Finding a gym was a challenge in Kyiv. Surprisingly, some fitness clubs only offer classes – without an option to work out by yourself. Others offer extensive facilities, like pools, but at a cost. I found the Fitness Life gym in Obolon a relatively affordable option for basic, independent exercises. Fitness Life is a chain of gyms located in the Obolon, Borschagovka, Solomenka, and Chernigovskaya areas of Kyiv. Oddly, the cost per month varies from location to location, with costs ranging from 490 to 799 UAH ($18-30) for standard memberships. Hour long one-on-one classes with personal trainers can be added for 80-280 UAH ($3-11) per class.
Some locations also offer student and business memberships at a discount. The cost for these ranges from 440 to 699 UAH ($16-$26). These plans, however, will mean that you can visit the gym only at certain hours. With my NovaMova schedule and commute from my homestay, I decided a standard membership was the best option for me because I like to work out at night. Student memberships might be a good option for the early birds who like to hit the gym in the morning. I was nervous about signing a page of terms and conditions all written in Ukrainian, afraid I was going to accidentally sign up for embedded fees or onerous terms. My worry was misplaced – gym memberships could only be purchased with cash, thus preventing any sort of hidden fees. Memberships were available in one, six, and twelve month increments. The staff were very patient with my lack of Ukrainian. I managed to sign up for a membership with a lot of pantomiming.
I went to the Obolon location, located on the third floor of a shopping center and a reasonable walking distance from the Heroiv Dniepro and Minska metro stations. If going to work out after normal business hours, circle around to the back of the building and climb a darkened staircase to access the gym.
The Obolon Fitness Life is relatively small compared to other gyms I’ve attended but has the essentials. They have a weight rack, a room with a large mat for doing yoga or abs, and a variety of machines (most of which I didn’t recognize). It is fairly small and can get a little cramped at peak times. My biggest complaint with the gym was that they only had two bikes, one elliptical, and two treadmills, so I frequently had to wait to do cardio. I usually run for 45 minutes to an hour on the treadmill and felt like I couldn’t do that with so few cardio machines available. I never had to wait to use the weights though, and people were generally very accommodating and polite.
Most of the clientele were male, but not to the exclusion of women and nonbinary people. In fact, Fitness Life has incentives for signing up your girlfriend to work out. Most of the women at the gym were with male significant others, which I found somewhat odd. Women seeking their own gym memberships are apparently much more likely to sign up for classes. As a female-appearing person doing weights and cardio, I occasionally got stares from men. Fortunately, this wasn’t a frequent enough phenomenon to make me uncomfortable, and people tended to be very accommodating when I asked to borrow weights or benches. It was weird being in a male dominated gym environment (especially after working out at my gym at a historically women’s college), but there were enough women there that I didn’t feel isolated or uncomfortable.
Overall, I liked Fitness Life. The staff were friendly and very patient with my inability to speak Ukrainian. The gym is relatively small but offers a more affordable option than larger gyms with more frills. Although I wished they had more cardio equipment, was still able to complete my workouts. For people living close to the Heroiv Dniepro or Minska metro stations, the Obolon Gym is a very convenient option with transparent and affordable pricing.