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Definitely a first!

Is India’s newest fitness club really worth all the hype? Jamal Shaikh does an anonymous review.

Jamal Shaikh | Print Edition: August 10, 2008

Technicalities aside, a gym is eventually only as good as the amenities it offers. So, I undertook this review in a planned manner. My first visit was on a busy evening and anonymous in nature, with a fake name and the intention to buy a one-day pass to check out the facility. Sadly, no such pass was available.

The trainers are trained to spot and attend to any mistakes made on the floor by clients
The trainers are trained to spot and attend to any mistakes made on the floor by clients
However, I was informed, if I was serious about joining, I was free to use the club that evening in exchange for my time and understanding of payment plans, services available and—hopefully—a signature on my cheque book.

At first glance, the club is everything you’d expect from an international chain: high quality Technogym equipment, an air-controlled (not just air-conditioned) environment that allows fresh air flow even though the club is situated in a shopping mall, a spinning studio, a couple of group exercise rooms, and a lounge area with complimentary tea and coffee, a Pepsi fountain (totally not required!) and even a mini-DVD library that allows members to borrow movies for up to 48 hours.

Cardio enthusiasts at the Gurgaon club must look out for the treadmills placed in the weights area, each with an inbuilt TV screen. Thus far, this piece of premium equipment was seen in India only at gyms in select five-star hotels!

The weights area is well laid out with multiple machines for the more popular exercises, the benches are comfortably contoured and, unlike gyms that opt for marble flooring for a snazzy finish, the rubber flooring offers great grip and ample cushioning.

Those who enjoy training with raw weights may feel a bit neglected with limited space at hand.

The craze for abs and a V-shaped torso refuses to fade away
The craze for abs and a V-shaped torso refuses to fade away
Group fitness activities like Yoga and the Les Mill’s patented Body Combat, RPM and Body Pump are offered free-of-cost to all members on a first-come-first-serve basis.

This is great stuff for people who find working out alone boring, and one could already see a dedicated following at Saurav’s Body Pump class, a low-weight high-rep full-body workout.

The yoga class we attended, however, was a bit of a disappointment with an instructor who seemed preoccupied with an SMS /phone call she was expecting.

Locations
Fitness First
Ambience Mall, 5th Floor, Platinum Tower, Gurgaon
Contact: 9958830111, 9958830222

Fitness First
Mega Mall, 2nd Floor, Andheri (W), Mumbai
Contact: 9987724444, 9987725555

Soon to be opened
In CP, New Delhi and at Brigade Road, Bangalore

Published rates
12-month commitment
Joining Fee: Rs 8,000
Administration Fee: Rs 1,500
Monthly Fee: Rs 4,000

18-month commitment
Joining Fee: Rs 6,000
Administration Fee: Rs 1,500
Monthly Fee: Rs 3,500

Several discounts are currently on offer for early bird membership

Personal Training
Platinum Grade Trainer: Rs 1,200 per hour
Gold Grade Trainer: Rs 900 per hour
Silver Grade Trainer: Rs 600 per hour

 

Another suggestion: more ceiling-mounted TV screens could eliminate members dangerously craning their necks in various stages of exercise to correspond their form with the instructor up front.

Weights floor: A well laid out weights area with space between machines
Weights floor: A well laid out weights area with space between machines
To the very discerning gym goer, the ample-sized wet area may fall a little short of expectation, but you could attribute this to teething trouble.

At the time of this review, the steam/sauna was yet to be functional, but the flimsy soap/shampoo dispensers with crudely scribbled labelling need to be replaced immediately.

My second visit to the club starts here. This one was at a quieter time of the afternoon and I used my own name to sign in. Despite me politely declining the CEO’s offer to work out with him, I found that his workout schedule matched mine completely, and everybody around was on high alert.

The attention wasn’t good for my workout, but what the heck, I wasn’t there for one! I used the opportunity to chat with trainers and address a recurring complaint that certain members had spoken to me about during my previous visit. The grievance: the trainer refused to spot me!

Fitness First, I was told, follows the internationally accepted norm in this regard. Personal Trainers are not ‘dumb-bell boys’ who re-rack weights, dismantle bars, and wipe down equipment for you.

But refusing to spot someone can prove to be hazardous and cannot be condoned. So, I put the floor trainer to test by doing the Lat Pulldown behind the neck, a common (and dangerous) mistake several guys make while working out their back.

Sure enough, a trainer came along and set me right. “We’re trained not to stop anyone in the middle of a set unless they’re making a very serious mistake,” he later told me.

“We have a list of words we’re not allowed to use with our members, and ‘No’ is one of them!” These guys have obviously been coached well, and that reflects in the prices for Personal Training that range from Rs 600 to Rs 1,200 an hour.

In the final analysis, I’d give Fitness First a good 7 on 10. Given the fact that on the same scale, the other well-known gyms would struggle to touch a 5, this is one club you should watch out for!

 

Just like overly pumped-up physiques, XL-sized health clubs do not excite me. Having grown up in an India where gyms ran with just one time-shared, booked-before-hand cardio machine (read: a very basic treadmill), the 22,000 sq. ft of floor space and 150-odd spanking new machines at Fitness First’s inaugural facility at Ambience Mall, Gurgaon fail to impress me. What I do commend, however, are the other ‘firsts’ that this chain has on offer:

Standard pricing all over India that does away with city-wise disparity. (Good-bye to the days when you paid Rs 60,000 for an annual gym membership in Delhi, while your pal in Mumbai paid just Rs 15,000 at a similar gym.)

A monthly payment system where members do not need to pay upfront for the entire year/period that they sign up for. (Goodbye to gyms that made most of their profits from members who dropped out.

Access to clubs all over India with a single membership. The group plans 16 clubs in Mumbai, NCR and Bangalore in the next couple of years, and access to their international clubs may be a possibility too, once logistics are worked out.



Jamal Shaikh is Editor, Men’s Health India

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