Park Box, the self-proclaimed "leader in smart fitness cabin pioneering", is a collection of nifty mini-gyms inside pimped out shipping containers sprinkled in parks and squeezed between office buildings throughout the city. There are currently 10 of these in Shanghai and 23 in China with plans to grow to 300 by end of year. The selling point of Park Box is that you can bypass expensive gym memberships for a so practical, it’s shocking IKEA had nothing to do with it capsule complete with treadmills, free weights, a locker room, and TV — available all 24 hours of the day, for 10rmb an hour.
We went to one way out there in Pudong, nestled in a tiny park in the middle of an office complex. Check it out:
How it Works:
You can book through WeChat or download the Park Box app through their website. Then you provide your name and number, or if you’re a foreigner, your name and passport number, as well as a mug shot. There was about a six-hour wait time till I was confirmed, then I was able to book a box. The process was bit...aggravating — the app was glitchy — but finally got through via WeChat.
Important to note: It’s all in Chinese so you may need a friend to help in the initial registration process if your Chinese ain't so great.
Once confirmed you’re able to scroll through different gym options, listed in order of proximity to your current location. You can even view all on a map, but only through the app. You can book for two to six people at a time, but the number of people at your Park Box party is also dependent on its physical size, the one we checked out in Pudong was the biggest model at 38sqm and maxes out at 6 people.
The mirrors make it appear a bit bigger in the photo, but still pretty impressive
If you don’t pay the 99rmb annual fee, a one-hour visit costs 30rmb. (But you also get 30rmb of credit when you first download, so first one's free.) Another incentive: Park Box boasts offer a He Yue service — or “box dating” — that aims to matchmake gym buddies by connecting fellow fitness seekers and providing the box to connect in IRL … sounds a bit dicey. But, hey, they do have security cameras!
Imagine, maybe one day you'll be telling your kids how you met your S.O. in a shipping crate...
Not all boxes are created equal. Park Box claims it "ain't your mother's gym" (in so many words), here are the features listed on their site: intelligent coaching with an artificial fitness coach, a wireless screen, cycling with riding scene simulation, PM2.5 fresh air purification system, a heating and cooling system, and 24-hour security monitoring.
So will Park Box head the revolution to tear down fitness fascists who think slim bodies are for the one percent?
You know, it just might...
It’s suuuuuper cute. Looks like it could be featured on Tiny House, Big Living: Gym Edition. You get in by entering a code at the door you receive upon booking, it's the closest I've ever felt to getting into the safe house from Spy Kids (you know what I'm talking about). Every corner of the space is utilized, there’s a bike and three treadmills to the right, a tiny dressing room with lockers straight ahead, and a room with free weights, weight machines, and a flat screen TV to the left.
A few panels of the container have been swapped for windows, opening up the space and revealing nice views of a neighboring pond. It's sharply designed, with warm wooden panels, mirrors, and smartly placed equipment, all well-kept and clean. When we stroll up, the box is at capacity with four others people already working out. It’s tight but not overly cramped. One of the guys lifting said he’s been working out here for almost a year. His office is close by, and he was super jazzed about the ease and convenience of it all.
This is the ‘virtual bike ride’ the screen didn't work... but the peripheral view of the pond was chill
Turns out there’s a whole pinterest page dedicated to gyms in shipping containers but Park Box (if included) would be the coolest on the list. It’s super nifty, though the tech-things didn’t really work. The ‘virtual bike ride’ was just a screen in from of the bike that didn’t turn on, there was a QR code on the flatscreen but when I scanned nothing happened. I couldn't find the artificial fitness coach. Also you gotta bring your own towels, water, and plan a shower strategy — but yeah, for a gym in a box, it's killing it. And it probably won't been too long before there's one near you.
Since opening up in March, Park Box claims to have gained 10,000 users and they've set a goal to open 1,000 mini gyms in total across China. Right now, most of the big ones seem a little out of way, but there are smaller ones closer to the city center. Check their app or WeChat for the one closest to you.
Experience the Capsule
Download the app straight from their website to sign up, and if that doesn't work turn to WeChat. During this process you may want to frustrate-eat a Magnum bar, but once you get registered it's smooth sailing, and the gym ends up being worth the hassle.
Add them on WeChat to keep up with all the boxy news, ID: iloveparkbox.