I often come through Manila, even though it would be way down on my list of preferences of places to visit. In fact, this capital city of the Philippines is chaotic, insanely crowded, choked with pollution, and jammed with traffic – and that’s just on a good day! But, it’s also the major transportation hub in the country (as all capital cities are), with the city of Cebu being the only realistic alternative for connecting flights anywhere in the nation of 7,500 islands.
So, I find myself doing battle with Manila’s traffic, forking over the high prices I find here, and surviving the crazy nightlife at least once a month, on the way to more mellow islands, beaches, and destinations. I’ve established a little ritual of familiarity in Manila, including staying at the same damn hotel every single time (the Best Western Oxford) in the same neighborhood (Makati), and even frequenting the same restaurants and coffee shops.
One of the challenges when you’re in Manila as a traveler is finding a good place to exercise. Simply going for a run outside isn’t a realistic option, as you’ll die of exhaust inhalation before you get around the block. There are some other gyms around, but they can be spread out (more time sitting in traffic), too busy at peak hours, or even too expensive.
I usually just lift weights at the tiny but serviceable gym at the Best Western, but I’d heard rumors about a boxing gym in the same area, that was improbably located just over a bar. Today, for the first time (it only took me two years to find it!), I visited the Team Insiders Boxing Gym.
It is situated right over a raucous open-air English bar, where bald headed and wild-eyed Brits and soused and still-pale Irishman watch footy, rugby, and generally just get wasted every night. I guess there’s some affiliation to the gym, as the owner also has a simple hotel in the same complex.
Either way, I found my way up to the second-floor boxing gym without many expectations or high hopes. I was pleasantly surprised in most ways, as it has everything you need for an incredibly taxing boxing or martial arts workout. In the center of the floorplan is the ring, of course, and it’s nearly full-sized, perfect for some light sparring or shadowboxing.
There’s an open floor in front of it where people can jump rope, do their drills, or the chiseled trainers hold pads for the patrons.
On the other side is a small row of heavy bags, a rack of gloves, headgear, etc. (the gloves smell TERRIBLY and are actually dangerously unhygienic, so bring your own). The gym also has a side room with a few weight benches, sit-up benches, and dumbells.
But boxing and martial arts is the main draw, and you can either workout on your own, or pay for a trainer to put you through the motions.
I was impressed by the level of the muay thai training, in particular, and there were talented amateur fighters and enthusiasts from the U.S., Thailand, Korea, and plenty from the Philippines all sweating and training hard while I was there.
They also have a little locker room and bathrooms and sell all sorts of gloves, hand wraps, and other gear.
The downside is that this gym isn’t cheap – and costs a virtual fortune by Filipino standards. In fact, I was advised that the workout alone would run 290 Pesos – or just shy of $6. Renting hand wraps and gloves would be another $2, and if I wanted to rent a locker or buy a water or anything else, I’d easily be looking at a $10 workout session.
That may not seem like a lot if you’re in the U.S., but that’s probably comparable to a $25 workout in the states.
No worries, as it’s better to spend money on fitness and health than eating and drinking it away in the bars here! I also found the staff and trainers to be very friendly, helpful, and professional ….EXCEPT one.
And that one actually tried to hustle me (borderline scam me) for way more money. I’ll cover that grift in another review so you can be aware how these things happen. Despite that hassle, the gym is a good place to go sweat out your jetlag or beer from the night before.