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Fitness Roadtest: Fernwood Fitness Woden

Amanda Whitley

Fernwood Fitness hardly needs an introduction – this women’s only health club has been around for a long time – nearly 25 years in fact. Today, with health and fitness clubs all around Australia, Fernwood is the largest organisation of its kind with over 68,000 members.

I’ve been a member of several different Fernwood clubs since moving to Canberra in 1999 and have always enjoyed the way it is geared specifically to a female client base. After all, there are some things that women appreciate in their gyms perhaps more than men:  choice when it comes to group fitness classes; up-to-date equipment; supportive and motivational personal trainers; and, of course, somewhere to put yourself ‘back together’ after working hard. Preferably with complimentary toiletries, hairdryers and straighteners, so you don’t have to lug the contents of your bathroom to the gym with you.


Until recently, I was a member of Fernwood Woden – only ceasing my membership because my workplace wasn’t a three-minute walk away anymore. Which is a real bummer, because I really rate the club. And I have a thing for pink.

I joined because I wanted a gym that offered me everything in one place. I wanted to be able to do Zumba for fun (when you’re an instructor, it’s nice to be able to attend someone else’s class simply to have fun and not have to worry about remembering the choreography); I wanted access to cardio machines and weights; I wanted a PT and someone who could give me advice on food and nutrition; and I wanted child minding facilities.  I’ll admit the beauty salon was also an added bonus.


Most importantly for me, though, was that – although the gym occupies a fairly large space – it has a ‘small gym’ feel, and you soon get to know other members and the instructors well.  I like to feel a sense of community and camaraderie when I exercise, and Fernwood Woden likes to engender that through regular group challenges and events.

So, I was going into this ‘roadtest’ knowing quite a bit about the gym. But there was one thing I hadn’t tried – Power Plate.  Power what? If you haven’t heard of it, Power Plate is a machine that features a large vibrating ‘plate’ that you can stand, sit or lie on. This plate vibrates in three different directions, and these tiny movements cause the body to be put off balance. To correct this imbalance, the muscles unconsciously make very rapid reflex contractions so that they are almost continuously contracted.


As training on a Power Plate machine is so extremely effective, the time spent exercising is reduced to around 25 – 30 minutes. Make no mistake though – it’s still hard work! I joined Terese at a 30 minute class to see what it was all about…I’ll admit I was sceptical. Surely it was right up there with the ‘ab-master pro’ – the basic rule of exercise is that you have to move it, to lose it, after all. Isn’t it? But these machines retail for around $20K each, so you can’t pick one of these babies up on late night infomercials.

The classes are small – a maximum of four to a class.  We started with a warm up and I got my first taste of the machine – Terese warns me that I’d feel a vibration in my head, but the lower I kept my upper body, the less I would feel it. It’s an odd sensation – standing completely upright is definitely teeth-jarring, but once I got the knack, and learned to stay in a half-squat, the vibration was nothing more than a not-unpleasant buzz.

We did kettle bell work, squats, lunges, and finished with a rather pleasurable massage. At the end of 30 minutes, my legs felt like I’d done a Pump class. The next day, my muscles were saying ‘what the heck was that?’ My brain might have known I’d done just one 30 minute session, but my body was certain there’d been some kind of trickery going on.

It’s apparently a common experience. Even Terese, my instructor, admitted she went into her training with a healthy degree of scepticism. As someone who holds an Australian powerlifting title, she was used to lifting heavy weights to get results…but she told me that the day after her first session, she felt as if she’d lifted. And when she injured her knee and could no longer lift the way she used to, she turned to Power Plate for results.

I liked it. The vibration takes a bit of getting used to, but the post-exercise muscle soreness speaks volumes for the workout. And for a time poor person, the thought of getting my exercise in just 30 minutes is almost irresistible!

So, the bottom line. If you are looking for a health club that is inclusive, female-focused, but isn’t a ‘soft option’ when it comes to taking your fitness and nutrition seriously, Fernwood Woden should be on your list. But don’t just take my word for it – try it for yourself!

the essentials

What: Fernwood Woden
When: 5:30am-8pm Monday to Thursday; 5:30am-7pm Friday; 8am-1pm & 3-6pm Saturday; 9am-12noon & 3-6pm Sunday.
Where: 2/21 Bowes Street, Phillip. It can be a little tricky to find the first time, but it’s nestled beside the Westfield Shopping Centre in the Cosmopolitan Building on the ground level, right next to the Woden Bus Interchange.
Phone: 02 6281 7199
Email: [email protected]


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

  • Hi Amanda,
    Loved your post as I am a power plate junkie myself and will be in need of a fix when I move back to Canberra in the next few months. Do you know if there are any other gyms in Canberra that have them?

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