Getting Sweaty in the Capital

8 Jul

*This post was by T2, a co-author of In The Taratory from 2011-2013.*

So it turns out that I’m a bit of a gym hussy. In my four short years living here, I’ve tried no less than seven different gyms: Club Lime and Club Pink, Fernwood Belconnen and Civic, Anytime Fitness Gungahlin, the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) gym, and my work’s little gym. Oh, and I also just bought a coupon for a month’s membership at the Australian Institute of Sport gym. I swear I’m not commitment-phobe… I just enjoy exploring the different options (especially if it means I can snaffle a cheaper membership price).

Since I’ve sweated and wheezed at so many of Canberra’s gyms, I thought I’d share my views on the pros and cons of each. Winter is now in full swing – meaning many part-time gym bunnies go into hibernation – but there’s a lot of deals around aimed at luring new members away from the couch and into a Pump class. Perhaps you could use my handy-dandy guide to help decide which gym you, too, would like to sweat and wheeze away at!

The Club Group:

This Canberra-based franchise is well known in the ACT and has tons of locations (including their flagship club at the Canberra International Sports and Aquatic Centre (CISAC) in Belconnen). This gym is probably the biggest one I’ve ever been to; it’s housed in a building the size of a small airport hangar. I was a member there for three years, so I’m obviously a fan. Why did I let my membership lapse then, I hear you ask? To be honest, I was getting stuck in a fitness rut (i.e. always doing the same classes at the same times, losing motivation) and yearned for a change of scenery. I do miss it though, and am contemplating joining up again (if only it weren’t for that pesky re-joining fee).

Pros :

–      Club Lime and Club Pink both have an extensive list of classes. You’ll have no trouble being able to do Pump or RPM on any night of the week. In addition to the popular Les Mills classes, they also offer Zumba, pilates, yoga and circuit classes. (As an aside, try Power Yoga if you ever get the chance. It’s an awesome conditioning class and it will KICK. YOUR. BUTT).

–      I loved the instructors there – Carrie and Szabina were two of the most energetic, motivational ladies I’ve come across in Canberra’s fitness industry. Having good instructors makes such a difference, and Club Lime/Pink definitely have no shortage of them.

–      If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re bound to snag a great membership deal. The best value deal is, in my opinion, their 2-for-1-membership offer. This was the reason I joined back in 2009 – I paid $781.50 in advance for an annual membership (working out to a mere 15 bucks a week), which gave me all-areas access. Yep, I could use Club Pink, Club Lime, and Club Blue (their massive swimming pool) at any time. I also received an annual subscription to Women’s Health, a free waterbottle, gym bag, and discounted treatments at their adjoining day spa, Club Mmm. Oh, and then there were the free breakfasts and newspapers at Club Pink. Noice.

–      They offer a range of other flexible membership options, including On Lime. With this, you can turn your membership on and off as you please (perfect for those working in Canberra intermittently). Do just keep in mind that this often works out to be much more expensive than paying the annual membership in advance.

–      I recently read an advertisement about Club Lime’s new Gecko Club fitness program for children. Simply pop your little ones in for an age-appropriate exercise class and then head off to do a workout of your own.  I think this is a great idea. CISAC is always bustling with kiddies at the swimming pool – it has a very family-friendly vibe about it.

–      This may be completely irrelevant to many of you, but I’ve seen the Canberra Raiders training at CISAC from time to time – it’s always fun to spot a celebrity working out!


–      These clubs are some of the busiest ones in Canberra. At peak hour (5-7pm), you may sometimes have to wait a little for a machine. Or park a little further away from the entrance (which shouldn’t really be a problem, since you’re there to get some exercise anyway!). The Les Mills classes are absolutely jam packed at this time, so you may not always get a nice quiet afternoon workout.

–      Heaps of guys work out at Club Lime. I personally couldn’t care less about working out around the fellas, but I know that some women do prefer the female-friendly environment that Fernwood or Curves can offer. For what it’s worth, I’ve never received any unwelcome sexual attention from this gym – everyone seems to concentrate on doing their own thing. Club Pink is a great alternative for those after a women-only club, of course.

