Cape Town is renowned for it’s artisan subcultures.
First came coffee, when freshly ground beans and grunge coffee shops surfaced. Everyone and their dog were suddenly barristers; and from Deluxe, to Truth, to Origin and Haas: everyone has their favourite.
Then came craft beer. Giving the finger to the dominating corporate giant in South Africa, smaller home-style breweries started to pop up. &Union, Darling and Jack Black starting appearing on the menus of trendy Kloof Street restaurants, and have became firm favourite amongst the hipster crowd (who drank them way before they became “trendy”.)
The subcultures have a common thread: a giant step away from corporate chains, providing a product that the consumer feels they can relate to. Each brand has it’s own personality: and “real” relationships develop between brand and consumer.
2012, it seems, will be the year of the artisan gym.
Most South African’s have a gym contract at one of the few gym chains available, be it Virgin Active, Planet Fitness or Curves. How many of these members actually make use of their membership, is questionable.
On top of this, the number of active members that are using their time at the gym effectively, is unknown.
Enter: the artisan gym.
These underground gyms are springing up around Cape Town, with the perfect approach to training: function follows form. Essentially, what this means, is that it’s all very well doing shoulder presses on a machine in the gym, but are you able to lift a heavy box on to the top shelf in the garage? The weight machines at gyms isolate muscles and provide little all round strength training.
The new style of gyming encourages all round strength training, and uses minimal equipment. It’s strips down the workout to a few raw elements: kettle bells, balls (stability, bosu and medicine) and the most effective tool of all: your body weight.
Members sign up for a personal trainer (as opposed to a generic membership), and attend personal training (PT) sessions. On top of the PT, members are free to attend any strength classes that the gym offers throughout the week.
Before you throw in the towel at the idea of a personal training (a concept that intimidates many people), keep reading. These trainers know what they’re doing. They’re not just the buff guys you see arbing around the bigger corporate chains, following some poor soul as she lunges between the treadmills. They’re involved in the training. They’re passionate about their jobs and are more than willing to get sweaty with you. Can you run a sub 1.30 half marathon and benchpress 160kg? The owner of 360 Training, Chris, can.
I’ve been training at one of these gyms (360 Training) for 3 months now, and I’m hooked. My trainer, Rushda, is a pint-sized princess, who’s cheeks you want to squeeze the first time you meet her. After 2 minutes, she blows up her first impression as she balances on a stability ball doing shoulder extensions. She’s relentless, is deaf to the words “I can’t” and at least once per session, I want to throw my kettle bell at her and stomp off in a huff.
I’m already noticing differences. One-legged stability work has made me conscious of my leg imbalances (and explains my reoccurring left leg niggles). I did a pull up for the first time in my life last week (at 27, that’s an achievement). I’m running faster and stronger, and yes, ladies, my clothes are not fitting quite as snugly anymore.
Yes, personal training is available at bigger gyms, but this unique, personal approach is far more personal – and effective. Mark my words, 2012 is going to see an explosion of this trend.
And while Kloof Street trendoids sip their Deluxe coffee or cheers their Steph Weiss beer, they’ll be debating which is their favourite artisan gym.
I highly recommend you get a memberships now, before they’re all full! Each gym has a slightly different focus, so find the right one for you. Give these guys a try: