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In Singapore, The Rise of Co-Wellness Spaces

By Joie Goh

The lobby of Core Collective’s wellness wing has a small collection of workout apparatus meant for chiropractors and sports therapists to guide their clients with.
 
CORE COLLECTIVE
The lobby of Core Collective’s wellness wing has a small collection of workout apparatus meant for chiropractors and sports therapists to guide their clients with.

For several weeks, what appeared to be an exceptionally large fitness studio with massive glass walls, was being constructed on the ground floor of an imposing Art Deco office building on Anson Road, arguably the aorta of Singapore’s CBD (Central Business District) area.

Eventually, as the construction tape was taken down outside
and silk hammocks for aerial yoga were put up inside, it was
 revealed that the airy space was merely the tip of the iceberg 
that is Core Collective — the city’s latest and most ambitious co-wellness workspace. Apart from the ground floor aerial yoga studio and workshop space, Core Collective also spans the entire 21st and 22nd floors of the building, and houses all the equipment of a gym, boxing arena, dance, Pilates and yoga studio, as well as apparatuses for chiropractic and sports therapy.

“We’re not a gym, or a medical centre,” says founder Michelle Yong. A property developer by trade, Yong is also the director of Aurum Land and co-founder of Collision 8, a co-working space and entrepreneurial community that opened in 2016. “Rather, Core Collective is a collaborative fitness and wellness centre that facilitates cross-sharing of knowledge within a curated environment.” Think of it as co-working for the fitness start-up: instead of hot desks and workspaces for the up-and-coming business owner, it’s dumbbells and Pilates reformers for the wannabe instructors and trainers, and private treatment rooms and massage beds for the budding therapists.

CORE COLLECTIVEA fully fitted gym with the latest machines for personal trainers to instruct their private clients.
A fully fitted gym with the latest machines for personal trainers to instruct their private clients.

“The concept of a co-working space for fitness and wellness practitioners first struck when we had heard some of the industry’s pain points faced by our boxing coach and osteopath, who were dissatisfied with the conventional revenue sharing model where 50 to 70 per cent of the revenue earned by the professional is passed on to the gym or clinic,” explains Yong. “In addition, they yearned for greater control and autonomy in the way they train and treat their clients and patients, instead of the emphasis placed on aggressive sales. The idea behind Core Collective is to make it easier for such professionals to transition into entrepreneurship by lowering the traditional barriers of entry like high capital costs and long leases.”

However, according to Yong, that idea had seemed “too ahead of its time” when she first conceived it and could not find enough internal support to develop it further, which led to the creation of Collision 8. The experience of building a co-working space thus laid the groundwork for her original plan.

CORE COLLECTIVEThe fitness wing boasts a boxing arena and artificial turf for “outdoor” boot camps.
The fitness wing boasts a boxing arena and artificial turf for “outdoor” boot camps.

While Core Collective might be the largest co-wellness space in the city, it isn’t the first. Two years ago, online fitness subscription service GuavaPass launched the first co-wellness concept, GuavaLabs. It was originally located in Mandarin Gallery, but then it moved a year later to an expanded venue in the basement of Downtown Gallery in the CBD area. The 4,000-square-foot hybrid studio, complete with juice bar and laundry services, was initially meant solely as a co-wellness space for trainers who require a space and equipment to host group classes on a rental basis and was set up as such; however, the popularity of Still, a fitness company 
that offers yoga, boxing and high-intensity interval training on the premises, had largely taken over the space, becoming the permanent home for the company.

CORE COLLECTIVEAn example of the many therapy offices that wellness practitioners can rent from Core Collective.
An example of the many therapy offices that wellness practitioners can rent from Core Collective.

“However, GuavaLabs is still available for rent and subleasing for anyone who requires the space during the off-peak hours when Still isn’t utilising the facilities,” says Emma Harris, vice president at GuavaPass. “We’re still Singapore’s first co-wellness space.”

