One of the main reasons I hear for people not exercising regularly is that they just don’t have time. And when I say “people” I’m absolutely one of them. Throw in a deadline, a surprise work event or some other commitment and gym is the first thing to go. Workouts feel like an indulgence – and I tend to feel guilty prioritising them over “more important” stuff, like work.
So a gym that promises to have you trained, showered and out the door in half an hour is a pretty attractive prospect. Almost too good to be true. I went to see for myself. Want to try it, too? Scroll to the bottom for a 50% discount.
1/ It all works through an app.
Ritual Gym is all about creating a personal experience within the group exercise class environment. So no drop-ins. You can sign up for a membership or buy a class package. They’ll do an orientation sesh and create your profile on the system. From then on, all your bookings and check-ins happen via the app – allowing your trainer to access your profile and specific requirements.
Now, I’ve slinked into the back of many a fitness class in my time and revelled in the anonymity of not being called out when my squats weren’t low enough or my step-hop-clap-clap was a full two beats behind. But there’s something to be said for being in a class where the trainer knows to say, “Wanita, try this modification for your wonky shoulder.” ‘Cause no one wants to be that girl who sticks her hand up when they ask who’s new or injured.
2/ Classes happen every half hour.
Yup, from opening (5:30am) to closing time (8pm), there’s a class every 30 minutes, so you can squeeze in a workout whenever. Ideal for when a 3pm meeting gets cancelled. Our class was mid-morning. We’d just landed in Joburg from Cape Town and had a bit of time to kill between checking into the hotel and heading off to meetings.
3/ They give you everything you need.
So here’s what happens when you arrive at the gym. You tap a touch screen to sign into the class, then you grab your supplied towels – a small one for class; a big one for showering – and your workout gear. That’s right, they supply workout clothes in sizes ranging from XS to XL. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing sexy about the baggy T-shirt and long shorts that make up the Ritual uniform. And the fact that you’re allowed – actually, encouraged – to train barefoot completes that high school PT class picture. But for the convenience of not having to lug a gym bag along? I’ll wear the baggy T-shirt. (And you could, of course, pack your own tights.)
There are also toiletries available (everything from soap and shampoo to deodorant, cotton buds and a flat iron) and the lockers are digital. I’m usually a major germ phobe in the gym – I won’t let a toe touch the floor without the barrier of a shower-plakkie or at least a sock, but a cleaner mops and scrubs both the gym and change rooms constantly and it all seemed very sterile.
4/ Classes are tiny.
There’s a maximum of 10 in a class, so there really is no hiding in the back. But while you may feel exposed at first, there are plenty of perks. Small-group personal training has become a major trend among people who can’t afford a PT on their own. And that’s exactly the experience you get in a Ritual class – the trainer will correct your form, keep an eye out for imbalances and adjust your movements accordingly.
5/ The workout is only 20 minutes long.
It’s all part of the plan to get you in and out in 30 minutes flat. But don’t worry – in those 20 minutes, you will do the most. The gym is divided into 10 stations, all fully equipped, so no wasting time moving around or looking for equipment. There’s a new WOD (workout of the day) each day, designed to work your whole body in multiple movement planes and patterns – with easier and harder variations of each exercise.
What I really liked, though, is that you repeat the WOD four times in a class. I’m all for keeping things different and interesting, but I sometimes find that you’re just getting used to an exercise and then you have to move on to something else. With this format, you can use the first round to learn the movements with light weights and slow reps, then push hard for the subsequent rounds.
The Ritual experience is very particular when it comes to form, so if you’re unsure how to do, say, a burpee properly, now’s your chance to learn. FYI: There are no cardio machines. Not a treadmill or rowing machine in sight. (Can I get a whoop-whoop?)
Watch this Ritual Gym dead lift demo…
6/ It’s all unisex…
From the androgynous PT-class kit to the unisex cloakrooms. That’s right, no girls’ side and boys’ side. But private change rooms and large shower cubicles with real doors and dressing areas inside maintain your privacy. If I’m honest, it adds to the speedy experience – I’m less likely to waste time titivating by the mirror when there’s a dude next to me doing a gel-and-run than if there’s a woman with curling tongs acting as my enabler.
Even the baggy gym kit has its place. When I was unfit and overweight, I would feel intimidated by the crop-topped, bright-legginged beauties around me at gym while I shuffled around in my old T-shirt and track pants. The no tummy-baring policy at Ritual levels the playing field.
7/ It really is a ritual.
Whether you’re hitting a Ritual Gym in Joburg or Singapore, your experience will always be the same. The gyms look identical and they’re run according to the same recipe so you know what to expect.
So, would I sign up?
Personally, I enjoy the variety of my current training programme. Some days I’m human-flagging off the side of a Queenax, some days I’m banging out barbell squats and other days I’m running on the treadmill. And I’ve finally found a rhythm that works for me (way before dawn, before anything can get in my way). But if you’re still struggling to fit exercise into your life, rocking up at gym with no plan or you feel you’re not pushing yourself hard enough, Ritual is a great option.
Sign up: Currently, Ritual Gym South Africa exists only in Illovo, Joburg, but it’s opening soon in Fourways and from there will expand to other cities. Book your one- or two-week trial with unlimited classes from R225. PLUS: Use this exclusive Women’s Health promo code: WH50 and get 50% off your trial fee!