Will This Open-Concept Gym Change Your Mind About Fitness In 2021?
2020 wasn’t a great year. But amid all the uncertainty, one ambitious couple never gave up and literally built their dream from the ground up. For 25-year-old Sherman Chia and 24-year-old How Hee Lin, their fervent entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t been dampened by the pandemic one bit.
And if keeping fit is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021, then this place - simply called A GYM (pronounced "a gym") - could be a good starting point.
We talk to Hee Lin about their dedication to fitness, their "be your own alpha" motto, and how an open-concept gym could be the best idea ever.
The name of your gym is quite.... straightforward ah.
We are named “A GYM” because we did not want to be restricted by any descriptions or certain types of gyms. We are literally a gym: you can do cardio, you can do cross-fit, you can do anything you want here including just chilling on the grass area.
Starting any business involves risk, and owning a business as young entrepreneurs is challenging - what more during 2020! What spurred you guys on?
Opening a gym has always been Sherman’s goal in life. During our years of employment and working for others, we envisioned creating a space that we could proudly call our own. Since we’re both in our 20s, it felt like the right moment as we’re young and hungry for success.
A GYM was definitely a rough start. We had no choice but to kickstart the gym during Covid-19 as the Circuit Breaker commenced right after signing the rental agreement with the landlord. The Circuit Breaker delayed our opening plans by 3 months, and we were worried that people would not turn up during Phase 2 due to fears of contracting the virus.
But there have been no regrets. People turned up and got converted to loyal members - it gave us the motivation to work harder and to ensure that this business is sustainable. We hope our members and regular patrons can continue to utilise our space for many years down the road. It’s been most rewarding that people love our concept and the space we’ve constructed for them.
This is an outdoor open-concept gym. Is it to facilitate safe-distancing and Covid-19 safety measures?
An outdoor open-concept gym is a gym that’s not bounded by four walls and a low ceiling. Our gym is located in a boat parking garage at Marina Country Club – it has no air-conditioning and only fans. Also, our gym-goers enjoy the fresh sea breeze 365 days a year as the open space is unblocked by buildings, and we are located right by the sea.
We did not intend for the open space to help in ensuring safe-distancing or Covid-19 safety measures. But the natural ventilation of the space makes it harder for the virus to spread as compared to an indoor air-conditioned gym.
What was the motivation behind starting A GYM?
Sherman was previously working as a rehab trainer in a physiotherapy clinic. He was there for 2 years but he felt that his calling was not in the healthcare sector. Despite loving his job, he wanted to help the general population with fitness instead of just tending to the injured. With his background and experience, he’s also able to help his clients with injury management and prevention in the gym.
How did you get funding and is it sustainable to continue running the place?
Funding came from the help of Sherman's dad who was very supportive of him when he mentioned that he wanted to start a gym. Once the gym was up and running, we’ve been able to continue operating the space due to the support of our members and gym-goers. We are super thankful to new and old faces for helping us make this dream a reality.
Do you think location will be an issue since it is quite, um, ulu?
Yes and no, actually. Our location is far out for now as the area is still undergoing development. With the upcoming BTO launches in the area and young couples moving in, our gym will be easily accessible to them.
Also, there’s the upcoming Punggol Coast MRT station that will also cater to the area, making our gym more accessible to people living in other nearby towns such as Sengkang and Hougang.
Sherman’s dedication to fitness started in secondary school. How has he nurtured that dedication into both a passion and business idea?
Fitness is a way of life for Sherman. Ever since he witnessed his body slowly change from a skinny adolescent boy to a well-muscled adult, he’s maintained that motivation and consistency.
Sherman was with the military police during his national service (NS), and he managed to train frequently as his unit was not a stay-in one. He considers NS the duty of every Singaporean son, and is glad to have made lifelong friends as well as learn the value of teamwork. He's carried those values and the friendships made forward, and is grateful to receive the utmost support for A GYM.
The tagline of A GYM is “Be your own alpha”. How is this mindset applicable beyond fitness?
Our tagline “be your own alpha” also means taking charge of one’s life. Be it fitness, work, or academics, you can apply it in everything you do. Being alpha doesn’t necessarily mean that you always have to lead –it means that you are in charge of your own life, and you should aspire to maximise your potential. We hope that people are able to step out of their comfort zone and live life to the fullest.
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