10 of the Coolest Gyms in the World24
By Jojo Balogh
10 of the Coolest Gyms in the World
We all know that keeping fit will help us to lead longer, healthier lives and that exercise will help prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Did you know that regular exercise also increases natural protection against colds and flu, or that it helps to fight depression by improving confidence and producing natural anti-depressants such as endorphins?
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, working out at a health club is the number one sports activity in the United States. Approximately 43 million Americans have gym memberships. Some of them are still pretty bare bones operations, like the one Jim Maynes operates in the series The Jim, but others offer much more than weightlifting. Some include aerobic classes, sessions with personal trainers, spa services, massages and tanning.
When choosing a gym, make sure to select one that can help you attain your goals in a fun and engaging way. There is a vast array of price ranges, so be sure to narrow your selection by figuring out what you want to get out of your gym and then find a membership fee that you can live with. Aside from that, pick a place that you’ll enjoy visiting often. In the mood for something a little out of the ordinary? Maybe you like working out while traveling? Here’s a sampling of some unusual places around the world to get the results you’re looking for.
The Jim – Episode 1
1. Gold’s Gym – Venice, CA
This is The Big One. The Top Dog. The Mecca of Bodybuilding. While it isn’t Gold’s original location, it is considered the flagship of the largest coed gym chain in the world. It’s an eclectic mix of old school and new, spread out over three floors. From the posing rooms for elite bodybuilders to the newer spinning rooms, to a clientele that has included Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno AND Jim Morrison, to this day, the original Gold’s Gym in Venice is considered a sports landmark and is recognized by ESPN.com on its list of the 100 most important sports venues.
2. Tiger Muay Thai – Phuket, Thailand
The popularity of martial arts in films, television and gaming has given rise to mixed martial arts, or MMA, a full contact combat sport. You aren’t going to find a more beautiful, helpful, and dedicated training environment for these sports anywhere in the world. But this is not a sport for sissies. These guys train with heavy bags, truck tires, sledgehammers, and ground ‘n’ pound bags. While this is a huge gym for training for MMA and Muay Thai, a difficult martial art similar to kickboxing, there is yoga, and regular strength training and conditioning as well. The highly trained staff also offers the opportunity to immerse students in Thai culture and Buddhism.
3. Wellness Sky – Belgrade, Serbia
The building, named ’Danube Flower,’ was built some thirty-five years ago to become a landmark restaurant. It is now a high-end gym and spa, and this one is all about the design. Once inside, fitness gurus and gym junkies are met with breathtaking city vistas and river views from the windows that wrap around the entire building. While there are many standard offerings here, the focal points of this gym are Body Attack, a high-energy cardio and interval training to build strength and endurance set to powerful music, and the BodyBalance program – a mixture of yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates together. Focusing on flexibility and strength, this is a workout that will bring your body into a state of harmony and balance.
4. Nike World Headquarters – Beaverton, OR
Having any one of a thousand jobs at Nike’s World Headquarters is worth it just for this perk: The campus has two fitness and sports centers totaling nearly 110,000 square feet. Open to employees’ families, the centers feature free weights, cardio equipment, free fitness assessments, 2,800 square feet of climbing walls, a 25-meter lap pool, and more than 100 weekly group fitness classes in eight studios, as well as racquetball, squash and basketball courts…and that’s just indoors. Venture outside where you can enjoy playtime on the outdoor sand volleyball court, basketball and tennis courts. The highlight of these facilities? Taking a break from your workday to go for a run on the outdoor track, constructed out of (what else?) recycled shoes.
5. Gleason’s Gym – Brooklyn, NY
Open since 1937 and the oldest boxing gym in the country, Gleason’s is a true slice of the American pie. Located on the Brooklyn waterfront, this 14,000 square foot gym with three boxing rings and one wrestling ring makes our list for several reasons. The list of heavyweights who have trained there is a testament to the legacy that is Gleason’s: Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, George Forman and Mike Tyson all did so during their heydays. Feature films like Raging Bull and Midnight Run were shot on location here, and it is where actors like Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes trained for movie roles. The coolest thing about this gym? For the last 16 years, Gleason’s ‘Give A Kid A Dream’ program has provided a place for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to come and develop life skills through boxing. By challenging these kids mentally and physically, they learn to channel their energy into an activity that teaches them confidence and self-respect.