Anytime Fitness:

I joined Anytime Fitness with a mate as part of a Living Social deal for a $19 one-month membership. After paying a $50 deposit for an access key, we were given a short guided tour of the place and then left up to our own devices. This gym has been advertised quite heavily, so I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Here’s what I thought:


–      As the name suggests, it’s open anytime. Yep, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  So don’t even think of pulling that same old ‘I can’t make it to the gym before closing time, so I won’t be able to exercise tonight’ excuse. Feeling restless at 3am? Why not pop on down to Anytime and have a quick workout?!

–      I’m a fan of their ‘Fitness on Request’ program. Since Anytime doesn’t have group classes as such, this program means you can select any pre-programmed fitness class you like and it will appear on a big screen at the front of the room. They’re quite different from Les Mills classes and are instructed by Americans, but the concept is much the same. My friend and I were dripping in sweat by the end of a 20-minute session – goal achieved. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent to Body Pump (a fave class of mine), but the conditioning class certainly left me spent.

–      Even though heaps of blokes use this gym, the ladies are also catered for with ‘Girls Club’ circuit classes. These classes seem to be quite popular.

–      Anytime Fitness has thousands of locations worldwide. After you’ve been a member for a certain time, you’re given reciprocal visitation rights to any other outlet. Handy for when you’re away on holiday or business.

–      Their weekly membership price is a little less than other fully equipped gyms, starting from $14.95 per week. However, there are no incentives to pay the annual membership upfront – it doesn’t get any cheaper.

–      Security is pretty tight at this joint, so I always feel safe when the main gym reception has closed. Admittedly, though, I’ve never worked out there at 3am… it may be a different story then! (I do know that you can wear a lanyard with a beeper on it, which will immediately alert security if there are any after-hours issues – smart idea).

–      Anytime Fitness monitors visits closely and lists the names of the top monthly visitors. That’s definitely motivation to get your bum to the gym more frequently.


–       There are no secure lockers at this gym. I’m a pretty trusting person, but I don’t feel 100% comfortable leaving my handbag and gym bag in the open lockers when I’ve just come from work.

–       Compared to Club Lime/Pink and Fernwood, the gym floor is very small. There are only around five cross trainers and five treadmills, all of which fill up quickly at peak time. The weights area is also super busy, and I admit (begrudgingly) that I’ve felt a little intimidated walking into the section to use the equipment. For this reason, I am unlikely to join the gym as a full member after my one-month pass expires.

–       While ‘Fitness on Request’ is a clever concept (perfect for those night owls wanting to do yoga at midnight), you simply cannot beat having a real instructor leading the class. They can spot when someone’s body position needs correction, and are available to answer any questions you may have. Those (annoyingly perky and super-fit) American trainers don’t measure up to having an Aussie trainer work with you in the flesh.

–       There aren’t many loos. I felt a bit guilty that I had to get changed in there one afternoon after work, as I seemed to be holding up a few others (I was going as fast as I could though, promise!).

Fernwood Fitness:

I joined Fernwood as part of a one-month trial offer back in April this year. I always claimed I’d never join that gym, but was glad that I gave it a go.


–      Fernwood is a women-only gym (sorry, fellas!), so I always found it to be very clean and… pretty. Lots of pink (even the weights machines). Lots of girl power (the words ‘foxy lady’ are thrown around quite a bit). I definitely got the sense that Fernwood is a tight-knit little community, with regular team challenges and motivational sessions. The gym also offers hair dryers and straighteners in the bathrooms, a free Fernwood fitness magazine, merchandise and, best of all, free breakfast. Plenty of bang for the buck, if you’re into all the bells and whistles.

–      A high level of support is always available to members, especially in terms of fitness appraisals and diet coaching. Even though I was only a trial member, Fernwood called me regularly to set up appraisals. This was useful, as it meant I could get measured properly, have my blood pressure monitored, and get a balanced workout program designed for me. The personal trainers were more than happy to show me how to use the equipment I was unfamiliar with and give me new ideas for exercises.

