Whether you want to tone up or build muscle mass, have a leisurely beginner’s workout or pursue a strict regimen, want to beat your personal record or compete with an entire class, Beijing has plenty to offer for those looking to work up a sweat. The city has hundreds of gyms with a variety of price ranges, from posh and dazzling to dingy and dirt cheap – and everything in between.
Finding a gym can be especially beneficial for Beijing newbies, who could use a healthy way to work off the stress of culture shock as well as their unpredictable new diet of Middle Kingdom dishes. “I think going to the gym to get fit makes sense for anyone anywhere, but that’s especially true here,” says Victor Rowse, owner and founder of Prime Fitness. “Lots of newcomers put on weight due to eating oily and sweet foods.”
One of the most upscale places to keep fit is the gym at the St. Regis Beijing, a luxury hotel in the CBD. Facilities include a 25m glass-walled swimming pool, 465sqm of floor space, and workout machines like the TechnoGYM imported from Italy.
“We offer lessons in ballet, Latin dancing and belly dancing,” says Apple Wu, a spokesperson for the facility. “We also have state-of-the-art equipment – 28 machines like treadmills, exercise bikes, and steppers, and 26 machines for muscle workout available 24 hours a day within a safe and quiet environment.”
The St. Regis’ clientele of mostly diplomats and businesspeople is willing to pay handsomely for the privilege of working out here – to the tune of RMB 25,000 per year.
However, some gym goers are looking for a different experience. Rowse says that gleaming, high-end equipment can certainly be attractive, but he prefers another approach.
“We don’t have any treadmills or weight machines, as these are relatively ineffective workout tools,” he says, adding that his facility only uses “functional” training equipment like ropes, kettle bells, medicine balls, and rubber tubing. “You can use this type of equipment to exercise the full body, which is the most natural and most effective way to train. The only pieces of cardio equipment we have are Concept 2 rowing machines. These are excellent for cardiovascular training, as they work the entire body and are suitable for short sprint work as well as endurance training, unlike treadmills, which are unsafe to use for sprints.”
While pristine facilities like the St. Regis’ may be hard to rival, Rowse’s more low-key approach ensures that his facility caters to a different niche. His clients aren’t paying for high-end equipment, but rather a high-end personal touch.
“Our trainers themselves are the most attractive feature of our gym,” says Rowse. “As a personal training studio, we offer one-on-one and small group classes. Our trainers work with clients to help them achieve whatever health and fitness goals are important to them. Because we are by appointment only, we can control exactly how many people will be in our gym at any one time; there are never too many people or queuing for equipment.”
However, such benefits don’t come cheaply. Training sessions cost RMB 350 for one-on-one training and RMB 150 per person for group training, with clients often attending the sessions two to three times per week. But Rowse says his clientele prefer paying those fees as an alternative to the workout machines at most gyms.
“The key difference is being able to move in three dimensions according to the natural movement patterns of our own body, rather than being forced to move in a set way determined by a machine,” he says.
Some newcomers may be under the impression that they have little choice outside an expensive upscale facility or a low-end hole-in-the-wall with rusty equipment and negotiable prices. Luckily, there is a whole swath of options in between.
Kang Jiaxin, the manager of B Active Fitness, concedes that China does have many sketchy local gyms where customers must haggle over prices with owners. However, he says Chinese fitness buffs are demanding higher and higher standards. With an annual membership of RMB 2,999 as well as monthly and weekly memberships of RMB 400 and RMB 180 respectively, Kang’s gym is the type of mid-range facility that many gym goers are looking for.
Though bargaining is not allowed at B Active Fitness, Kang sees no problem with the practice and points out that it doesn’t make gyms that allow it automatically low-class. “[Haggling] is not just for stingy people,” he says.
To get started on your own search for the right gym, see the Resources on the next page.
Daily 6am-10pm. Opposite north gate of Central Park, Chaoyang District (5907 3006, email@example.com) www.primefitness.cn 朝阳区新城国际北门的对面
The St. Regis Beijing 北京瑞吉酒店
Daily 24hrs. 21 Jianguomen Waidajie, Chaoyang District (6460 6688) 朝阳区建国门外大街21号
B Active Fitness 必爱体健身房
Daily 9am-7pm, daily 24hr access for members only. Unit 161A-C, 1-2/F, Bldg C, Chaowai SOHO, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (5900 4748, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.bactive.cn 朝阳区朝阳门外大街乙6号朝外SOHO C座2层0161A-C
Middle Kingdom Fitness
Mon-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-noon. Rm 129B, B1/F, Guanghua Lu SOHO, Chaoyang District (156 5232 6889, email@example.com) www.middlekingdomfitness.com 朝阳区光华路SOHO地下1层 129B
Powerhouse Gym 宝力豪健身
1) Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm. C/F, Oriental Kenzo Office Bldg, 48 Dongzhimenwai Dajie, Dongcheng District (8447 6980, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.powerhousegym.com.cn东城区东直门外大街48号东方银座写字楼C层; 2) Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm. 3/F, West Tower, LG Twin Towers, 12B Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (5828 7718) 朝阳区建外大街乙12号LG双子座西塔3楼
Garden Health Club
Daily 8.30am-8.30pm. Bldg D, Gloria Gardens, 3 Xingfucun Zhonglu, Chaoyang District (6416 9840) 朝阳区幸福村中路3号锦绣园D座
Hosa Fitness Centre 浩沙健身中心
Daily 9am-9.30pm. B1/F, East Gate Plaza, 9 Dongzhong Jie, Dongcheng District (6418 1088) www.hosafitness.com 东城区东中街9号东环广场地下1层
Photos courtesy of St.Regis, Prime Fitness, B Active Fitness