Those cheeky bathtub “Fatback” photographs sure got me into trouble. Originally part of a series of parodies in which I spoofed influencer-style photographs I found tagged under the Instagram geotags of hotels I was writing about, the bathtub Fatback shot took on a life of its own, and it became one of the standard shots I would take when creating social media content during my luxury hotel stays, primarily because it was an easy way to incorporate a human element in these hotel photos without actually showing my face. Some people saw the pictures and somehow developed the impression that I must be fairly fit, which reaped some…shall we say…interesting consequences. On the flip side, there was that one time a certain food blogger fat-shamed me via Instagram DM by telling me I should stop posting such pictures of myself until I hit the gym more (an incident which certainly should have warranted some form of future Taylor Swift-style retaliatory written expression).
Truth is, I have always been a pretty weak kid most of my life because of health issues, including but not limited to childhood asthma and spine curvature issues (read: I am definitely soft-core, not hard-core). After years of aimless Fitness First membership (I probably only truly used the treadmill most of the time), my first taste of how regular exercise could improve my wellbeing tremendously came in the form of Ritual Gym, which had an outlet just minutes away from my then-workplace in Raffles Place. Ritual’s very accessible and sustainable brand of high-intensity interval training has kept me healthier and sane for many years (and continues to do so til this day) and kickstarted my fitness journey in a big way. I subsequently had a rewarding relationship with Genesis Gym, which gave me male cleavage and irreversibly changed my upper body and shirt size in just one month (although I suspect but for my penchant for discovery dining and night-time libations the results may have been more astonishing). I also recently attended trials at 9Round, a concept which marries circuit training and kickboxing, as well as Absolute Cycle, which was my first ever spin experience since the days of slotting my workout shoes under the thick rubber straps of the bikes in those Fitness First classes. It’s such a brave new world out there for the fitness novice.
Nope, I haven’t been to F45 or Barry’s Bootcamp, at least not before 1) I repair the broken selfie camera on my phone; and 2) a charitable family of muscles and/or midriffs takes a chance on this puppy and agrees to adopt me into their #fitfam for the mandatory daily family photographs.
Now that I have established my fitness background, I finally come to the main focus of this article. A new fitness concept, R10T, recently launched in the Central Business District in January 2021. (Yes, it is pronounced “riot” and not “arr one zero tee” or “arr ten tee”.) Occupying one floor within the [email protected] building along Robinson Road, R10T offers three fitness concepts to their members under one roof: R1DE, their spin studio; HYBR1D, their strength/cardio/conditioning studio; and REV1VE, their upcoming yoga experience. I saw on social media that R10T was offering a S$50 launch promotion which provided access to 7 days of unlimited HYBR1D and R1DE classes, which sounded like a deal too good to pass up. Fast forward three weeks later, and I realise that my time thus far with R10T has taught me a few lessons about exercise and the fitness industry. Here are 5 things I’ve learnt.
1. TORTURE CAN TAKE MANY FORMS.
R10T’s HYBR1D studio consists of a common turf as well as 7 workout pods, each of which comprises the following equipment/machines: Treads, Cables, Bike ERG, Rowers and Adjustable Dumbbells. With the exception of ARENA (see below), each HYBR1D class typically involves the performance of the day’s workout programme as displayed on the screen, with a maximum of two people sharing the use of a workout pod. The four HYBR1D workout programmes are as follows:
DEFKON (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) – a workout programme which combines elements of strength, cardio and conditioning.
IGNITE (Tuesday, Thursday) – a workout programme which focuses on building muscle mass.
