Studio Society opens its doors

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What has 270 screens, air conditioning, and smells like pink grapefruit? If you answered Studio Society, then you’re absolutely right. Get ready to get your pump on, because our doors are open and our classes are filling up. And we’ve got a special offer opening price.

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We’ve built this fitness club on the belief that great training shouldn’t be reserved for the select few. We believe that the latest and greatest fitness technology should benefit everybody; that getting fit and staying fit should be accessible, enjoyable and – most of all – fun.

That’s why we use immersive training in our classes. Think surround screens, high-quality sound and a scent to match your workout. You see, when all of our senses are activated, our bodies are more responsive to exercise, which means you have a better time and enjoy faster results.

De-stress with calm classes like yoga and meditation, feel your pulse quicken with HIIT and Bodypump; cycle for all you’re worth on one of our high-tech bikes, or condition and tone with our series of Sculpt sessions. Choose virtual or real-life instructors, and choose your own schedule – we have classes running all through the day and evening.

Right now, we’re offering a special opening price of £26.95 a month. There’s no contract and you get unlimited access to all our classes, plus nutritional advice and progress tracking as well. Pop by for a tour, or check out the website for more information. We can’t wait to show you around!

https://studio-society.com

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Grab yourself a FREE yoga class at Yoga London Club

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YogaLondonClub_logo

Yoga London Club is West Hampstead’s brand new premier boutique yoga studio, situated in the heart of West Hampstead on Broadhurst Gardens. To celebrate the opening of the studio we’re offering all West Hampstead Life readers a FREE taster session during August* To try out a class for free just drop Matt an email to get your taster session booked in.

And there’s more good news from Yoga London Club, once you’ve had your free taster session you are then eligible for our fantastic intro offer of month-long unlimited yoga sessions for just £40.

Yoga London Club offers a wide range of yoga styles including Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga and beginners, taught by our amazing super-friendly team backed by a wealth of experience. The class timetable includes our unique Yoga Express classes, which are just 45 minutes long and ideal for those wanting a quick post-work or lunchtime stretch, with the longer XL evening and weekend classes for folk wanting a longer workout.

Inside the Yoga London Club studio on Broadhurst Gardens

Inside the Yoga London Club studio on Broadhurst Gardens

Each class at the Studio will have 12 spaces available to allow for a much more intimate yoga experience for the student. So whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned yoga pro, Yoga London Club will have the perfect session for you.

Yoga is fast becoming the go-to complete mind & body workout the world over. The practice helps to release both the physical and mental tightness and tension that have somehow become the default settings for human beings. In Yoga London Club’s classes, mind and body are balanced and a deep sense of peace and calm is created.

Yoga London Club founder, Matt Ryan

Yoga London Club founder, Matt Ryan

At Yoga London Club, we believe passionately that yoga is for everyone regardless of size, shape, age, sex or experience, and take pride in creating a welcoming environment for all.

Yoga London Club
192 Broadhurst Gardens,
West Hampstead,
London NW6 3AY
ku.oc1506003341.bulc1506003341nodno1506003341lagoy1506003341@ttam1506003341
http://yogalondonclub.co.uk/
*for first-time students of the studio only

Finishing line is in sight as Studio Society nears completion

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As 37 Fortune Green Road – aka Studio Society – nears the end of its 8-week build, this 8,000sqft empty space has been transformed into state-of-the-art group exercise studios. As the physical build draws to a close, the technicians are now taking control, installing multiple projectors and creating a floor-to-ceiling cinematic visual experience like you’ve never seen or experienced in fitness before.

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The changing rooms are already almost complete with both wet and dry change areas tiled and painted. Everything is sleek and simple to allow the highest efficiency in cleanliness. GHD hairdryers and mirrors surrounded by light bulbs help you feel like a superstar before you leave to start your day! The sheer size and finish from the moment you walk through the door is stunning to say the least and it is now clear that the focus of these studios has had the members’ experience at heart.

We are no ordinary health club. We strive for a harmony between physical exercise and sensory motivation. Our immersive fitness studios transport you to another world. One minute you step off the tube, the next, you’re in our studio, working out on a tropical Thai beach. Think of it as your calorie burning, muscle toning, cardio-vascular paradise. Floor-to-ceiling 360-degree video, cinematic Bose® surround-sound, synchronised lighting and even the scent of sunscreen and coconut filling the air. It’s an extraordinary fitness experience for individuals who want healthier bodies and happier minds. It’s where technology meets fitness meets your imagination – the perfect ying-and-yang of exercise and inspiration.

