Sunday 21 July 2019

First Look: 'We want to make rock stars out of our instructors' - €2m New York-style boutique gym opens in Dublin

Perpetua gym opens on Monday in Dublin's Windmill quarter
Perpetua gym opens on Monday in Dublin's Windmill quarter
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Two Dublin brothers who introduced Crossfit to Ireland are opening a €2m boutique gym in Dublin next week.

Michael Price, an ex-professional rugby player who in his heydey at Blackrock College kept a young Brian O’Driscoll benched, and his brother David, say the Irish gym scene is dominated by budget gyms - and very little teaching about fitness integrity.

The pair started Crossfit – a strength and conditioning program which began in California and soon attracted a cult following – in Ireland in 2007.

“I think most people are physically broken, including myself,” Michael tells before New York-style Perpetua opens its doors. “Over time, the wear and tear, the lack of attention to fitness, the lack of knowledge on how to keep fit - people end up in a bit of a hole later in life... That’s why the education part of the business is so important.”

“Currently on the market, the main player is budget gyms. €20 to €30 a month. You show up whenever you like (‘but we’d prefer if you didn’t show up’), turnstile, there’s no experience whatsoever.”

"They’re not a lifestyle enhancer... But I also feel that half the people in these budget gyms would leave these gyms if there were other options that tied in with their job, the lifestyle they live, the aspirations they have. There is nothing on the market that they’d walk into and be inspired.”

Michael, who played professionally with Bath, Pontypridd and Leinster rugby, has toured gyms in the United States like Barry’s Bootcamp, Soul Cycle and boutique gyms which give fitness instructors a platform to become "superstars".

“What we want to find is great personalities who love people... They’re nearly DJs,” Michael says. “They’re up on a stage, they’ve got tunes going, they’ve got a whole lighting thing that they can do, so they can really own [the class].”

“That’s what makes great instructors, they just love to perform and entertain people, and that’s what Soul Cycle did. They made rock stars out of people."

"We want to make them famous. We’ve taken them to London which is the closest location we can get to instructors at the level that we have ambitions to achieve... when you go to the American market, the instructors go up another notch. But Americans are Americans you know, it’s just the land of positivity and it’s just the way they bring it and they understand service.”

“It’s trying to show these instructors what that looks like, and if that means more trips to America, that’s what we’ll do.”

Perpetua’s sweat studio is kitted out with Techno gym skill runs, a treadmill used by Olympic bodies; boxing bags filled with water; and Perpetua is the second gym in the world to use torpedo - a cross between a barbell, a kettlebell and a dumbbell.

“I think they’re probably the best piece of gym equipment to be invented in the last 50 years,” Michael says as he lifts a five kilogram torpedo to demonstrate how holding one, even a novice won’t get their position and movement wrong, the design is so good.

Gym membership starts at €99 per month; Crossfit membership starts from €199 per month, while a pay-as-you-go option starts at €20 for classes.

Perpetua-branded Lululemon gear hangs in reception, the “ride” studio is kitted out with top of the range bikes, and there’s a physiotherapy room, and a treatment room for massage therapy and accupuncture.

“The equipment we chose to put in [in the gym area] is some of the more advanced equipment. We’ve thought about every piece we’ve put in and how is it relevant to this area... how does every piece in here affect the user?”

And naturally, the gym area has a designated Crossfit zone for the 325 Crossfit members that will come here.

“On the back of a rugby career I went to America to coach a team in San Diego," Michael says. "A lot of them were Navy seals and they’d just gotten into Crossfit. No one really wanted to touch Crossfit at the start.”

“I went down and they put me through a workout and I was hooked. I spent two years going around the States, learning Crossfit but also going to gyms that were getting recognised for doing a really good job. And then I moved up to Vancouver and took an internship with a guy who really understood the business.”

“In the final year I went to sit under Paddy was his name, and he told me about the business side of it. How to bring people in in the right way, nurture them, get them into class with confidence:’ don’t just throw them into the deep end and expect them to know how to swim because that’s what a lot of gyms do’.”

“It’s about integrity around how to introduce people to the gym: ‘stay with them on the journey, don’t just forget about them’.”

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