–      Discounts on beauty treatments and Cell IQ packages (which are still darn expensive, but apparently very effective).


–       Membership starts from around $22 per week (i.e. around $1,200 annually), so it’s a little pricier than other gyms. The joining fee is also quite steep at $199 – phwoar, I say! I do hear that they currently have a no-joining fee offer on for this month, so if you’re interested in checking out Fernwood, I’d get onto it ASAP.

–       Parking at Fernwood in the city annoyed me no end. Many afternoons after work, I simply gave up after driving round and round looking for an empty park. I know it’s not their fault, but I hate having to pay for parking to use a gym (… lucky I don’t live in Sydney then, eh?). For this reason alone, I preferred Anytime Fitness and the CISAC gyms.

–       Personally, I prefer the gender balance that mixed-sex gyms offer. Don’t get me wrong, it was great not to have to battle beefcakes for the bench press (or the mirror, for that matter) – but I actually quite enjoy watching men lift their impressively heavy weights (and I mean that in a completely non-creepy way!). Fernwood may have a little too much of a ‘girl power’ focus for some ladies (I’m not suggesting that that’s a negative factor, though).

ADFA gym:

A colleague at work recommended that I try this gym out. I was a bit wary at first. ‘Who wants to work out with a bunch of army cadets?!’, I thought. But I was actually impressed with the facility, and have used it frequently this year.


–      This gym is FREE for public servants (of which there are many in Canberra). I like free things. All you need to do is sign in with a couple of details (I always bring my work pass too, just in case).

–      The equipment is top notch: new Life Fitness crosstrainers (my pet cardio machine) with TV screens to keep my eyes off the clock, plenty of weights to choose from, mats to stretch out on. All the gear is well-maintained, and visitors can also use the pool (when it’s not needed by ADFA cadets).


–       Like Anytime, the ADFA gym doesn’t offer any group fitness classes (or any alternatives, such as ‘Fitness on Request’). I do like group classes, as they overcome the monotony of plodding away on the treadmill.

–       The opening hours aren’t particularly great, with limited availability on the weekend and public/school holidays. My housemate has also complained lately that the gym doesn’t have heating on in the morning (I think he’s just a bit soft, hehe). But for a gym that is completely free, one cannot complain too much.

–       Likewise, the change rooms and toilets aren’t as beautifully furnished as the Club Pink or Fernwood ones. I guess it depends on what you’re after in a gym – do you really need all those little extras? Or can you make do with the bare basics? I’m not fussed about whether hair straighteners are available or if the equipment is pretty pink, to be honest, but I know that lots of others are. If that’s the case, I’d recommend you steer clear of the ADFA gym and cough up a good $800-$1000 for the privilege.

So there you have it; T2’s take on (some) of Canberra’s gym offerings. Obviously, I’ve missed a couple of other big players – notably Fitness First, Curves, Contours, Alive Fitness, and Flames Fitness. Feel free to let me know about any other great gyms – I’m more than willing to add them to my to-trial list! Until then, happy workouts to you all 🙂

Date: All year round – no excuses!

Attendees: Usually me, with plenty of others.

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4 Responses to “Getting Sweaty in the Capital”

  1. Dan April 2, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    You are aware that public servents around Canberra are not allowed to use the gym? Only military and UNSW staff that have had an induction and been given a pass. Good job though!

  2. Dan April 2, 2016 at 7:41 am #

    You are aware that public servents around Canberra are not allowed to use the ADFA gym? Only military and UNSW staff that have had an induction and been given a pass. Good job though!

    • inthetaratory April 2, 2016 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks Dan. This is a very old post and written by T2, who no longer writes for this blog. I can’t speak for access but hopefully your comment will help those who consider using it!


  1. Done, done and done « Enter, Fitness! - July 10, 2012

    […] Getting Sweaty in the Capital ( […]

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