Imagine a street lined with fitness studios. From MMA to CrossFit, Muay Thai to yoga. A host of healthy restaurants serving up protein packed foods, blue skies, palm trees and a swimming pool to cool off in at the end of a long hot day. Everything an avid gym-goer could possibly dream of in one place. The road is called Soi Ta-ied and it’s located in the Chalong district of Phuket, Thailand.
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In January 2017, I challenged myself to a month-long stint of grueling workouts at one of the gyms called Unit 27. It’s a strength and conditioning gym offering everything from intense circuit training to CrossFit.
Wow did it pay off. My fitness and strength levels went through the roof. By the fourth week I could do strict pull ups (something I’ve never been able to do), and hold a plank for more than five minutes! I was in the best shape of my life.
5 things I learnt at Unit 27
- It only takes 30 minutes of high intensity activity each day to see a real difference.
- If your body is saying stop, keep going. You’re capable of more than you think; but obviously don’t injure yourself.
- Forget expensive rehydration drinks, all you need to replenish lost electrolytes is coconut water and Himalayan pink salt.
- High five everyone after a workout, it’s a great feeling.
- I don’t care what you’re doing, just keep moving!
Everything you need to know about Unit 27
How long do I need?
I was amazed to see how many people had taken a month or two off work to focus on their training – I’m not sure my old boss would have allowed that! Whatever the length of time you have, you’ll find the energy on the street infectious. In my opinion, six weeks would be the perfect amount of time to kick-start your regime.
Do I already need to be fit?
As with any new workout, it helps to have a basic level of mobility. More than anything this helps protect against injury. However, rest assured there were people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels at Unit. Check out Unit’s Facebook feed to get a sense for yourself. Plus the trainers are excellent at scaling exercises to suit all abilities.
What is Unit 27 like?
It has two locations on Soi Ta-ied, one a warehouse-style building filled with training rigs, rowers, slam balls, climbing ropes etc, and the other, an air conditioned CrossFit box up on the hill.
The classes work on a token system i.e. one token equals one class. I think they worked out at around £8 per class if you bought in bulk. The classes are varied, everything from intensive circuits to gymnastics. My favourites were Tour de Unit – which is a mixture of spin and circuits, and Kalorie Killa – exactly as it sounds.
The mobile app is a great tool, allowing you to book classes in advance, as they do fill up. When you’re starting out, I’d recommend aiming for one class a day, five days a week – obviously depending on your fitness levels. The heat makes training far more challenging. Once you’ve acclimatised aim for two classes a day, plus maybe a spin class if you feel you want to max it out!
Unit is in the same family as a weights gym located in the center of Soi Ta-ied, called Primal Fitness. In the evening this place is crammed full of body builders. You can either pay per session or purchase an unlimited pass for a week/month.
Luckily temptation is sparse on the road.
Healthy eating habits are well catered for with a mix of local Thai food vs western-style muscle building foods. Even the traditional coconut stands sell protein shakes! Note that the health foods don’t come cheap and you’re looking at around £5-8 a meal.
I’d recommend bringing a few staples too, like porridge oats and nuts, as those items are hard to come by in the supermarkets.
A roundup of my favourite places to eat…
The Shack – muscle food at its finest. From protein shakes to healthy ‘snickers’ bars. This place has it all. Try the grilled chicken, spinach and sweet potato with a side of homemade satay sauce.
Tan’s – Possibly the best Thai I’ve tasted and it’s ridiculously cheap. I’m not sure if it’s officially called Tan’s, but Tan is the man behind the kitchen. It’s located opposite The Shack. Try the pad thai.
Muscle Bar – Part of the Unit 27 family, great for calorie counted meals. Excellent espresso. Give them a tip and hear them sing; trust me it’ll make you smile.
Pizzeria Trattoria – for those treat days this is a must. The pasta is homemade and the pizzas are cooked in a proper brick oven.
Tiger Muay Thai – have their own restaurant on site. All of the food is calorie counted and pretty decent.
Greze Greek Yoghurt – If you’re in search of homemade locally grown foods, this is the place to come. Expect healthy salads, chicken burgers and they sell homemade peanut butter.
Pure Vegan Heaven – Try the falafel wrap, yum!
What to do in your free time
With such an intensive training schedule, you’ll need to relax those muscles on your free days (most of the gyms are closed on Sunday).
Here’s a round-up of my favourite things to do…
- Hit the beach – unfortunately some of the beaches in Phuket have succumbed to mass tourism over the years. I’d avoid Karon and Kata, instead head to Nai Harn.
- Scale the mountain in search of the Big Budha. Tiger Muay Thai arranges weekly runs if you’re feeling fit.
- Watch professional Muay Thai fighters at a local stadium.
- Try local foods at Phuket Town Walking Street market.
- Walk in the footsteps of Leonardo Dicaprio by visiting The Memory at On On Hotel in Phuket Town, which featured in the The Beach.
- Restore tired muscles with a Thai massage. My favourite on the Soi Ta-ied was Sabai Sabai.
- Jump on a ferry to one of the nearby islands, the pristine waters of Railay Beach are just two hours away.
- Test your strength mountain climbing at Tonsai on Railay Beach.
- Enjoy a tasting tour at Chalong Bay Rum Distillery.
- Go for Sunday brunch at one of the local 5* hotels. Best way to spend a Sunday!
- Please please please avoid the elephant tours – calling themselves a sanctuary is not enough in my eyes. Do your research before you go.
Where to stay
Here’s my pick of the best accommodation on the Soi Ta-ied. If you’re planning on staying more than a few weeks, then do contact the hotel directly to discuss a discount.
Anchan Boutique Hotel – our pick for our month long stay. Spacious rooms with a small kitchen, perfect for making breakfast. Washing machine, balcony, flatscreen TV. Super clean and gigantic bed. Couldn’t have asked for more.
Cocoville – Bungalow style accommodation. An oasis away from the busy road. Two pools and a tasty restaurant on site (try the healthy pancakes, yum!).
The Blue Hotel – With a rooftop pool, this is the perfect spot if you want to get a tan.
Looking to explore more of Thailand? Have you considered a jungle trek in Chiang Rai – read more here. Or a visit to the island paradise of Koh Lipe (this is a guest post from the wonderful Tara Lets Anywhere).
Have you been to Soi Ta- ied? I’d love to hear your experience. Leave a comment below.