Since the first time I wrote about a brand new gym I tried at the start of the year, I must say there have been some developments in terms of my fitness journey. I have gone on to publish a fairly comprehensive guide to spin studios in Singapore as well as attempted high-intensity fitness classes at places such as Barry’s Singapore as well as Ground Zero, which honestly surprised myself given just how wretched my state of fitness has been for the longest time. I establish the above not because I want to give the impression I have since morphed into some sideboob-busty hunk or have joined the “20 mile club” (if you know, you know) but to clarify that while I am not a wise old bird, I am probably no spring chicken.
So anyway. A new fitness concept, Division Athletics, recently launched in the Central Business District in mid-2021. Occupying the massive basement space of office building 78 Shenton Way next to M Hotel Singapore, Division Athletics offers both strength and conditioning-based fitness classes, chargeable on a per-session basis.
Before the July 2021 restrictions on indoor gym operations kicked in, I managed to catch one indoor Strength class, and subsequently attended two weeks of outdoor Bootcamp sessions which were organised in lieu of indoor classes. Here are 5 observations of mine about fitness from my Division Athletics experience.
1. TORTURE CAN TAKE ON MANY FORMS.
Broadly speaking, Division Athletics offers three types of classes – Strength and Conditioning classes are held from Mondays to Saturdays, while Coalition classes are conducted exclusively on Sunday. Strength and Conditioning classes usually taking place simultaneously at their respective dedicated halves of the sprawling gym floor, while the Coalition session makes use of the entire space.
The standard weekly strength schedule looks like this:
Monday: Upper Body (Vertical)
Tuesday: Lower Body (Deadlift)
Wesnesday: Full Body
Thursday: Upper Body (Horizontal)
Friday: Lower Body (Squat)
Saturday: Full Body
Upper Body classes focus on working your chest, shoulders, back and arms. Upper Body (Vertical) features exercises that move weight vertically in the direction of the torso (e.g. bicep curls and shoulder presses) while Upper Body (Horizontal) involves exercises which shift weight towards or away from your body (e.g. push ups, bench presses, dumbbell flys). Lower Body classes focuses on working your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, with Lower Body (Squat) and Lower Body (Deadlift) each relying on a different primary movement pattern. The Full Body combines all four different rhythms into one power-charged, all-consuming blast.
Strength workouts may involve the use of barbells, benches and dumbbells.
The standard weekly conditioning schedule looks like this:
Wesnesday: Cardio Flux
Saturday: Cardio Flux
Aerobic focuses on training your stamina, Anaerobic delivers a high-intensity workout with short rest intervals, and Cardio Flux is a hybrid of both oxygenic approaches.
Conditioning classes may involve rowers, assault bikes, dumbbells, kettlebells, boxes, slam balls and ropes.
Coalition is an intense circuit-style, mixed-modality Sunday-only workout which utilises the entire gym floor, meaning all bets are off in terms of what equipment might be used that week. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would imagine it would be like the hellish and punishing ARENA and SURGE weekend classes at R10T.
2. FITNESS STUDIO BATHROOMS CAN HAVE SWAG.
Prior to my switch to boutique fitness studios, the kind of bathrooms at chain gyms I visited have been generic and perfunctory experiences – think anonymous shower amenities in wall dispenser bottles, complimentary green hair gel in round containers and company stickers plastered on lockers and mirror surfaces which advertise ancillary services such as physiotherapy treatments. (I remember a torrid tale my female friend who went to that same gym shared about an inconsiderate person who would serially leave used tampons in between the shower stall wall dispensers, and she happened to encounter these lovely gifts in two different outlets she visited in two consecutive days. But I digress.)
Subsequently, when I tried PT-focused studios, their bathrooms were rather tragic foldable door affairs with bad drainage, Ginvera shampoo and no dedicated changing area such that you can keep your long pants dry when putting your clothes back on.
Ritual Gym was the first fitness studio I tried which demonstrated that bathrooms could be comfortable and stylish affairs – their industrial black-and-white bathrooms were Ally McBeal-style unisex and each shower stall had dedicated enclosed shower and changing areas. Subsequently, when doing ground research for 2021 Ultimate Guide to Spin Studios in Singapore, I discovered just how nice boutique fitness studio bathrooms can be – XYCO Studio’s minimalist white-tiled shower rooms are equipped with Dyson hairdryers, R10T uses Kiehl’s bathroom amenities and Popsicle’s candy-coloured changing and bathroom space feels like a futuristic pop-art museum.
