Stepping off the busy intersection of Chapel Street and Toorak Road and entering Melbourne’s newest gym, 1R, is like waking up from a bad dream. As a late riser, and someone unfamiliar with the area (and the parking situation), being on time for my 8am class was always going to be a challenge. But my cortisol levels simmer down when I enter the foyer, inside South Yarra’s Capitol Grand building, at 8.07am.
Designed by local firm Foolscap Studio (Chandon, Patricia, Sensory Lab), the first level is peaceful and light. I’m greeted by a 1R team member who checks me in and invites me to place an order at the coffee and smoothie bar (I go for a choc-peanut butter blend, but there’s also Allpress coffee).
Then I descend the stairs into a concrete jungle-like space starkly different to that of the refuge above. The moody neon lights, booming music and burnished concrete surfaces of the basement get my blood pumping and heart racing. I’m nervous – in a good way.
1R (previously known as 1Rebel) was founded in London by James Balfour, the son of Fitness First founder Mike Balfour, in 2015. The boutique gym was designed to give members the flexibility to pay as they train, instead of offering only traditional lock-in contracts.
Today, 1R has eight locations around the world, including in the UK and Saudi Arabia. But Melbourne’s studio will be the first in Australia – and the gym’s biggest yet – when it officially opens on February 20.
I visit ahead of the opening, while new trainers are undergoing a strict two-week bootcamp where their training style and performance are observed. And I’m lucky enough (though daunted) to try each of the gym’s classes in few very intimate sessions. Three rooms home to three distinct fitness concepts branch off the cavernous industrial hallway.
First up, Rumble. Before class, I’m fitted with boxing gloves and given some words of reassurance. Large teardrop punching bags hang from the ceiling, looking otherworldly. But I quickly snap back to reality when the music starts and the lights dim. Neon strip lighting flashes in time with the high-energy playlist curated by local DJs. It’s an explosive workout that covers punching technique, defence and footwork. When we’re warmed up (read: struggling to breathe) we peel off the gloves and hang them, ready to be deodorised and dried.
We move across the hall to the Reshape room. Inside, it’s a similar set-up to Barry’s Red Room, which I visited a few weeks prior. This session merges sprints and inclines on the treadmill with bodyweight and dumbbell moves on the floor. It’s fast-paced with little breathing room. But this is not my first rodeo (it’s my second).
Next door, it’s Reformer. I’ve dabbled in Pilates in the past but never like this. The HIIT-meets-reformer session combines strong, controlled movements with intense cardio bursts. It’s all burn, pulse and burn again.
Post-workout, the Repair room is an industrial sanctuary. With bright yellow accents, the space has an American locker-room feel – there’s polished-concrete floors, chain-link dividers and high-gloss surfaces. Showers are stocked with Grown Alchemist products, and at the mirrors you’ll find Dyson hair dryers and GHD straighteners – no need to BYO.
Plus, there’s a phone with a direct line to the coffee and smoothie bar so you can place an order while you’re sprucing up. (The bar also serves free prosecco every Friday night as part of the gym’s “Prosecco Friday” tradition.)
1R classes can be booked individually from $25, or there’s a pre-sale price of three for $30. Monthly memberships are also available from $160. Book online.
1R officially opens on Saturday February 20.
Shop 10 625 Chapel Street, South Yarra
(03) 9965 0830