Instructors, who need not be signed on part- or full-time with a studio or gym, will also have the option to tap into GuavaPass’s 60,000-strong membership network to gain exposure, which is especially helpful for newcomers in the industry seeking to build clientele.

On the other hand, fitness and wellness residents at Core Collective can list their classes and services for booking on the MindBody app, an online directory of exercise classes and therapeutic and beauty businesses. These residents, amongst others, include chiropractor Dr Kevin Tomassini, nutritionist Caoimhe Smyth, calisthenics instructor Muhd Noor Haazique, boxing trainer (and former champion) Reynaldo Caitom Jr and classical ballerina Evelyn Wong, who teaches adult ballet and stretch classes.

GUAVALABSA combination barre studio with TRX suspension ropes.
A combination barre studio with TRX suspension ropes.

“I always wanted to have a practice in a multidisciplinary wellness and fitness centre,” says Dr Tomassini, a Puerto Rican-American transplant who used to run a practice that was part of a chiropractic centre in the CBD area, and now helms his own clinic at Core Collective called Spine and Performance. “For new practitioners, there is a high cost of entry because of buildout and equipment costs. Core Collective presented a great opportunity for me to have my desired space, with great facilities and equipment at a reasonable cost.”

Dublin native Smyth, who runs nutrition consultancy Fit Green Lean, moved her base of operations from Collision 8 to Core Collective, cites the versatility of the space as her key motivation. “While the majority of my consultations are based in a sit-down setting, I also guide a number of my clients on their fitness,” she says. “Having the ability to utilise the purpose-designed and super stylish consultation rooms in addition to having the option to train clients upstairs on the 22nd floor offers the most streamlined facilities I could ask for.”

GUAVALABSThe functional fitness room with all the props needed for high intensity training.
The functional fitness room with all the props needed for high intensity training.

In addition, she finds the ground floor events space adjacent to the aerial yoga perfect for the workshops that she runs. “There are great options on all three levels of Core Collective, so whether I want to run a talk with great visibility to the public on the street level, a hands-on workshop in one of the smaller consultation rooms or a collaborative session with a physiotherapist or personal trainer, I have all the facilities I need under one roof,” she adds.

While being in close quarters with industry fellows might mean extra competition, most of the residents find that a boon, not a drawback. “We believe a bit of competition is healthy,” says Haazique of Startstation, formerly an outdoor-based calisthenics course now conducted in the artificial turf portion of Core Collective’s fitness wing. “It keeps us on our edge and constantly think of ways of improving and serving our clients better. However, we don’t see the wide range of fitness services that Core Collective offers as competition; in fact, it’s actually an advantage for us, providing an opportunity for our clients to have a holistic approach to fitness.”

GUAVALABSGuavaLabs offers four fitness spaces for sub- leasing, and benefits include showers, a juice bar and locker rooms.
GuavaLabs offers four fitness spaces for sub- leasing, and benefits include showers, a juice bar and locker rooms.

“I have access to other professionals, which allows me to collaborate and cross-refer in order to provide my patients with the best care possible,” says Dr Tomassini. Smyth agrees, adding that the benefit of working along-side such an “interesting and varied group of health and wellness practitioners” is the endless opportunities for shared learning and collaborations.

GUAVALABSChoices include a mat studio for yoga and Pilates.
Choices include a mat studio for yoga and Pilates.

While 2016 saw a boom in boutique fitness choices across the city and 2017 saw its continued growth and expansion, perhaps it’s the launch of Core Collective that cements personal fitness and wellness as a lifestyle, and not merely a trend. “Since moving here almost three years ago, I’ve seen the health and wellness industry grow substantially,” says Smyth. “It’s at a really exciting stage now, when you consider the growing level of engagement from the public in their own health and wellness, combined with the steadily growing market for health-focused businesses to thrive.

“I think it’s a combination of the exposure to health messaging in the general media, the popularity of fitness influencers, and the increased availability of exercise classes, boot camps and online fitness programmes,” she continues. “Taking care of your health and fitness is now a sexy pursuit, rather than the guilt-ridden activity it was before.”

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