The Business Times by TAY SUAN CHIANG

Going to the gym can be an intimidating affair, especially when you are shy or a newbie, and there are burly men huffing and lifting heavy weights beside you.

Self-confessed skinny introvert Damian Chow understands that feeling. "I didn't like public gyms - the crowd made me feel self-conscious. But regular exercise is important to me as it helps to increase my productivity and creativity at work. I started with home workouts but was greatly limited by the lack of equipment and space at home."

His ideal gym would be one that gives him privacy, certainty of space, adequate equipment, as well as the convenience of being located near his home or workplace. After doing some research, he came up with the idea of converting shipping containers to fully automated smart gyms.

Mr Chow reached out to his pals, fitness enthusiast Gerald Tan, and tech geek Lucius Andi to help in developing The Gym Pod.

It's located at Launchpad@One North at Ayer Rajah Crescent, mainly because they wanted to be near startup companies, whose staff may not have a big budget to spend on gym membership and work irregular hours.

"Most industrial parks are not served by traditional gyms and lack many amenities compared to commercial developments," says Mr Chow. "The Gym Pod aims to provide a low-cost and low-maintenance solution for industrial parks to feature their very own fully-equipped gym."

Inside the bright yellow 20-foot shipping container, there is a treadmill for cardiovascular exercises, dumbbells weighing one to 20kg, and a multifunctional weight machine for strength training. Other equipment include an adjustable bench, a yoga mat and a resistance band.

Mr Chow explains that versatility is the key consideration in choosing the equipment. "Gym Podders will be able to achieve a wide variety of fitness goals, from losing weight to gaining muscle mass, regardless of whether they are a beginner or an advance user," he adds.

The Gym Pod charges S$7 an hour per person, and users book their preferred time slot on the website or on the soon to be launched mobile app.

A maximum of three people can use the gym at any one time. Blinds in the glass-enclosed Pod provide privacy. Users are given a pin number to unlock the door. The air conditioning and lights are automatically switched on during a booked session and power down when time is up.

Even though the Pod is unmanned, Mr Chow assures that the gym is cleaned regularly and the equipment is well-maintained. The Gym Pod is also equipped with an automated odour control air sanitiser unit and an anti-bacterial spray for Gym Podders to use. The Gym Pod is monitored 24/7 via CCTV to keep users safe.

Since its launch in early June, over 120 people have signed up to be members. Busy periods are in the morning from 8am to 10am, during lunch time and in the evening from 6pm to 9pm. Mr Chow says there are occasional bookings from 11pm to midnight, and even as early as 5am.

He says that Singaporeans can expect more Gym Pods to pop up soon. "We are in talks with some industrial parks as well as a handful of town councils to make it more accessible and convenient to our users."