We have sweated, squatted and push-upped our way through Melbourne's gyms to find out which ones will get you fit, fast. These gyms are all in the CBD, and you can zip out in your lunch break to smash out a quick class and be back at your desk at a reasonable time.
Best for: Pilates enthusiasts
The first thing you notice about Kaya is the smell. Not the sweaty gym bro smell you'd expect in a gym, and not the overly disinfected chemically smell that comes with trying to cover that gym bro smell. Kaya smells like a day spa, perfumed and delightful with its own bespoke scent. Even the lift on the way up to Kaya (it's on level 5 of Emporium, and it has its own lift in Caledonian Lane) has the same smell, so you feel more like you're in an Aesop store than on your way to pump iron. Amenities such as hair dryers, straighteners and deodorant are provided. But this is not a gym for dilettantes to show off their Lululemon – with two Pilates studios, a barre studio and a yoga studio running classes throughout the weekdays and slightly less often on weekends, there's a lot of work being done here. There is also a full weights and cardio area, as well as a fitness studio offering boxing and circuit classes before work, after work and at lunchtime.
Best for: those who enjoy group exercise and don’t mind a bit of friendly competition
People bang on about high-intensity interval training a lot. It is one of the most efficient forms of cardio exercise, and Melbourne gym Orangetheory is entirely dedicated to it. Orangetheory only does group workout classes, and every session is separated into cardio and weights portions. The gym floor – which is on brand and excessively orange coloured – is set up in two sections. One half has rows of treadmills and water rowers (a bike and an elliptical is available if you have exercise limitations) and the other half has floor equipment including dumbbells, benches, TRX suspension trainers and BOSU trainers (those semicircular balls that are impossible to balance on). Members are given heart rate monitors with their real-time results displayed on large screens in the studio. The goal is to keep your heart rate in the "orange zone" (basically when you’re feeling uncomfortable, but not in pain) for at least 15 minutes during the one-hour workout, as this is the zone where you’ve crossed the anaerobic threshold, when the body begins to burn fat instead of just carbohydrates.
Best for: the time poor
Everyone knows someone who has converted to the cult of F45, a Sydney-born, now-global chain of specialty gyms where instructors lead 45-minute sessions of high-intensity interval training that’ll leave you knackered in the best possible way. Somehow both at once incredibly gruelling and impossibly fun, the workouts will have you rotating between stations across the gym floor with a mixture of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), cardio training and strength training. The Little Collins gym is tucked away below street level and provides all the basics: cubby holes for belongings, toilets and showers (though these are limited, so if you’re after a shower post-workout, prepare to wait in line). There are about 20 participants signed up to every class, and the F45 Athletics Department have developed 31 different 45-minute workouts, so it’s likely you’ll never do the same workout twice. Instructions come by way of gifs on screens throughout the gym, with two very enthusiastic trainers coming around to encourage you and check on your form.
Best for: Those who like ALL the bells and whistles
Do you want to: run on a treadmill, do a Zumba class, go for a swim, hold a business meeting, sweat it out in a sauna, meet a friend for breakfast, do some yoga, lift weights, go rock climbing, have your muscles massaged by a vibrating plate, sit in a sauna, do Pilates, stretch out those office-banjaxed muscles, learn kickboxing or take a nap? Do you wish you could do all of those things in the same location? If that sounds like you, Virgin Active is probably the gym of your dreams. The Collins Street location is three levels (the Bourke Street location is two) of state-of-the-art, steel-and-glass infrastructure designed to help you work out and chill out in equal measure (be mindful of all that glass, though – the showers are frosted glass, so you will get a general sense of the person in the stall next to you). There's a 25m pool, sauna, climbing wall, spin studio, nap pods, weights machines and free weights, studios offering more than 200 classes a week, cardio machines, business centre, internet-connected computers and a café. This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach extends to customer service, as every 30 days you can be weighed and measured and have your fitness goals assessed.
Best for: Those who love the water
Melbourne City Baths opened in 1860 and has been providing health and fitness services to Melburnians ever since. It's much more than a pool these days, though the 30-metre pool is the largest in the CBD. There's also a fully equipped gym, fitness studio and squash courts. There are group fitness classes from 6.15am until 9pm many days, both in and out of the pool. Massage and kinesiology are also offered on site, and personal training is also available. Melbourne City Baths also offers learn-to-swim classes for children and adults.
Best for: Budget-conscious gym rats
If you work or study in the CBD and have an hour or so to bash out a session, Fitness First Melbourne Central is a great option. Group fitness classes run from pre-workday slots to around 8pm in the evening, and they range from gentle mat Pilates to spin classes. If you’re a Les Mills class fanatic, the standard line-up of Body Pump, Body Attack and CXWorx resistance sessions are in the roster. The best part, though, is the range of equipment available and amount of floor space there is to work through your sets. If you’re confident flying solo, help yourself to the weights (assisted machines and free weights) or have a go on the TRX frame for body-weight exercises. If you don’t know your way around the gym, there are always friendly trainers roaming around to help you get started. And when you’re done, the steam room and sauna is a great spot to continue your sweat session before you hit the showers. Other Fitness First gyms in the CBD include branches in QV Melbourne, Flinders Street and Bourke Street Mall.