Why Singapore’s Gyms can never (ever) compare to those in Taipei

Public gyms in Taipei are beautiful. Aesthetically, they’re knock-out champions – most unlike the dull multi-mirrored vain-pods you so often find in Singapore. Wallpapered and themed, these Taipei gyms are made to look like an urban-looking backstreet alleyway, and others designed to look like a modern spaceship, the gym’s sleek machinery complimenting it’s cool grey interiors.

That’s not to say the gyms in Singapore are total f**king disasters. Kudos to the Singapore government who have begun revamping the public ActiveSGs and sprucing them up with new equipment and a dash of colour. The Tampines ActiveSG at Our Tampines Hub, for example, boasts 4 squat racks and a buttload of weight plates – a drastic improvement from the one lonely squat rack and its and limited rusty weight plate counterparts from the previous installation.

Nevertheless, my gripe with Singapore’s gyms still stand. Here, we will be exploring in excruciating detail, the small-mindedness of Singapore’s gyms – particularly, private ones.

1. The Cliché of the Outdated Operating Model

Imagine needing to fork out 100 dollars a month to get from Point A to Point B using an O-bike. Forget the convenient pay-as-you-go model that the occasional cyclist have been so accustomed to – now, you pay for a whole month’s worth of bike use – even though you’d probably only need the service twice a week as you bike back to your mom’s house for dinner. Imagine how long such a model would last in our evolving world of on-demand – Am I right? If such an outdated model has ceased working for bike rentals, private gyms should really stop assuming that it’d continue to work for them.

Pay-as-you-go models have infiltrated most existing legacies and made its imprint across infinite verticals in our cashflow society – be it banking, IT, infrastructure, healthcare, entertainment or transportation. Having private gyms in Singapore continue to stubbornly push their monthly memberships and refusing to adapt to survive to consumer needs, just comes across as desperate, and frankly, pathetic.

Some of the gyms (note: PRIVATE) in Taipei have already recognised the evolving needs of the gym demographic and begun to offer hourly rates (at a ridiculously affordable price of 50NTD, or $2.50 for 90 minutes) alongside their monthly memberships. With their clientele able to workout with the relief that they aren’t being taken advantage of, these businesses are able to earn themselves a reputable image (along with dozens of faithful customers).

Hey, if even the folks in the 90’s knew gym memberships were a scam, I rest my case.

2. Looks Matter

A HUGE thank you to the government for finally giving Singapore’s public fitness centres the revamp it direly needed. Still, this change only happened after 7 long years of using old and rusty equipment. I’m really surprised that I hadn’t gotten tetanus after all that time of cutting and hurting myself on sharp equipment at the old Tampines gym.

Taipei gym owners – be it private or public – pride themselves on having the latest equipment, and more importantly, maintaining the quality and cleanliness of their equipment. The floors are litter-free, weight plates are stacked neatly in a corner (but we’ll get to that in a second), and there is no SMELL at the gym (again, we’ll get to that soon). According to the owners in Taipei, the gym goes through a weekly cleaning and a biennial re-haul – with old equipment thrown out and the existing equipment upgraded/refreshed. (I know this because I’m a journalist and I ask many questions. Also because I’m nosy and talk to strangers way too much).

For a country who’s been touted as one of the Top 10 Cleanest Cities in the World – with us in turn acknowledging this statement and turning it into one of our biggest USPs – our gyms are poor indication of such. I wouldn’t be surprised if the government takes another 7 years to refresh and safety-proof the equipment at the gym.

3. Manners Maketh Man

Colin Firth was right, manners matter, more so at the gym where adrenaline is rampant and tempers are high. Having good manners – be it being the bigger person and letting the idiot at the Olympic bar have his third consecutive time benching first, or having the patience to wait idly by the side as the teaching twinks hog your bar teaching one another the ‘proper squat technique’ – is important, but not always commonplace in Singapore gyms.

I while back, I wrote about the Lululemon twins, who were case-in-point examples of rude assholes at the gym. Unfortunately, these rude replicas are the classic die-cut of most gym assholes – there’s at least one every workout session, of which you have no choice but to suck up and deal with.

In Taipei, gym occupancies are monitored and regulated, with people being turned away or asked to wait in the event where machines are overused or snaking lines are forming, just so you don’t end up with run-of-the-mill situations like those friendly in Singapore. ActiveSG, or even private gyms like Fitness First and Amore Fitness, claim to monitor their gym occupancies and regulate them accordingly, but that is a big fat lie. They monitor gym traffic on sites such as these, yes, but they don’t do anything about it.

So what if there are 20 guys at the benchpress waiting their turn, with roid-heads bullying the smaller kids to take a hike? Coaches and fitness reps tour the gym grounds regularly, but blatantly turn a blind eye when it comes to dealing with such rudeness and the frequent bullying that is the life of a public gym-goer.

Gymming in Taipei is a breeze, its gyms usually blissfully empty or regulated enough for actual breathing space – which Singapore still fails to notice is an actual problem for them. Gym goers in Taipei are also prudently well-mannered and in the habit of asking nicely to share a particular machine – Not Singapore’s typical brusque: ‘Eh, can share anot?”. They put their weights back where they came from – not just strewing them all over any visible bit of floor – and keep gym murmur to a minimum. No hub-bub, no incessant chatter or loud gym boasts about your ‘maximum weight’.

“No more talking, singing, ZIP.”










Honestly, I don’t get you Singapore. Taipei is just another city just like us – be it a tad larger and more prone to eating (not keeping) dog. If they’ve evolved to embrace the realities of fitness and gym-life, I don’t see why we can’t either.

P.S. I will never, ever, sign up for a private gym membership. So private gyms, it’s time to buck up. Because the world isn’t just changing – it’s changed – and you either adapt to survive, or continue selling your outmoded $100/month memberships. Sooner or later, your customers will realise what a waste of money their memberships are, and cut you loose.