Division Athletics’ bathrooms have big swag. Playing it industrial granite and sexy matt black surfaces, the bathrooms offer cavernous shower rooms, each of which can probably fit four people and still fulfil prevailing safe distancing measures. The studio also offers Singapore-based Omno bathroom amenities, and the bergamot/eucalyptus shower gel was suitably luxurious after a muscle-busting workout.
3. YOU CAN GET PERSONAL TRAINING IN A CLASS FORMAT.
Probably one of the most remarkable things about Division Athletics is how each of their sessions feels decidedly like one-on-one physical training (PT) despite being conducted in a pod/class format. During my indoor Strength class when we were performing barbell deadlifts, which was a decidedly more delicate movement given the weights involved, instructor Haiqal ensured only half the class attempted the movement at any given time so that he could more closely supervise and correct our form if necessary. Throughout the various outdoor Bootcamp sessions, instructors such as Gino and Alicia would stop by and guide me through whatever movement I needed correction or improvement with, and they would patiently observe my corrected reps to ensure I truly got the concept right before moving on, even though we were in a class setting. The instructor-to-client ratio for each class is excellent, so you know someone’s always got your back.
Such personalised attention during class is brilliant for someone like myself who, due to the absolute lack of psychomotor sophistication, usually requires more time getting used to the rhythm of more complex movements. For instance, while there was always a certain natural fluid butteriness to the upward flight of the dumbbells when Machamp Pokémon Alexandrew did a dumbbell snatch, my own initial attempts always felt like I was trying to hoist a lopsided and unevenly weighted IKEA bag of durians. However, because you usually complete several sets for one movement before moving on to the next, you usually have enough opportunities to practice and (somewhat) master each movement.
My dumbbell snatches may not yet be buttery, but I suppose they are at least salt-free margarine after a week of Bootcamp.
4. THE FITNESS COMMUNITY IS CLOSE-KNIT, WELL-CONNECTED AND KNOWS A GOOD THING WHEN THEY SEE IT.
I first heard about Division Athletics when I saw it mentioned on the Instagram Stories of various fitspo friends I follow, from a vivacious avid indoor cyclist from the hospitality industry and a powerful fitness goddess with a long-tongued Collie called Milo to a bright-eyed Naruto-esque spin instructor. I decided to give Division Athletics a try and, after being suitably impressed by their indoor and outdoor Bootcamp sessions, proceeded to share about the studio on social media and recommend it to my friends. Some of my friends then decided to bring their own friends and, very quickly, positive word-of-mouth in circulation amidst different fitness circles resulted in virtually all of Division Athletics’ Bootcamp classes being fully subscribed for the last week of Bootcamp classes.
At some point during the two weeks of Bootcamp classes which I attended almost daily, I realised that I was increasingly seeing more and more familiar faces of kindred spirits and friends whom I met over the past year at, among other places, Barry’s Singapore, Absolute Cycle, CruBox, R10T, Revolution and Aurora. It was a novel and interesting experience having my disparate worlds from different settings Venn Diagram together during this challenging time of widespread gym closures, all of us determined not to let the pandemic break our spirit and routine, and it definitely felt more comfortable breaking new ground and learning new movements when I am amongst whom I have come to regard as my fitness family.
While I am fairly new to the fitness community, I observed and recognised a certain congeniality amongst all the different individuals and groups of friends who all seemed to know each other from somewhere, and it did feel like we were all on the same school campus and may have different semester schedules but shared common classes on some days – the University of Lifelong Fitness, perhaps. (Could we get Skillsfuture credits for classes?)
5. YOU CAN DO MANY THINGS WITH A KETTLEBELL.
My second week of outdoor Bootcamp comprised solely of kettlebell-centric sessions, and the experience did open my eyes as to the sheer diversity of movements one could achieve with the humble and often overlooked kettlebell. While the trainers designed the programme such that a different body part gets specific attention on different days, each day’s programme still manages to work your whole body in a holistic fashion.
In addition to roadside taxi flagging (swing), robbery deterrence (squat) and headache curing (halo), the Bootcamp programme also introduced me to more advanced kettlebell movements such as the Kang Squat, which pairs the Good Morning (where you hinge forwards from your hip while keeping your back flat) with a Back Squat, as well as the oblique-hitting Windmill, where you use one arm to hold a kettlebell above your head while keeping your other arm hanging and, while keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, lower the hanging arm towards the foot on the same side of your body by pushing your hips out and folding forward. (That last sentence may itself illustrate just how complex the movement is.) While the spin instructors I spotted around me were achieving the requisite measured gracefulness and flow of the movement, I was more flustered chinchilla than fluid ballerina and kept worrying I might drop the overhead kettlebell onto my face.
P.S. The studio’s kettlebells were beautiful, very Smeg appliance colours.
78 Shenton Way #B1-01