So here's the thing: I am what most people would consider a gym fanatic. I work out at least three times a week, a mix of Pilates, interval training, and strength training. I read extensively to ensure I'm doing the right moves, putting in the proper amount of time in the gym (not more than an hour each time), and am a big believer in not dieting. I am, for all intents and purposes, Not Unfit. It was thus, sobering to say the least, when my very first lesson at newly-opened boutique gym Ritual went less than smoothly.
Ritual's small class size (maximum of ten at any one session) means that each student gets fair attention from the two instructors present at every session.
"You're arching your back too much. That'd put too much weight on your lower back," my fitness trainer instructed during my first deadlift attempt. All new students get a full fitness assessment before they're allowed to move on to the good stuff, which at Ritual, is its 20-minute high intensity, full body workout. I wasn't even at the real routine yet, and I was already suffering from the embarrassment of being unable to do a proper squat (I'd tip over) or push-up (what were those bicep curls for, again?).
But there was no time for sulking. The PA system in the main training area -- an almost intimidating space made up of 10 numbered squares (your personal workout area) each with an neatly-arranged array of kettlebells, dumbells, suspension bands and more -- had started its countdown to the booming music which will indicate the start of the 20-minute workout. Today, we were to do six sets of three push-ups each, with 30 seconds of deadlifts, rows, squats, or burpees in each set as indicated on the blackboards on the wall. It was manageable enough at first, but it wasn't until somewhere during the 20-second break at the fourth set of exercises that fatigue started to set in, and I could feel my arms trembling from all the exertion. Just as quickly as it had started, the session was over, and we were all drenched in sweat.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the basis of which Ritual is based upon: twenty minutes of Progressive Overload, High Intensity Interval Training, and Functional Training, designed to promote improvements in strength, endurance, movement quality, and body composition. No more, no less. It's a concept -- conceived by fitness expert Ian Tan, professional MMA fighter Brad Robinson, and TV personality Oli Pettigrew -- born out of a belief that it's "unrealistic for people to commit to fixed timeslots every week", thus stripping the complicated workout regime to the very bare essentials.
Even the circular layout and design echo Ritual's minimalistic approach: your journey begins by grabbing a set of workout attire from the reception, changing into your gear in the unisex changing room, then pushing past the doors to the main workout space. 20 minutes later, follow the path out to the shake bar, where you can refuel with specially-concocted protein shakes (from S$7).
If you're lucky enough (like us), you might just catch Pettigrew behind the counter; he'd be more than happy to extol the virtues of his meal-replacement drinks. "You can try buying the peanut butter from the supermarkets, but I'm pretty sure I bought up every single bottle in Singapore," he enthused, happily opening the cupboards to show us the rows and rows of the special brand of heart-healthy peanut butter he uses. Pettigrew himself, became a convert of the time-efficient, high-intensity workout regime when Tan helped "transform his body" for a Men's Health cover shoot in just five weeks last year. "I came to realize just how much time I had wasted at the gym. By doing the right exercises, the right way I was able to get amazing results."
The Final Verdict
Of course, with such specialised exercises (changed daily to "keep your body guessing") and attention from instructors (student to teacher ratio is kept, at the most, 5:1 at any point of time), expect memberships to be priced accordingly. We balked a little at the thought of shelling out S$369 per month for a one-year membership too, but as Pettigrew explained, it makes much more economic sense rather than splurging S$100/h personal training session.
For the time-pressed, Ritual banishes all excuses of lack of time -- if you're quick enough in the shower, you're in and out of the gym within the hour, with time to spare for a takeaway lunch. And for those who are looking to take their fitness standards to the next level, Ritual whips you into shape right from the get-go, and more importantly, corrects your form and posture to prevent unnecessary injuries. I still might not be able to do a proper squat or push-up, but check back in a month.
Ritual is located at 11 North Canal Road #03-01, +65 6536 7291, www.ritual.sg