ARENA (Saturday) – a competition-style session where the class is split into two teams which are then pitted against each other in a battle for points earned, calculated based on either reps done or calories burnt, through the completion of various rounds of workouts as a team. Essentially, for each round, everybody take turns to perform the workout – it could be battle ropes, rowing, bike cycling, dumbbell thrusters, dynamic sprinting on the treads etc etc – and when it is your turn you have to do UNTIL YOU CANNOT ANYMORE and you are switched out like a knocked-out Pokemon and within seconds after all your teammates have had a go and they ALSO CANNOT ANYMORE you are revived and re-enter battle until you are KNOCKED OUT AGAIN and the cycle repeats until the round ends, and you get a short break before the next round commences and the cycle repeats.
SURGE (Sunday) – you and your pod partner have to work together to accomplish a specific amount of mileage (e.g. 1km of dynamic sprinting on the tread, 2km of rowing) and/or complete 100 reps of each of the seemingly endless series of different movements (think goblet squats, dumbbell Russian twists, dumbbell deadlifts, tuck jumps, push-up jump burpees etc etc), with the catch being it is entirely your choice as to how to apportion all those reps to be completed between the two of you.
The weekday IGNITE and DEFKON classes were certainly challenging enough. I recall penning down on Instagram Stories the following musings after some particularly vicious classes:
- those bulldog planks were such vicious, deranged killer bitches that when my instructor asked me to lift my knees off the ground for the 1353th time I swear I almost barked
- while this Kydra-decked lean mean fit machine was just owning it and doing 8 rounds of station 3 within 6 minutes with the effortless grace of a Dyson household appliance, within seconds during the same station I’m already fallen violently splat on the floor like a freshly broken egg onto a frying pan soon to top a plate of Uptown Nasi Lemak (an apparently amazing stall at Telok Ayer)
- the two rounds of dynamic sprinting (you sprint for 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds and repeat) wrung, squeezed and discarded my legs more brutally than oranges are in those iJooz juice vending machines
- there are more planks, wood chopping and farmer’s holds than a game of Harvest Moon
After my first ARENA session, I remember writing that it was “probably the most vicious and demanding workout I have ever done in years. I was coated in a continuously renewing layer of saline and constantly trying to catch my breath throughout the gruelling session. My self-preservation defense mechanism was overridden within minutes and it was all about muscle memory shifted to default replay and body locked in survival mode. But damn, did it feel fucking amazing when it was all over and done with“. However, the crowning of said ARENA class as the most painful physical training I ever did was quickly challenged by my first SURGE class, after which me and both my quads embarked on a long distance relationship for three days, with the plethora of tuck jumps from the following day’s DEFKON class driving a deeper wedge between us like some crotchless pantied, fishnet stocking-ed homewrecking harlot.
2. SPIN CAN BE AWESOME.
Prior to trying R1DE, my spin experiences were limited to my two beginner classes at Absolute Cycle and those sessions during the days of yore at Fitness First where the bikes were so different from those at modern spin studios. However, my R1DE experiences thus far have gotten me quite interested and invested in spin, and I even found the need to invest in some pairs of padded shorts (which essentially felt like well-cushioned butt bras) . It could be the fact that there is a certain comforting anonymity in sinking into the ebbs and flows of a particularly motivating club banger. It could be the fact that you get to determine your own resistance and pace throughout it all irrespective of what others do and tell you. It could be the fact that being a new gym, procuring a slot for class isn’t quite the “set alarm clock” stress-fest it is for most other gyms, especially during this period. It could be because that being a more close-knit class set-up (for now anyway), the instructors have more opportunities to interact with you both on and off the bikes and can even accept special requests for tracks to include in their playlist.
It could also be the fact that the R1DE studio boasts some seriously nifty lighting effects that make the experience that much more immersive, at parts futuristic and others deeply dramatic. There’s one effect involving certain white lights blinking on and off which seems like the stage is being set for some particularly epic battle atop a cliff between a hero and someone with a long beard and trident in the midst of a hazardous storm; on another occasion, it seems as if you are in a spaceship and lasers are flying overhead; and in another scenario, the lights twinkle and glitter above you and it feels like you’re soaring through the galaxies. However, the most commendable light feature is the cage of lights around the instructor, which is really the most gorgeous spin class lighting effect I’ve ever seen. There’s a certain dry ice-esque smokiness which makes the instructor seem like an ethereal being descending to share some powerful world-saving wisdom.
