For anyone who’s ever wondered what kinds of shady, tawdry, underground, Fight Club–style shenanigans go down at a 24-hour gym when no one’s watching, well… we watched, we waited and here’s what we saw.
To do this very ~journalistic~ thing, we stayed up overnight at an Anytime Fitness in Sydney’s inner-city: conversed with the patrons and observed their general movements in a completely non-creepy way.
What we would uncover, who we would meet, we did not know, but we were keen.
Our long night starts at a Coles where I’m picking up some food and drink for the road…
9.38PM – The night is young when I arrive. I try not to look completely suspicious with my bags of apples, bananas, water and Mother. I do quick headcount:18 and then stuff all my gear into one of the lockers and try to blend in.
Here’s a layout of the gym. I note the exit points.
9.45PM – I take a seat on the recumbent bike, which I’ve decided is the least intensive machine. Nothing particularly noteworthy to report except that the night crowd is chill about people hanging out on the machinery and playing on their phones. Which is me and four other people right now. (Headcount: 9.)
10.24PM – Just a few minutes ago a less jacked version of Joe Manganiello walked into the room in black trackies, a black hoodie, and short trench coat. He was also carrying an umbrella, so sort of like this:
Okay, nothing like this.
I’m not sure where he’s gone now, but it just occurred to me this guy – and really anyone coming in this late – might be an assassin. Think about it.
10.33PM – Jack Johnson’s blonde doppelgänger just walked in wearing boardies, thongs and a massive towel over his neck like he wandered off Coogee. How seriously bizarre. (Headcount: 10.)
11.15PM – Our handsome assassin re-emerges. He’s in a t-shirt doing some casual weightlifting and constantly checking his phone, perhaps waiting for his next *job*. After some eavesdropping, I realise he’s only here because he’s waiting to meet up with his mates (oops). No assassinating tonight.
11.30PM – I take my first food break and someone asks me if I’m a trainer, which is just too good not to mention here; humblebragdotcom. Another guy shows up with maccas and sits opposite me, and I’m all like:
Gavin is his name and he’s a chef (not at Maccas). He’s just knocked off work, which is why he’s gorging down this quickie meal he picked up along the way. I ask him how he has the motivation to come in after work, let alone so late at night. “I want to lose weight so I don’t look so sad under my eyes,” he replies. Fair e’nuff.
12AM – It’s morning and there are 4 people left. This should be over pretty quickly, I think to myself.
12.30AM – Dafuq? 2 more people come in: Ranga and Indian Nicholas Hoult. Do people not sleep?
1.04AM – I’m ~kween~ of the ellipticals because anyone coming in past midnight goes straight for weights. I also take this time to try the steps machine, which I do for exactly three minutes. Then, I plonk myself down on the rowing machine and listen to Beyonce’s self titled album Beyonce.
1.13AM – A few songs in and I realise there’s only two people left: a guy in a ‘seal team’ sweater, and another guy in blue. I approach ‘seal team’ sweater guy. His name is Sam and he’s a security guard who comes in during his lunch break. He’s on his way out and heads into the change room to suit up.
1.15AM – I approach the blue shirt guy, Abhi and he tells me he’s a chef. He’s all like, “If I came before work, I’d worry about rushing to work and my mind is clear now. I’m also too lazy to wake up in the morning and finish work quite early – at 12.30AM – so it’s easier to come in then because it’s on my way home…I also like coming in [at night] because you don’t have to fight for machines.”
I ask if anyone comes in after him. “No, I’m usually the last person here. The cleaner comes at 1.30AM though.”
1.30AM – True to his word, the cleaner shows up at 1.30AM and says hi to Abhi.
2am – should start rationing.
2.14AM – I’ve been promised me a photo op, so now I’m just waiting for Abhi to finish up. Anytime now…
2.30AM – He’s still going, the man’s a machine aaaaand I’m running out of food.
2.31AM – An observation: the gym smells like talcum powder and testosterone but is quite cosy. It’s like a giant living room and not as all as scary as I’d anticipated.
2.40AM – Some mildly inebriated suit just came rollin’ in. Just to illustrate how buzzed he was, he didn’t even notice me sitting at the entrance. I didn’t manage to catch his name but I did manage to get an explanation. He leaves his bag here sometimes before hitting the town and comes back to pick it up. It’s Thursday – technically, Friday – so he’s got a few hours to freshen up before work. He leaves grinning ear to ear.
3am – taking photos of strangers.
2.56AM – Abhi is a good sport and lets me take his photo, then leaves, and now I’m finally, officially alone. I take this opportunity to go full pap on the gym – snapping photos, checking the toilets, peeping through windows, inspecting dusty corners, looking into the bins, gathering intel etc. etc. Everything seems above board.
The empty gym.
Not actually scary. Actually quite cosy.
4.15AM – A man shows up and I literally have no idea where he came from. WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, MAN? Did I nod off? A split second later a woman comes out of the change room. *Internally freaking out*.
4.23AM – Crisis averted. They’re just here to vacuum and mop, but they’re wearing fitness-y type clothes so you can understand my confusion.
4.30AM – The morning crowd start coming in. A few at first, then in pairs. Gym buddies, all of them. I introduce myself to the club’s Personal Trainer, Kristy, who’s the first to arrive. Being awake for this many consecutive hours makes me slur my speech, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
4.25AM – Comparing the night crowd and the morning crowd is like comparing NRL and AFL players. Or, construction guys and chefs.
4.45AM – A stocky man with shoulders broader than the horizon and kind eyes is shaking up a protein shake next to me. His name is Karl, and I spot a Dora The Explorer towel on his arm. D’awwwww. He says a lot of the guys that come in this early all work together on a nearby site. I probe him about the early starts. “Morning training is hard, and it takes the body some time to adjust to it – but a lot of us are dads here, so [coming in the morning] doesn’t cut into our family time.” Sweet, sweet man, you are. I tell him that’s pretty impressive since his day job is a workout in itself. Karl chuckles and modestly dismisses all compliments. I love this dude.
5.30AM – Once Karl’s deep into his workout, I approach him cautiously and he’s the coolest because he invites me to take as many pictures as I need and introduces me to his construction mates, who could probably lift me with their pinkies. Then, I’m done. I grab my stuff and I’m all like, peace out, gymbos – good for you, not for me. (Headcount: 11.)
Special thanks to Anytime Fitness Sydney for letting me hang out there all night. Cheers!
Photo: Getty / Fotog.