6. Kerry Center Hotel – Beijing, China
I don’t know about you, but the last time I had a workout in a hotel gym, it was in a small room near the pool, with no windows, a basket of rolled up towels near the door, and some treadmills, ellipticals and a few free weights. Travelers have begun to demand more, and hotel services have responded. Hotel fitness centers have become grand destinations by which some frequent flyers make their lodging decisions. More than just a gym, the sprawling, three-story facility at the Kerry Centre Hotel in Beijing contains a 38-yard lap pool, two indoor tennis courts, a 256-yard jogging and rollerblading track, and more than 70 state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines. Need more? There are also tennis, badminton and squash courts, a poolside jacuzzi, and of course, a tennis pro available for lessons.
7. Gymbox – St. Martin’s Lane, London, UK
Housed in an old theater, London’s hottest gym is an ultra-trendy spot with walls painted black, neon lighting and a DJ booth blaring funky techno-beats. This urban hip gym could double as one of Soho’s happening nightclubs, but it also offers a fitness program with TV topped treadmills, Playstation enabled bikes, and intensive yoga and spinning programs. Members can lift any of several “human weights” wearing lycra catsuits. The “dumbbells,” including two dwarfs and an overweight man, sit on specially adapted machines and shout words of encouragement. The true hallmarks of this center, however, are its offbeat and unorthodox classes, which include BeeGee Boogie complete with afro wigs, a stiletto workout, performed of course, in heels, and Karnival Kangoo, for those who have wondered what it would be like to cross roller-skating and jumping on a trampoline.
8. David Barton Gym – Miami Beach, FL
This one is a serious fitness center with the finest amenities money can buy, but it is really included on this list as a place to see and be seen. The David Barton Gym is a 45,000 square foot club at the trendy Gansevoort Hotel in South Beach. It offers cutting-edge strength equipment, five group training studios, ten types of yoga, private pilates and mat classes, a combat and boxing club, swimming pools, and therapeutic massage. The clientele includes hard-bodied South Beach players pumping up for a night at the clubs. While trying not to visibly sweat, keep an eye out for incognito celebs such as Kevin Bacon and Harrison Ford. And let’s face it, if you can’t achieve serenity through a tai chi or sunset yoga class on the private beach, you probably can’t achieve it anywhere. Don’t forget to drive off into that sunset after retrieving your ride from valet parking!
9. Illoiha Omotesando Fitness Gym – Tokyo, Japan
Forget fiberglass stone and mock rock overhangs. Omotesando, the high-end fashion district of Tokyo, hosts my personal favorite gym. The up and coming design house, nendo, designed a climbing wall unlike any I have ever seen. To express the concept of becoming beautiful through movement, they came up with the idea of using interior design elements like picture frames, mirrors, deer heads, bird cages and flower vases to create a challenging wall with hard-to-find holds and unusual finger grips. Do you think this will inspire non-climbers to try the sport? I hope it starts a new movement in fitness with style.
10. Hard Candy Fitness Center – Mexico City, Mexico
Is it fair to include a gym on this list that hasn’t even opened yet? It is when it is the brainchild of international pop star Madonna. Her chain of gyms around the world is creating a great deal of buzz, as one would expect from anything Madonna. The star, who has built an empire by constantly reinventing herself, is now turning fitness mystic. The first of her upscale gyms is slated to open at the end of November in Mexico City, and ten more are in the works for South America, Russia, and Europe. Madonna has a longstanding interest in fitness, and her goal is to reflect her point of view in every detail from design to music to equipment. There will be new programming designed specifically for Hard Candy Fitness, as well as proven, traditional training methods like yoga, state of the art cardiovascular equipment with personal viewing screens, a bike studio, and a mind/body studio. The first center will also house a healthy alternative Juice Bar/Cafe. The lavish locker rooms built with the finest materials will be a sanctuary for members who will be able to relax in sauna and steam rooms. I’m not quite sure how you tie a name like Hard Candy in with fitness, but if anyone can do it successfully, Madonna can!
The Jim – The Belly and The BootCamp – Episode 2
The Jim – Dirty Laundry – Episode 3
Jojo Balogh is something of a pop culture legend in her own mind, and those of her friends. She was number one on their lists of people to use as phone-a-friends on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In addition to her now defunct personal blog, she also wrote training materials for recruiters and headhunters, as well as love letters, and emails to school teachers and administrators regarding her teenage son in an effort to encourage them not to charge him with truancy.