The annual Health and Fitness Expo is hitting Sydney's Darling Harbour next month and, despite being my own industry, I'm a dollar-to-one going to miss the event.
It's full of tanned skin, toys I don't need, and bodies pumped full of fake gains. But mostly, it's because I envision the same protein and activewear sales they showed off last year.
Outside of this ticketed party, there's more happening in the health and fitness industry – much more.
So, I hit the pavement to find out what's new and cool in Australian fitness first hand.
For some pre-workout fuel, I trialled Staunch Koala Freak, a product from Australian Colum Von Moger, the colossal bodybuilder cast to play Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Mr. Olympia movie.
It didn't take long for Koala to kick in: my fingers tingled; my face tickled and itched as my heart raced. And I had energy, as 360 milligrams of caffeine (equal to six cups of instant coffee) pumped through my body. I was freakishly ready to smash out a session at the gym.
The "Cardio in Room A, Weights in Room B" gym model is becoming a thing of the past. Virgin Active has opened a new space down in Sydney's Barangaroo, showcasing Virgin's present and future strategy when it comes to fitness. Scott Hood (Virgin Active's Australian GM) wants Virgin's properties to feel "irresistible… cool, like you want to keep going to a stylish bar".
Their gameplan is based on global research teaming five elements – music, training programs, instructors, environment – with convenience. Three training rooms offer boutique classes (based on running, boxing, cross training, and spin) for up to 22 people.
It's also done way away with solo sessions - you're either in group classes or in the personal training studio. With cool amenities like scented towels, USB chargers in the lockers, free smoothies, and Dyson Blow Dry Bar (with a cheeky drink) for the ladies on Thursday and Friday nights.
Get the gear
Under Armour is a US powerhouse that's slowly yet firmly stepping into the Australian market. I laced up my first ever pair, and UA's latest HOVR running shoes are unique and pretty damn cool. Unbelievably light, pillow soft on impact, the "compression mesh Energy Web" grabs your foot and almost feels like you're not wearing shoes at all.
Here's a bold statement: The best workout gear in the world comes from New Zealand.
Yes. The Kiwis.
Jeremy Moon created Icebreaker 20 years ago and has grown a gem of a company that makes premium gear for the mountain and the gym. Made from merino wool, it hits your skin and it feels luscious. It's incredibly light and comfortable, and the fabric wicks away sweat and smell. Hang dry, and at three-to-four wears you'll need to think about a wash. Their fibre is natural, and their business is transparent – from farm to factory, Icebreaker is that rare, ethical brand.
At a small studio in Pyrmont, Sydney, you will find Technogym's The Personal Range. Whether on the treadmill, cross-trainer, cables (Kinesis Personal) or squat-bench rack, their gear feels clean, smooth, and most important, functional.
I'm not a huge fan of utilising machine weights, but Technogym does it right. Add that Italian style… and, you've got some lush equipment that's superb for indoor sessions.
From there, it was a quick Uber to Paddington to curl, squat, and lunge with AUSFIT's Torsion Bars. They are similar to a barbell, yet adaptable with varied weights and more functional to be used to complement bodyweight exercises, a spin class, or a trail run.
Creator Anthony Richardson is selling this Aussie piece of equipment around the world - even into The Pentagon and the largest Navy base in the world.
All in day's work
Looking back on a day's progress, I discover I've ran 44 flights of stairs, completed almost 20,000 steps (17.23kms), and exercised 2.5h hours while burning 1100 calories.
All this data is accessible from my Apple iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3. When I ditched my prepaid doorstopper and went Apple it was more than a tech upgrade. It was a progression towards having a workout companion that provides goal setting and accountability, a DJ that provides tunes for motivation, and an endless world of apps that aid workouts, food planning, sleep, meditation, and so much more.
And the greatest bonus – it's a legendary camera to take amazing snaps of our stunning Australian landscape during an outdoor run, walk, or hike.
Oiling the wheels
I'm old school and instinctively shun the lure of snake oil.
I'll always believe in the tech-free premise that fitness is lacing up the shoes in the sun for a jog / stair run then dropping for push ups, sit ups, and squats. I'm typically last in the queue for new toys, but I confess a few shiny things are nifty if the answer is 'yes" to:
Can I afford it? Will I use it with regularity? Will it aid in a healthier me?
They become more than toys, they become an investment in a healthier life.
Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.