore, but says approximately one Anytime Fitness gym has opened here every month since 2013 and three more are expected to open in the next few months.

  • 24-hour gyms

  • ANYTIME FITNESS

    The chain offers 27 no-frills gyms meant to satisfy the basic needs of a gymgoer, with a standard selection of cardio machines, strength equipment and free weights that go up to 40kg.

    Members can keep tabs on their fitness progress when they use the Precor cardio equipment as the workouts can be stored in the Preva mobile app by Precor.

    Depending on the owner of each franchised gym, some may offer group classes and other activities such as weight-loss challenges.

    A key draw for members is access to all Anytime Fitness gyms islandwide and worldwide 30 days after signing up.

    Shower facilities are available at every gym. 

    Where: 27 outlets islandwide; locations include Ace The Place Community Club, 120 Woodlands Avenue 1; Elias Mall, 625 Elias Road, 02-332; Taman Jurong Community Club, 1 Yung Sheng Road, 01-02; and 288 Balestier Road 

    Membership rates: $88 a month for an 18-month package or $98 a month for a 12-month package. A free seven-day trial is available. 

    Info: www.anytimefitness.sg

    GYMM BOXX

    Founded by two fitness enthusiasts, Gymm Boxx offers the ideal workout zone for amateurs and gym rats in the heartland.

    Those who want to get a cardio workout will not have to queue at all or wait long for a cardio machine as there are at least 10 in each of the 24-hour outlets.

    A highlight at Gymm Boxx is the free weights area. With a minimum of two power racks and weights that go up to 50kg, members can push themselves to the brink.

    The gym floor is patrolled by knowledgeable staff who can help anyone who is unsure of how to use the equipment or need assistance for heavy lifts.

    The Bishan and Taman Jurong outlets have shower facilities. 

    Where: 24-hour outlets - Bedok Point, 799 New Upper Changi Road, 04-08/19; Bishan Community Club, 51 Bishan Street 13, 04-01/02; 3 Yuan Ching Road, 02-02; non-24-hour outlets - 714A Bedok Reservoir Road, 03-01; Civil Service Club, 91 Bukit Batok West Avenue 2, level 5; Kampong Ubi Community Club, 10 Jalan Ubi, 01-06 

    Membership rates: For 24-hour outlets - $7 an entry or $5 during off-peak hours (midnight to 5pm on weekdays); three-, six- or 12-month plans are also available for three age groups - adults ($210 to $720), youth aged 21 and below ($180 to $600), seniors aged 55 and above ($120 to $360)

    Info: www.gymmboxx.com

Its members pay $98 a month for a year's subscription or $88 a month for 18 months. They are given access to all of the chain's gyms worldwide after 30 days.

The folks behind home-grown fitness company Gymm Boxx, which has six outlets, were initially hesitant about going 24 hours as they were unsure about the demand, says its marketing and outreach executive Koey Foo. He declines to disclose membership numbers.

But as more of its members asked for its gyms to stay open late, Gymm Boxx tried out the longer hours at its Bishan Community Club outlet in January last year. The response was better than expected. Mr Foo says: "There were at least 20 people in the gym between midnight and 2am and we were sold."

Now, Gymm Boxx has three 24- hour outlets which range from 4,000 sq ft to 7,660 sq ft, including one that opened in Bedok Point mall earlier this month. The other two are in Bishan and Taman Jurong. Another 24-hour branch will open in the new Keat Hong Community Club by year-end.

The other Gymm Boxx branches - in Kampong Ubi Community Club, Bukit Batok Civil Service Club and Bedok Reservoir Road - operate till 10 or 11pm on weekdays, due to restrictions set by the outlets' landlords.

Pegging itself as a premium yet affordable neighbourhood gym, Gymm Boxx has a wide range of free weights and larger quantity of machines than the ActiveSG gyms, which are run by Sport Singapore, a statutory board.

Gymm Boxx's fees start at $210 an adult for a three-month membership, while ActiveSG members enjoy free entry by using the $100 worth of ActiveSG credits given by the Government. Gymm Boxx members can use all six gyms if they sign up at a 24-hour outlet.

Equating the demand for round-the-clock gyms to that for 24-hour convenience stores, Mr Foo says that once a service becomes a lifestyle activity, there is "bound to be a niche group who wants the service at off-peak hours".

At its Bishan and Taman Jurong premises, he says, there are usually 40 to 50 gymgoers at each outlet between midnight and 5am. He adds that there has been a 16 per cent increase in visitorship at the Bishan gym since it went 24 hours.

Other major market players such as True Fitness and Fitness First, however, do not see a need to jump on the 24/7 bandwagon yet.

Fitness First Singapore's managing director Andrew Phillips says that the chain's 17 gyms are busiest in the mornings and evenings - before and after work. It charges members $140 to $160 a month.

He says: "Most of our members work out at these times as they tie in nicely with their daily routines."

Most of Fitness First's clubs open until 10pm, though three of them run till either 10.30 or 11pm.

True Fitness, whose membership fee starts at $85 a month, also says it has no plans to extend its operating hours for its six outlets, which have different opening times.

While being open all day and night caters to a larger pool of gymgoers, safety also becomes a greater concern.

At Gymm Boxx, at least one staff member is present at all times and an average of five CCTV cameras are installed at each gym, says Mr Foo.

At Anytime Fitness, a bespoke security system is set up at each gym and there is round-the-clock CCTV coverage. But there is no staff on-site past 9pm. Members enter the gyms using an access card and are encouraged to put on a personal safety device which has a button to activate the gym's 24-hour monitoring response teams, says Mr Levine. He adds that there has been no need to activate the system so far.

Gymgoers whom The Straits Times spoke to had no issues with safety. University student Shawn Lim, 22, who goes to Anytime Fitness Taman Jurong thrice a week at around midnight, says: "I don't feel unsafe and there is always a familiar face or two around."

Fitness enthusiasts like him welcome the option to hit the gym in the wee hours.

Polytechnic student Muhammad Irfan Ahmad Rusni is at Gymm Boxx Bishan any time from 9pm to 4am four to five times a week. He heads there after completing his school work and taking a nap.

The 20-year-old, who prefers to work out when the after-work crowd has eased, says: "I get to train at my own pace and with fewer people around. It's easier to concentrate."

Dating couple Royson Tan and Tiffany Yeo, both 27, also want to avoid the crowds. They go to Gymm Boxx Bishan at 2am on weekends. Mr Tan, a bank associate, says: "We don't want to fight with the crowds, which can be more than 100 people. Plus, it's the weekend, so we can sleep in the next day."

For secretary Sharin Tay, 32, hitting the gym in the wee hours is a good way to kill time on sleepless nights. She has been to Anytime Fitness Taman Jurong between midnight and 4am since the gym opened in August last year, despite having to report for work at 9am. "It's really fitness at any time. I might as well make every cent count and go whenever I please," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Night out at the gym'. Print Edition | Subscribe