As someone who’s slavishly bought into the idea that ‘Outside is Free,’ I wholly avoid fitness gyms. The exercises are tedious, the people preening to the mirror insufferable. Also, why ride bikes that don’t go anywhere? So, when my editor assigned me to check out Urban Den for this story, I started working out my eye roll.
Located at Raffles Place, Urban Den calls itself “an exclusive, members-only boutique gym.” That’s marketing speak for a gym with classes like spinning, yoga and boxing, which you have to pay between S$29 per class to S$149 for a year’s pass. The target: “highly motivated individuals,” or people who are already fit, unlike me, whose sole motivation comes from seeing what’s in my fridge.
Perks do not stop once you put the weights down. Members get discounts at restaurants such as Twyst, whose tagline is “sinfully good pasta at half the guilt” (does that mean you get half a portion?). There are also deals on workout clothes, which I imagine to be pastel coloured and expensive looking.
The gym fills the entire basement of Change Alley Mall with moody black finishes and high contrast lighting, perfect when you need to look #ripped for the Gram. The equipment is shiny, the bathrooms have Dyson hairdryers and a personal attendant. I have seen five-star hotel room toilets shabbier than this.
I expected my trainer to have a slick pompadour and biceps the size of a small car. Instead I got Yani, a compact, cheery woman. Yani is certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and enjoys Crossfit and Pilates – I later found out she Cleaned and Jerked 50 kilograms at a competition, which is 80 percent of my bodyweight.
Yani warmed me up with ten hand walkouts. You start by bending at the hips until your hands touch the floor, walk your palms out until you reach a push up position, then walk back and stand up. That’s one rep. By the fifth, I was thinking about a beer. By the eighth, I was ready to murder my editor.
I expected Yani to scream at me in encouragement. She never did. Instead, she quietly counted as I wobbled through my lunges. She laughed when I asked for a spot, because she thought I was doing well. She was elated when I agreed to up the weight on a bicep curl. She asked before pushing me fully into a stretch.
The experience was discomfortingly pleasant. I wanted to dislike Urban Den. I was ready to laugh at the members more interested in their phones over their physiques. But maybe I’m the one that’s snobbish. Not everyone has access to the outdoors. Maybe they work long hours downtown. Perhaps they only have an hour to exercise and would like some variety.
Urban Den provides that. Muscle heads have a well appointed weight room. Intensity junkies have Bodycombat and HIIT classes. Those looking for a deep stretch have Gentle Yoga. Membership is flexible, and Yani just wanted me to enjoy my work out. I only wished I could have showed her my eye roll.
Urban Den is located at 30 Raffles Place, #B2-01, Change Alley Mall, Singapore 048622. They currently have an introductory offer of S$49 for three sessions.
Mondays to Fridays, 6am to 10pm
Saturdays, 7am to 8pm