Fitness Playground is the Surry Hills Gym Making Exercise Fun Again

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Swap your treadmill session for some monkey bars.

There is a demographic of humans who simply can't fathom the idea of heading to a room filled with intimidating machines and sweating it out for an hour or so. For those of you who hate gyms, relief has arrived.

Like RollerfitRetrosweat, Beyoncé dance classes and Morning Gloryville raves, Fitness Playground gym offers an opportunity to exercise in a way that isn't scary, or boring. Grab a friend and attend a circus-inspired trapeze classes or hang from monkey bars, or get involved in some anti-gravity yoga or a calisthenics class. At Fitness Playground, the people are friendly, the energy is great and everyone knows your name.

There are three FP locations (Surry Hills, Newtown and Marrickville), but they've just added a third level to their Surry Hills location specifically for classes. We went inside to check it out, and caught up with director Justin Ashley (Fitness Playground Director) to see what the story is.




Fitness Playground started out as a boot camp in Surry Hills. After exponential growth involving a whole heap of people who couldn't stomach the traditional gym environment, the first Fitness Playground location opened in 2014. Far too many gyms are intimidating, but Fitness Playground is accessible. Ashley is proud of that fact that his gym has grown to become a welcoming, friendly space that people love to return to.

"Our goal and our mission statement for the company is to change people's perception of the gym environment and experience. Most people believe that gyms are boring and intimidating, and we want to change that. We want to make it fun, we want to make it motivating and we want to make a strong community and support structure for our members. We kicked off with eight staff, and we've got 135 now. We had basically no members, and now we've got close to ten thousand, and it was all due to demand."


Image supplied.

Image supplied.


"The typical gym environment is four walls and some stationary equipment," Ashley says, "and stepping into a gym can feel like walking into an office, so for us, the design of the gym and the type of equipment and classes we can offer to our members was our number one priority."

"We care about how everything looks and feels, because if the person is in the right mindset when they're in the gym, they're probably going to come back, and if they come back, they're probably going to get results."

Ashley enlisted the help of creative agencies and interior designer James Treble to make the gym a welcoming space, full of vibrant colour and graffiti. The design offers members a whole new experience at the gym, one that's far removed from any other they might have encountered.




"People grow up loving exercise and loving sport," Ashleys says, "exercise for adults... I don't know how it became so boring and serious". The idea at Fitness Playground is to take people out of the mindset that there's no fun in working out, and create a space for people to work out in that's different from a traditional gym.

At its heart, Fitness Playground is an adult playground. The main area of the gym is the 'playground zone' — filled with equipment like monkey bars, skill mills, climbing ropes, battle ropes and a 30-metre sprint and sled track.

At its inception, Ashley asked around to find out what people wanted out of a gym. Firstly, he found out, they wanted to get fit, but not in a traditional fashion. They wanted interesting equipment and lots of it — variety was key. Rather than treadmills, members wanted sprinting tracks. Instead of bar bells, they wanted tractor tyres. It's the need of the members that has driven the progress of the gym.



Image: Steve Woodburn


The classes on offer at Fitness Playground include gymnastics, aerial yoga, barre, and our personal favourite, a circus-inspired trapeze class. Another class, Athletica, is high-intensity, weights-based or circuit-based training taught by personal trainers. It's kind of the middle ground between a one-on-one session with a personal trainer and a group workout. Then there's the boxing studio, a mind body studio and zones for weights and cardio. It's a mix of traditional gym equipment and some newer, unique equipment that feels welcoming to everyone and is conducive to positive results.

The core of each location is its members ability to choose how they get their sweat on — whether that's by personal training, or one of the gym's meditative yoga and relaxation classes that take place in the peaceful, exposed brick studio. Chill is just as important as fun. "To be able to zen out for an hour once a week or twice a week… it's the perfect compliment to exercise."


If you're keen to check out Fitness Playground, head along to the Open Week exclusive to Concrete Playground readers or enter to win a one-year membership.

Images: Kimberley Low and Steve Woodburn.

Published on February 14, 2017 by James Whitton

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