Inside Ho Chi Minh City's budget gyms
Venture into a small alley in District 3 and let the loud music guide you to "Complete Victory."
That's the English translation for Toan Thang, a 60-square-meter gym loaded with weights, benches, and power cages. People of all sorts of shapes and sizes can be seen there sweating their calories away, with the heat cooled down by a few fans in lieu of air conditioning.
Sitting sweaty on a bench, Phan Thi Thuy, 20, listens as her trainer shows how to do core exercise.
“Two months ago I dropped out of a quite fancy gym in District 1,” Thuy said. “I paid VND350,000 a month but lost zero weight. Then I found this gym, which is half the price and it actually helped me shake off 2 kilos in just a month.”
The university student prefers this low-cost gym for its friendly atmosphere. "It feels like a family," she said.
The "Toan Thang family" is made up of 200 members - students, drivers, office workers - all looking for a place to stay fit without having to spend a fortune.
As Vietnamese waistlines are growing, all the while air pollution is choking up the cities, indoor workouts have gradually become the necessity of a healthy urban life.
Luxury gyms are competing for a slice of the ever increasing fitness pie thanks to the rapidly growing middle class. But by cutting down on all that glitters and fancy add-on services, budget gyms in Ho Chi Minh City have been able to accomodate everybody else.
A decade after Tuyet Lan and her husband invested VND1 billion into Toan Thang, equipment included, Lan is confident it's been "one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”
“We have two fitness trainers, and are planning to expand the business. But it’s not easy to find a place we can afford,” Lan said.
Nguyen Quoc Dzung opened his gym, also in District 3, three years ago, only with an outlay of VND200 million.
“I think it's a part of modern life. Everyone wants to stay healthy,” Dzung told VnExpress International.
The gym owner and fitness professional trains his 150 members himself, which helps him cut down on costs.
Thanh Nguyen, Nhung Nguyen