3. FITNESS CAN BE A BEAUTIFUL THING.
Before learning that the founders of R10T are in the talent and modelling industry, my initial classes at R10T were fairly surreal, because it did feel at times that I had accidentally stumbled onto the set of Gossip Girl,
Singapore Social, The O.C. or Crazy Rich Asians. I mean, out of all the coaches I have had classes with thus far:
- one is a model I literally see every day on Kydra‘s sponsored ads;
- one is a bronzed, Amazonian, Xena: Warrior Princess-esque Viking with an impish edge;
- one is a lifestyle influencer with over 70k Instagram followers;
- one looks like a less annoying Nicole Scherzinger and with a deep, sonorous voice perfect for late night radio;
- one looks like she could play Bambi in a live-action adaptation of the cartoon; and
- one appears to have his perma-smize game on, managing to look smouldering in every shot I took of the display screen behind him.
It’s one thing having instructors who are easy on the eyes, but many of the other gym clients were also fairly intimidating in both looks as well as physique. On my first week, I have literally never seen so much male side boob and defined ribcages in my life with all the bursting chests and drop armholes. One of my earliest HYBR1D classes was with someone who looked like an Australian Zac Efron, while elsewhere a very active member made me realise that with the right body shape, one might look good if one wears a singlet the other way round. The ladies were no less formidable – I remember someone seeing my initial Instagram Stories on R10T and earnestly asking me, “is the dress code mandatory midriff”?
4. THE SIDEBAR IS A MAGICAL PLACE.
For the uninitiated, the sidebar in a spin class refers to the bikes to the left and right of the instructor, and its significance is that people tend to look to the sidebar and first row for guidance on the choreography as well as for motivation and inspiration. Based on what I hear from others, the aforementioned sacred slots are usually reserved for the instructor’s inner circle (as well as those who want to be) as well as the most confident and ambitious, those who revelled in attention and enjoyed commanding it.
One fine day, I finally understood the mystique and magic of the sidebar. I was seated somewhere on the far end of the studio, with the sidebar riders between me and the instructor. As the class went on, I became increasingly spellbound by the washing machine efficiency of one of the sidebar riders who can only be described as a lithe speed wizard, an Energiser Bunny on steroids, a bouncy jack-in-the-box seemingly perpetually in double time who always looks in danger of rocking the bike to the ground. How on earth does one have THAT MUCH ENERGY?
His boundless levels of energy were so transfixing, they even stole shine from the other sidebar fella with the mesmerising dog tattoos on his calf who started spinning whilst in a pullover and then proceeded to, in true Video Music Awards fashion, dramatically strip it off and toss it onto a nearby empty bike throughout.
With all that said, I am now mortified whenever I think of that one time I took the sidebar during one of my Absolute Cycle sessions as I realise how visible my Magikarp-esque floundering and flailing must have been to the other riders in class.
5. PAIN IS UNIVERSAL.
I must admit that, especially at the start, I felt quite demoralised during those (awfully frequent) occasions whereby everybody else around me seemed to be so much more advanced in terms of their fitness levels. However, as time went by, I discovered that what made me feel less self-conscious and more comfortable in accepting my personal progression path is the realisation that everybody else feels this way vis-a-vis others who are more advanced than them and that everybody else is also feeling the same burn and pain that I am feeling even though we are pushing ourselves towards different limits along our own timelines. Pain is universal.
Not to sound like a psychopath or a pervert, but it did feel heartening and comforting whenever I observe the muscular and gargantuan-chested ABSOLUTELY CANNOT during their workouts and being reduced to sweaty, sheepish ruddy-faced smiles. It made them feel less invincible and more human, and in that regard, perhaps they aren’t so different from me after all.