In Boston–before I had back surgery–I was a member at an all-women gym called Healthworks. Here in Singapore–after hurting my back this past spring–I am now a member of an all-women gym called Phillip Wain. Today I present you with a compare and contrast of my gym experiences in the two countries
Let’s start with similarities because they’re boring. Both of my gyms had/have the usual array of equipment-cardio, weights-machines and free weights, yoga mats and assorted yoga/pilates items like balls/blocks/straps/etc, personal training, and some amount of spa services.
On the surface, they are quite similar. So let’s get to the differences, which are far more interesting.
The first (and biggest difference) I picked up on was how the locker and shower etiquette were very different here than in Boston.
When it comes to changing, Americans tend to be less conservative. At healthworks (and other gyms I’ve gone to) there were stalls for the body shy, but most of the women just changed out in the open. We’re all women, the anatomy is the same, move on was the order of the day. In Singapore, one is supposed to change in the stalls, and not out in the open.
In Singapore, after changing for the shower, you wear your flip flops as you walk to the stalls. Once at the stalls, you deposit your flip flops (or slippers in local terms) on the mat outside the shower stall, and shower barefoot. In the US, you wear your flip flops into the shower.
In Singapore, you are provided with two full sized towels, and are expected to take one towel to the gym floor with you. In Boston, there were hand towels on the floor of the gym, and you used those if you wanted to wipe sweat away. There were bins for the towels on the floor for you to toss them into after use.
In Singapore, you cover weight benches and such with your towel instead, and do not wipe down the cardio equipment with anything other than your towel. In Boston, there were many bottles of cleaner on display and lots of signs admonishing you to wipe the equipment after use (Americans being far more germophobic, to an extreme degree).
In Boston, there were card displays. You could create a card for yourself and file it alphabetically. On it you would note which machines you were using and at what weight/rate and how many repetitions. That definitely came in handy. In Singapore, there are cards, but I think they’re personal trainer specific. Members don’t seem to have access to them.
While both my gyms in the US and Singapore offered spa services, once you get past the massages, waxing and facials, their paths diverge. In the US, while dieting is a multibillion dollar industry, gyms are not slimming centers. There just isn’t crossover. In Singapore, I get the feeling that the slimming treatments are a big part of my gym’s revenue, and not just because I’m fat. My gym hasn’t actually approached me directly but signs like the one above are everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid.
In the US, I never used/needed daycare at a gym. However, I was aware that it was available, and when selling me on a gym-it was common to mention that not only did the gym have daycare, but you could look in on the daycare via CCTV on one of the channels offered on the cardio equipment. Healthworks does daycare for up to 2.5 hours per day for kids ages 6 weeks to 12 years.
If I have one issue with the gym in Singapore it is this. I’ve adjusted to the differences in etiquette, and I’m largely immune to the slimming spa nonsense. But I desperately want a gym with daycare. If a child is off from school, I can’t go the gym. If I need to run an errand in the morning, I can’t go the gym in the afternoon. Of course the rationale behind the lack of daycare is, I assume, that people have maids or family who can watch a child. There may also be rules about how day cares are to be run that I am unaware of.
Which do I like better?
It’s hard to say which I would prefer today. I never used the day care facilities at Healthworks, so I don’t know if I would like them or want to use them. Due to my workout time of day in Singapore, the gym is very quiet and I don’t need to wait to use equipment. I know the other regulars on sight, and have a gym buddy who inspires me.
I do know that I’ve enjoyed finding my groove at a gym. It’s nice to have a few hours Monday through Friday where my phone is locked away, my children can’t bother me, and I have my iPod blasting my favorite music through my earbuds. I know that I look forward to the gym and my day is less balanced when I go.