Russell Crowe invited us to his new gym (well, kinda. Not really). Russell Crowe invited us to his new gym (well, kinda. Not really).

The Russell Crowe-backed fitness centre, 98 Gym, has just completed its first week in Brisbane having opened on Feb 12. We got an invite* to check it out and see what made this joint different from any other sweaty group hug.

*By “invite” I mean we know the new owners and bugged the hell out of them until we got some free sessions.

This was our takeaway:

The Good

1. New & Clean

If you have an appetite for sports or fitness in any capacity, you know how exciting new stuff is, be it a new Sherrin, a new set of runners, or new clothes. 98 Gym Brisbane is this feeling on caffeine supplements. Every aspect of the venue and contents is new – the space itself, the equipment, the bathrooms, and the coaching team. Additionally, there are no established cliques or sub-cultures. Every member is new, so that feeling of being the new person applies to everyone (so I guess if everyone is new, no one is new, we just are…)

Despite the Brisbane presence being new, the 98 Gym platform has been in operation in Sydney since 2010, so while it is new to Brisvegas, it has been refined and tested for over a decade.

2. Space, Loads of

It’s not so big that you will get lost, but you won’t be sitting on top of each other either.

The space is such that you can swing, jump and lift your way to breathlessness without the risk of wearing someone else’s kettlebell or skipping rope. Plus, class sizes are restricted to make sure that classes are never inappropriately heaving.

3. Premium Gear

One of the characteristics that made the CrossFit movement so popular was the concept of using what you had available and not needing pretty shiny things to get motivated. No dumbbells? Lift bricks. No pull-up bar? Swing off a tree branch. Push-ups too easy? Do ’em on broken glass. 98 Gym is not that.

All equipment and facilities are premium quality from premium brands. Bars, cardio machines, mobility accessories, and even the flooring is sourced from the best Australia has to offer. The bathroom mirrors even have a makeup light built into them so that you can get your Pennywise on before heading to work.

4. Programmed by Experts

All programming and routines are designed by a group of trainers who provide expertise to National Rugby League teams. And good teams, not the Broncos (jokes, calm down).

The founder, Chris Feather, was a former English Super League giant and has used his connections in Australia to create sustainable programs designed by industry leaders. That is not to say you need to be a beast to be part of it – everything is scalable and modifiable to suit all players.

5. Loads of Class Times

A lot of gyms rely on internal demand to determine class schedules rather than setting schedules and then building demand. The issue with this is that the new sessions end up cannibalising existing sessions which doesn’t achieve anything by way of growth. 98 Gym has done the opposite.

With three morning and three afternoon classes most days (including 9.30am and 12.15pm options), most schedules are catered to. With the workforce spending more time working from home, a 9.30am or midday class allows working parents to get in and out without needing to coordinate with school runs or meal prep.

6. Option to Follow Along at Home

Part of the membership includes the ability to play along and log your workout from home. If by chance you cannot get into the venue for whatever reason, most workouts can be modified for home use.

Most movements on the app are supported by a video demo, and if the user does not have the required equipment, a quick Google search can help find a replacement. This allows the user to stay on track with their fitness goals but also stay connected to the community.

7. Team Bonding Workouts

Despite most sessions being solo work, there is a committed effort to programming in group work every week. This may seem horrifically terrifying in concept, but what it allows is for the removal of any personal barriers or sense of exclusion to build up.

Groups usually comprise of random members who must work together to achieve an outcome. Apart from being a fun way to train, these sessions give the opportunity to meet other members but also brings confidence to those who may not feel completely at home in a group fitness environment.

8. Big Marketing Effort

In Brisbane, population density in order of domination and species goes cane toads, and then ibises. Third is gyms. There was a time when you had to actually drive to the gym. Now, you probably walk past three to get to the one you like.

98 Gym has gone pretty hard with making noise. On opening day, they had the services of several fitness industry influencers on hand to blast out content. There have been media write-ups across numerous publications (most behind paywalls mind you), social media galore, and signage and banners throughout Brisbane (we are not sure if these were random locations or strategically planned).

The truth is, if you want to grow a gym in Brisbane (or any commodity business really) and do so reasonably quickly, you either need to a) be remarkably different, b) have high profile and persuasive members, or c) be consistently loud. A and B are brutally hard work, and whilst C may be expensive, it is a proven strategy.

The Bad

1. Parking Isn’t Brilliant

The facility itself has some onsite and off-street parking, but being in West End, this is still tricky. It’s not a crisis-grade issue, but certainly can be precarious if you are running a little late or looking to get in during peak times.

2. Only Two Weekend Sessions

There are two classes on Saturday – 7.00am and 8.00am. This may be ideal for those who look to get their workout done and be free for the weekend. But for those who have other Saturday morning commitments or hang-overs to nurse, it means no weekend session.

3. Running Workouts Can Be Precarious

While the gym space itself is large enough to handle shuttle runs and sprints, if any workout ever requires a lengthier run, it means navigating along the footpaths outside. Conceptually this is not a major issue unless there is pedestrian traffic on the move. This can become a bit more complicated weaving in and out of cyclists, dogs, cyclists with dogs, and general pedestrians (which is probably annoying to the pedestrian folk as well).

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98 Gym Brisbane is now open and offering all newwies a free seven day trial.