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Gym, The New Hipster Cafe

Gym, The New Hipster Cafe

During Haziq's podcast (Ep 19),  he mentioned that he has to give up his time socializing, hanging out with his friends at the mamak for teh tarik sessions. Foregoing such activity seems like a sacrifice that he's willing to make. He's in his mid-twenties and, having the benefit of hindsight, I can totally understand how big this sacrifice is. It may seem trivial, but socializing is a big part of anyone in that age bracket especially considering that most of them, in general, would have just graduated and started earning. With no responsibilities tying them down and an income that's, in all likelihood, meant for them to spend, it is no surprise that all the hipster cafes are littered with these young'uns.

So, I wonder, could he be missing out on a part of his youth for pursuing his health and fitness goals? Could this be the reason for anyone to skip gym - to go out drinking (halal or non-halal)?

I suppose it doesn't matter. For as long as they're enjoying what they're doing - who cares, right? But I think they should care. No one can argue that being fit and healthy have benefits that stretch all the way till old age. The opposite can't be said for other non-physical social activities. They may or may not have an impact on ones future earnings or mental well-being, but no doubt, that when we lose our health, there's nothing our money nor friends can do anything about it.

This is not to say that just keeping fit will ensure you'll never get sick, but it does give you a positive sense of well-being. If we can add a social element to it, who's to say what sort of benefits one would reap long term.

In a way, we are already seeing this happening. Just look at the number of boutique gyms that have popped up in recent years. Not to mention, Crossfit and functional training boxes too. What these have in common is that they provide group classes where people can go there to suffer together. Misery loves company, no?

Recently, I watched a short clip of Gary Neville explaining how football stadiums in the UK have changed over the last decade. There, they used to sell beers and, I don't know, fish and chips or whatever, but now each stadium, or most stadiums come with hospitality service. This includes cafes, corporate boxes, and other services that bring value to the paying football fan.

I believe, similarly, the fitness industry has adopted such business model. Look at the design and architecture of today's gyms, commercial and boutique. They're so different than, say, what you'd see 10 years ago. The interior design, the colors, the lighting and, lets not forget, the locker rooms. Everything was done to purposely attract (and retain) customers visually even before they touch the equipment. For the more discerning gym owners, they'd invest some money on getting the best equipment... ahem... like Eleiko, but I digress.

Because of the increase in competition, everyone is trying to outdo each other and bring value to the customer. Heck, we're even using the term "Instagram-able" to show how much we have fallen as a society... sorry... I mean, to show how picture worthy a gym is. I blame this on the rise of social influencers (and vanity). The fact of the matter is this is what the new generation wants. Who am I to argue with this market force.

As a result of this and the relative affordability of gym membership nowadays, there is no more loyalty. Also, companies like GuavaPass are now encouraging people to jump from one gym to the next. And it is a constant struggle for everyone to retain a customer. So what can we do?

This is where, I believe, the community comes in - a band of like minded people gather to support one another. Gyms, well, certain gyms (Zealfit, naturally  ) are becoming a social hub. And I don't mean this as in a few friends going to the gym, doing quarter squats and then go home. I'm talking about people of diverse education, age, and race coming together and, actually, having fun at the gym. 

I can't say this for other gyms, but I can attest to it here in Zealfit. While we may not be big - we're just 2,300sf - or have a lot of members, but the bonds, the iron bond, that glues this little community is truly remarkable, at least from my perspective. I've had few people come up to me to say how much they like the environment here because they said it feels like everyone cares. They don't feel like they're training alone.

Yes, they can be boisterous and loud sometimes, but the overwhelming sense that I get is that it is a place where they put their troubles away or even release their work stress. This extends beyond lifting weights. Listening to their conversations... ok, ok... eavesdropping... I noticed that they're actually sharing about their lives, thoughts on training and why overhead press is useless in powerlifting.   

This is no different to any other social gatherings out there, be it at the mamak or hipster cafe or wherever it is that kids (and some adults with jiwa muda) hang out these days. The only difference is, in my opinion, it is healthier and beneficial. Training also teaches you discipline. Instead of smoking cigarettes and downing glasses of teh tarik or alcohol, this group of people would rather lift iron and chug down on their protein shakes. I sincerely believe that spending time at the gym with the right group of people under the right gym culture is the perfect social environment promotes physical and mental well-being.

So, the next time your friend calls you out for a drink, just remember, for just RM20, you get access to a gym with world class equipment (Eleiko), free parking, free filtered water, free wifi, a community that will love you (eventually) and the prospect of being a healthier and fitter version of you... only at Zealfit Malaysia    

This article is dedicated to Afiq and Hisham who both left us to go overseas. You've helped make this place what it is today. All the best to you guys and you're welcome for the pizza partaaayyy.

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