You do not want to come near me after I’ve done a spin class. The sweaty shell that walks out of each session feels energised and a bit smug, sure, but certainly not relaxed, rejuvenated, or looking like I’ve just left a day spa.
Ben Mills, the founder of Double Bay’s latest hub for spin classes (stationary bike workouts), The Shelter, doesn’t understand why pampering and hard work can’t go hand in hand.
After living in New York City for several years, and frequenting centres such as Soul Cycle (a highly choreographed spin-based class) and Higher Dose (an infrared sauna business), Mills wanted to bring the hybrid model to Australia.
Although spin is the only exercise classes The Shelter offers (four per day: two in the morning, two in the evening) it's not just an indoor bike workout gym. Visitors to the wellness centre – Mills’s preferred term for The Shelter – also have access to a traditional sauna, private infrared saunas, an ice bath, and a cafe and juice bar filled with native Australian plants.
“It’s a health club, gym and spa,” says Mills. “I wanted it to be all of the above. I wanted to create a space that resonated beyond wellness.”
It definitely doesn’t look like a normal spin gym. There are live cedars inside, a woodfire heater, a courtyard and plenty of light-coloured timber to make it seem more like a Scandinavian lodge. “The space actually used to be a house in the 1920s,” says Mills. “I wanted somewhere that was going to feel luxurious, like a modern-day spa, and that you could leave having worked out and had a smoothie, a coffee and an ice bath.”
To restore the building, Mills approached architect Anna Trefely of firm Esoterica with a brief to inject a sense of brightness, lots of Australian references (including a soothing natural colour palette and pastels) and to restore many of the “homely” elements of the former house.
Like most gyms these days, Mills has also dumped the traditional membership payment structure. “[At The Shelter] you buy packs and you turn up [for] a single session, or with a pack of 10 you can have a free sauna. We’ve developed our own app ... It’s a pretty seamless booking process,” he says.
A huge focus of The Shelter is mental health, with particular attention paid to men. “Unfortunately, I lost my two best friends because they didn’t really have a place or someone to reach out and speak to, so I’ve started working with a couple of big agencies … we’re going to do group classes for men and women,” he says.
“The Shelter by definition means a place of refuge, and while it’s luxurious, I also want it to be known as a place where people can come and feel safe.”
3 Goldman Lane, Double Bay
Mon to Fri 6am–9pm