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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Keeping Phnom Penh fit

Alexandre Vessella, gym manager at The Place. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Alexandre Vessella, gym manager at The Place. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Keeping Phnom Penh fit

As Phnom Penh becomes increasingly urbanised and more people work in white collar jobs, maintaining or improving physical fitness has become important to a growing number of residents. Finding a convenient time and place to exercise is easier said than done, unless one joins a gym or fitness centre.

The Post spoke with Alexandre Vessella, gym manager at high-end fitness centre The Place, to learn more about fitness trends in the capital.

Post: How have attitudes toward physical fitness in Phnom Penh changed in recent years?
Vessella: The recent years have seen a massive change in attitudes towards fitness in Phnom Penh. A few years ago fitness was seen by a large part of the population as only a few sessions of cardio, but now we have seen a big change in the approach to fitness training. We have customers who come more regularly varying their programmes by using weights and dumbbells. They also pay more attention to their diet as well. One of the biggest changes this year is the increase in the number of youths between 16 and 25 enrolled with us.

What advantages does a gym or fitness centre offer a busy professional?
I think that one of the big advantages that a gym can provide a businessman or businesswoman with a busy schedule is a certain degree of freedom. Unlike a team sport, when you are enrolled in a gym you are free to come and do your workout when your schedule allows. At The Place, for example, we are open from 6am to 10pm Monday through Friday and from 6am to 9pm on Saturday and Sunday with aerobics courses throughout the day.

What kinds of people make up your clientele?
We are proud to say that we have almost 50% Khmer and 50% expats. Our Cambodian clients are mainly composed of the higher echelons of society: businessmen, bankers and employees of different ministries or the army. As for our expat clients, most of them are in long-term contracts in Cambodia working for NGOs or embassies.

What are the benefits of personal training?
The benefit of working with a personal trainer is that it is one of the fastest, easiest, most successful ways to improve your health and fitness. Personal trainers can help you improve your overall fitness, reach or maintain a healthy weight, encourage perseverance, demonstrate proper and efficient ways to work out, and teach new skills. Perhaps most importantly, a personal trainer can help you take charge of your fitness programme and do it your way.

What makes The Place a 5-star fitness club?
There are many reasons. Let’s start first with the quality of the equipment. The Place is fully equipped by Technogym, the best sports equipment brand on the market from Italy. All this equipment is present in large numbers, which ensures our customers never have to wait to use the equipment that they desire. We have a beautiful 25-metre swimming pool and an extremely quiet environment, even though we are in the centre of Phnom Penh.

We also have the largest selection of aerobics classes in Phnom Penh, with more than 50 classes per week all included in the membership. We have highly qualified local gym instructors as well as yoga teachers from India and trainers from Europe or the US for group lessons too. Cleanliness and hygiene are also extremely important for us to ensure the comfort and wellbeing to our customers.

Finally, there is customer service which is very important for us to ensure that we are always listening to our clients and responding to their needs.

How has the clientele of The Place changed in the past five years?
Far more Khmer women and youth have enrolled with us.

What is the biggest challenge in running a high-end fitness centre in Phnom Penh?
The biggest challenge is to find and train the best team. As you know there are no sporting institutes here, it is therefore difficult to find qualified staff for personal training or aerobics teachers. With regard to group lessons, we are usually obliged to hire expats for high-quality classes. Fitness in Cambodia is exploding with great job opportunities so I hope that more and more young Cambodians will join us in this wonderful industry.

What is most rewarding about what you do?
What is the most rewarding for me and I think for anyone who works in this industry is to bring wellbeing to our customers and help them accomplish their goals. Once you have succeeded in that you have people in front of you who are happier, more confident and generally have a glow about them. I think you can actually help change the life of a person through this work.

What makes a membership at The Place an ideal holiday gift?
Well, access to one of the best fitness centres in Asia, friendly atmosphere, the opportunity to make friends or business contacts, and I think that someone who feels good about their body is someone who will feel better mentally and from that moment everything is possible in life.

The Place is located at 11 Pasteur Street (Street 51) and can be reached at 023 999 799. To learn more about its facilities and services, please visit



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