Gem of a gym for healthy & wealthy

Virgin Active’s new club takes fitness exclusivity to a new level

Skype while you run, Facebook while you cycle and take both feet off the ground for a spot of antigravity yoga.

Welcome to Virgin Active’s Alice Lane Health Club, a gym the company’s global boss Sir Richard Branson dubbed “the world’s leading health club”.

Virgin Active’s 108th South African gym cost the company R150 million to build. The 3 600m2 Sandton setup comes complete with a rooftop training facility kitted out with Astroturf and offering a panoramic view of Joburg’s corporate heart.

It has an almost sci-fi feel in places: On the rooftop, the treadmills and other equipment are powered by users – climb on, start peddling or jogging, and the machine comes to life.

The club’s second floor houses some of Alice Lane’s most exclusive equipment. Dirk Blitz, Virgin Active’s equipment manager, took City Press on a guided tour of the machines that will keep Sandton’s posh gym bunnies sweating.

Some machines, he explained, stored members’ profiles using a cloud system and automatically updated information with each workout – so every time you use one of these, your most recent fitness information is displayed.

If you’re a multitasker, these machines are for you. They’re internet enabled, giving you the chance to watch YouTube, tweet, chat to friends on Facebook or even show people your sweaty face on Skype.

Some of the bikes even come complete with a virtual instructor to keep you on your toes – or pedals.

There are chill areas, a health snack bar and in-house dietician’s consulting rooms.

Les Aupiais, Virgin Active’s head of strategic communication, said the club was the first of its kind in South Africa.

An average monthly membership fee is R1 600, which also gives members access to Virgin’s other classic collection clubs in London, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Sydney and Singapore.

Even seasoned instructors are blown away: Tshepo Modipane, who has been a Virgin Active trainer for five years, said the equipment was “out of this world”.

Modipane, who works at Virgin’s Greenstone branch, had popped in to visit the new club.

Aupiais said membership at Alice Lane would be capped at 4 000 to ensure exclusivity.

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