FULTON MARKET — Annabel Ramos travels to Fulton Market five times a week from suburban Oak Park to work out.
For Ramos, the trip is worth it for the privacy offered by The Gym Pod, a 24-hour gym tucked away at 345 N. Aberdeen St.
The Gym Pod is actually three private gym facilities inside large shipping containers. Anyone can rent a pod in 30-minute increments for $6 and get a whole private gym to themselves or up to four friends.
For Ramos, who struggles with anxiety, The Gym Pod has helped her get back into the gym consistently without the fear of being judged or bothered.
“Going to the gym just gives me so much anxiety, I can’t even do it. You have the guys that want to hit on you. … There’s a lot of people who end up on Instagram stories or Snapchat with people making fun of them. … I’m just like I’m not here for that. I’m here to work on my physical health,” Ramos said.
The Gym Pods were made with people like Ramos in mind, CEO Peter Lam said.
The company was founded in Singapore by Damian Chow, a self-professed introvert who wanted to create a private gym space, Lam said.
“He just kind of wanted to set up his own gym,” Lam said. “Once we launched, that week we quickly understood that a lot of people either suffer from this gym anxiety that is very common, or people who just value a premium on their their own space and time.”
The company now has more than 40 locations in Singapore and opened its first location in the United States this summer at Fulton Market.
The Gym Pods haven also popular with private trainers and their clients, Lam said.
The Fulton Market location has three “smart pods” equipped with all the basics for traditional strength and functional training, such as a squat rack, cable machine, dumbbells up to 50 pounds, kettlebells and resistance bands. There’s also a treadmill in two of the pods and a rower in the other for cardio training.
“There are some people who are power lifters who go to the gym pod. Some people, which is actually very common, will just book to run on the treadmill,” Lam said.
Each pod is also saves energy by automatically shutting off if not in use, company leaders said. Customers can control the temperature during their session and connect to the pod’s Bluetooth sound system.
To book a pod, customers need to download The Gym Pod app, create a profile and sign a terms and conditions waiver. They can choose which pod to book by seeing which equipment is in each and the availability. Pods can be booked up to five days in advance.
“I like to have everything planned out in advance. And the fact that there’s free parking available, that’s also a huge plus,” Ramos said.
Ramos also said she’s able to get her workout done in an hour, faster than at a regular gym, since she does’t have to wait to use any equipment.
Although there’s no on-site staff, there is a professional cleaning staff that comes every day, Lam said. The app also encourages users to clean up after themselves. If a pod is left messy, a user can report the previous user through the pod’s app, company officials said.
“We can reach out to [those] customers and punish as needed. … That seems to put some positive pressure on the community,” Lam said.
Users should be warned there are no bathrooms on site, but Lam said pod users can use the facilities at the Emily Hotel around the corner, 311 N. Morgan St. For future locations, the company might include on-site showers, Lam said.
But for now, The Gym Pods are focused on “efficiency,” and they have been booked frequently since opening, Lam said.
Lam hopes to open more pod location across the city and eventually other popular cities.
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