[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]n a matter of seconds, the private express elevator whisks you to the sanctuary on the 38th floor. As the doors open, you take sight of a lobby lined with moon white antico and nero marquina marble. Clustered in the middle of the swanky space are a dozen British-designed leather-and-walnut chairs with matching wood-topped tables. Next to the bar stocked with complimentary gourmet coffee and tea, a smartly dressed receptionist awaits your arrival.
You may think that this is the latest five-star boutique hotel to be launched in the heart of Singapore’s CBD. After all, the 17,000 sq ft space has all the right trappings: a 240-seater Mediterranean restaurant upstairs, high-tech conference facilities, a spa with fancy toiletries and an oversized fitness centre complete with a temperature-controlled 25m outdoor swimming pool with fabulous views of the harbour.
But at Gravity, you will not find a single guest room. Located at the brand-new Capitagreen office tower in Market Street, the $9.5-million investment by UK-based Fitness First hopes to be the place to work out for senior executives and professionals seeking a health club that offers a “private intimate personal experience”, according to a statement by its Asia CEO, Simon Flint.
All these come at a hefty price: Gravity is asking for a $3,000 one-time joining fee, with $600 monthly payments thereafter. Membership is capped at under a thousand to keep things exclusive. The sum is not inconsiderable even for the wealthy banker, considering memberships at regular Fitness First outlets ring up about $150 per month and subscriptions at upmarket hotel gyms such as those at the Grand Hyatt or the Fullerton being twice of that.
But more than just a private space, Gravity has another proposition to justify its fees, something Flint calls its “holistic wellness experience”. Before lifting the first dumbbell, a newcomer must go through a battery of tests, starting with a physical examination by an in-house doctor and culminating in a few hours of wellness coaching with one of the six certified fitness coaches. Additionally, a nutritionist is on call to customise a course of vitamins, although an initial one-month supply of three-in-ones comes inclusive.
A few Fridays ago, I went through the same sign-up procedure as any other new member would to find out what exactly it entails – and to get a sense of how much value the gym adds to an overcrowded industry. At 39 years old, I am just about the right age as Gravity’s target audience. And my fitness profile matches that of the average senior executive: largely sedentary with a strong belief in the need for more exercise – if it were not for the lack of time. With that, I fill in a questionnaire of my medical history. A doctor takes my blood pressure and blood sample and discusses how I could adjust my lifestyle to reduce my mild hypertension. It is standard stuff that comes with an executive health screening, but it is nice to have this performed on site.
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Chris Farley, head of wellness, takes over and brings me to another room where he measures my height, weight and body composition, and finally puts me on a small rotating platform facing what resembles an airport security scanner. This captures a three-dimensional model of my body, which shows up as a report in my e-mail inbox within minutes.
The idea is to let members quantify their progress at the gym by repeating this scan every few months – bigger biceps and smaller love handles (or vice versa) cannot escape the sensors here – instead of having them compare a series of selfies taken in front of the changing-room mirror.
The Fit3D machine is just one of the technological gadgets Gravity employs. It is also developing a smartphone app that offers functions from the pedestrian, like booking appointments, to the more inspired, like challenges between members. It is a brilliant way to manipulate the competitive streak among high-flyers, nudging them under their own steam to achieve their fitness goals.
Farley then leads me into the gym proper, but my workout is not about to start just yet: there are two more tests to assess my posture and functional movement. After having me perform a series of stunts lasting over a good hour using rods and rollers, he tells me that my shoulders are hunched forward, no thanks to the hours I spend at the keyboard, and that I really do need to work my core muscles because I completely flunked the plank test.
This part of the assessment is complimentary, and, if I pony up for personal training (prices start at $141 per hour) Farley will have a workout plan ready for me the next time I visit. The bespoke programme will strengthen my weaknesses and work towards my fitness goals, while minimising the risk of injuring myself – no CEO, role-playing as one or not, appreciates involuntary downtime.
“Everyone will reach a point when they need to prioritise their health, for many, that realisation comes too late. I see my role at Gravity as helping people regain their equilibrium. In many ways, it is similar to my risk role in banking: measuring and managing risks, albeit of a different nature.”
Rona Morgan, Certified Trainer, Gravity Gym.
I spend a few moments chatting with Farley, and discover that the certified fitness coach and former general manager of Fitness First’s One George Street club had transferred to Gravity because he missed client interaction.
I also learn of another trainer, Rona Morgan, whom I was unfortunately unable to meet. She would not be out of place on the other side of Gravity, as part of its clientele, had she not left her risk strategy job at ANZ. In an e-mail interview, she tells me that she realised that the hours and stress have taken their toll, compelling her to focus on her fitness, losing 20kg in the process.
“Everyone will reach a point when they need to prioritise their health,” she explains. “For many, that realisation comes too late. I see my role at Gravity as helping people regain their equilibrium. In many ways, it is similar to my risk role in banking: measuring and managing risks, albeit of a different nature.”
So is Gravity worth it? I leave the gym with the impression that all the fancy fittings may or may not draw you in, depending on what you expect from a fitness club and how much you value those things. Three people I separately spoke to – a CEO of a strategic communications consultancy, an MD of a boutique law firm and a leading psychiatrist in private practice – also gave a range of opinions. Ultimately, though, what works for Gravity are the people who run the place and take care of all your health needs: everything from fitness to nutrition. And that – and the cutting-edge technology deployed – is what makes this facility truly special. The challenge for the management, however, will be how to get potential customers over the sticker shock and through the door in the first place.
138 Market Street