Studio Society
37 Fortune Green Road
West Hampstead
moc.y1506003341teico1506003341s-oid1506003341uts@o1506003341lleh1506003341
www.studio-society.com

State-of-the-art fitness studio opens in West Hampstead this July

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Forget everything you know about fitness studios – the revolution is coming – and the first in line can get a fantastic pre-opening offer.

For the team behind Studio Society, a brand new next-generation fitness studio, there was no other place to launch than West Hampstead which has a tendency to favour specialist boutique businesses.

Studio Society swaps the mundane for the extraordinary, tearing up the rulebook to bring an exciting twist to your fitness regime.

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Situated by the park on Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead’s new health club promises to take you to another place.

A world combining the latest sports science with immersive entertainment for an optimised, turbo-charged fitness experience.

It’s the perfect harmony of physical exercise and sensory motivation. The ultimate natural performance enhancer you didn’t know you needed.

Step off the tube and straight into a tropical beach for your workout. You’ll work harder than you ever thought possible, as floor-to-ceiling video and synchronised lighting consume your senses and drive you faster towards your goals.

Cinematic sound adds another dimension to the environment, the scent of sand and sea permeating the air takes you beyond captivation into another world.

This is more than just fitness. This is a new frontier.

Unleash your true competitive streak to compete with other cyclists at Spivi® using real-time performance technology.

Bring your A-game to one of the POWER classes and fire up your metabolism with high intensity, dynamic workouts.

Relax your body and your mind with a calm group fitness class – perfect for those who want to slow down the pace, stretch and rediscover their inner calm.

With over 100 live and 100 fully immersive classes per week – including favourites like Body Pump, HIIT, Body Combat, Yoga and Pilates, the path to a healthier you is made easy.

It’s where technology meets fitness meets your imagination. An extraordinary fitness experience exclusive to West Hampstead.

The studio opens its doors next month, and members who join now can take advantage of a limited pre-opening offer. For just £20/month you will have access to unlimited classes, pay no joining fee and not be signed into a contract. That’s 200 classes to choose from and an instant saving of over £50. There are limited places available at this price.

Sign up now to lead the revolution.

Studio Society
37 Fortune Green Road
West Hampstead
moc.y1506003341teico1506003341s-oid1506003341uts@o1506003341lleh1506003341
www.studio-society.com

Mobile hair & beauty provider swishes into West Hampstead

At this time of year, when it’s grey and freezing cold, any excuse to stay inside is a good one. We all indulge a little more in the convenience of just being at home – ordering a delivery from a favourite restaurant, doing a yoga class at home not the studio, or curling up on the sofa to watch a film instead of going to the cinema. And lucky for us, 2015 is set to be the year of the on-demand service – with start-ups offering everything from easy food delivery, to on-demand laundry pick-up and on-demand pet care.

One of the most exciting to come to West Hampstead is CitySwish, offering on-demand massage, beauty and hair, direct to your doorstep in as little as an hour’s notice. There’s no need to have any of the equipment or to have a large space available as CitySwish therapists can work anywhere from the kitchen table to a hallway! Book online and have someone show up with everything needed to relax, pamper, style you to perfection. And with a very simple pricing scheme (£60/hour for massage, £45/hour for beauty), CitySwish is certainly providing some competition for the high street!

While CitySwish started its operations in Kensington and Chelsea (where it has seen huge success), the idea was born in West Hampstead where Leisha Olandj, one of the co-founders, lives. Now that CitySwish has expanded its reach to include West Hampstead, it hopes to become a core West Hampstead staple. Leisha is generously offering all West Hampstead Life readers a 20% discount for any bookings made before the end of February. Book online at www.cityswish.com and use code WHLife to try it out.

Website: www.cityswish.com
Treatments: Massage, Hair, Beauty (nails, waxing, spray tan)
Where: They come to you!
Discount: Use coupon WHLife to receive a 20% discount through February.

The 2015 West Hampstead & Kilburn gym guide

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

New Year, new fitness regime? It may be a cliché, but the statistics bear out that January is the most popular time to join a gym. If you want to make sure you’re not part of the other cliché – giving up in February – then make sure you choose the right gym for your budget, lifestyle and fitness needs. Here’s the third annual West Hampstead Life gym guide to help you.

The biggest change from last year is that Gloves Boxing Club, on Broadhurst Gardens, closed in March. It’s been replaced by HIIT Gym, which took over the premises and opened in October.

Luxury (£££)

Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage

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Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more health club than gym, which is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.

NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Prices have gone up a little from last year’s rates, and this year there’s no “get the rest of January free” joining offer. Both memberships include access to the gym, classes in the studio, pool and sauna.

  • Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £102/mth + £30 joining fee
  • Minimum 12-month contract membership: £95/mth  + no joining fee

Movers and Shapers, 148 West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offers 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines, and they have also recently added a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) studio with TRX suspension equipment. Free trials are available if you want to find out more. Read about my experience at Movers and Shapers here.

  • Course of 10 classes: £149 (limited offer; classes valid for 3 months)
  • Course of 20 classes: £259 (limited offer; classes valid for 6 months)
  • Full Monthly membership – £125/mth (access to unlimited classes at any time)
  • Off Peak Monthly membership – £99/mth (access to unlimited classes at off-peak hours: 12pm-5pm Mon-Fri, and all day Sat and Sun)

No joining or admin fees; includes initial and ongoing health consultations.

CrossFit Evolving, 50-52 Kilburn High Road (under HSBC bank)
CrossFit is a fitness philosophy that began in the US and has now spread to hundreds of CrossFit gyms (or “boxes”) across the world. It claims to help you work on all aspects of fitness through tailored workouts using a wide variety of different exercises. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a serious training regimen, this may be the club for you. There are free taster sessions on Wednesday evenings if you want to see what you’re getting yourself into!

  • Full, peak-hours membership: £170/mth
  • Off-peak membership: £140/mth (Off-peak hours: 8am-6pm; after 8pm)
  • Single, off-peak WOD (workout of the day) session: £15

Mid-range (££)

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. The standard membership covers access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, for all of which sessions can be paid for separately. See the full price list of memberships, concessionary rates and pay-as-you-go prices on the Better website.

  • Standard monthly membership, with access to gym, pool and classes: £54/mth (£55/mth from February)
  • Premium monthly membership, as above + access to sauna, steam room, and other gyms and spas in the network: £77.50/mth

There’s also a joining fee of £35, though it was unclear from my phone enquiry whether this could be waived or not: “Yesterday we charged it, today we didn’t”… so it’s probably best to drop in to the centre and negotiate in person.

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, 4 Greville Road (just off Kilburn High Road)
This is quite a good-value choice if you’re after a gym membership that includes extras like a sauna and swimming pool. There’s also a fitness studio, and classes are included in all memberships.

  • 12-month minimum contract – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £29.99/mth
  • 12-month minimum contract – Peak (valid any time): £39.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £36.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Peak (valid any time): £47.99/mth

On top of this, there’s a £25 one-off joining fee (though apparently they’ll give you a goody bag and possibly some sessions with a personal trainer “to soften the blow”) and if you want to use the gym towels, add £6 to the monthly membership fee.

HIIT Gym, 198a Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead

The recently-opened HIIT Gym is located in Gloves’ old premises, a cool industrial-style building that was originally the ticket office of the Metropolitan Railway. The gym’s instructors lead small classes in HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, mixing it up with a variety of different techniques and equipment. There’s also the option to monitor your progress with  a heart-rate monitor belt (available from the gym at £50). There are three levels of membership available, all on a rolling monthly basis with no contract. Free one-week trials are available if you want to try before you buy.

  • Primary: £39 for 4 sessions a month 
  • Standard: £49 for 8 sessions a month
  • Champion: £69 for unlimited sessions a month

My Fitness Boutique, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers some 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice. Prices haven’t gone up since last year.

Example prices (from website):

  • Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
  • Single class: £12
  • 30-day pack (unlimited classes): £75
  • 90-day pack: (unlimited classes) £165

Budget (£)

The Gym Group, Unit D2, 41 Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry. There’s no need to sign up to a minimum contract.

  • £20.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee)

Fit4Less, 34a-36 Kilburn High Road
Another gym with functional workout equipment and none of the luxury extras. As well as free weights and cardio machines, there’s TRX equipment and kettlebells. Personal training is available too.

  • Anytime gym membership: £22.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee
  • Anytime gym membership + locker hire: £32.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee

Outdoor gyms: Kilburn Grange Park, Swiss Cottage, Maygrove Peace Park

SwissCottageOutdoorGym
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Which gym is right for you?

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

Last January’s article about gym memberships in and around West Hampstead proved extremely popular, so I’ve updated it here with 2014’s prices. Most rates have gone up a little (it’s an extra 95p per month at Virgin Active), one has stayed the same (Movers & Shapers), and at Bannatyne’s, membership has even come down in price. As ever, you can leave comments below or tweet me (@zenw6) your thoughts and feedback.

Luxury (£££)

Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage

Virgin_ActiveO2

Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more “health club” than gym, and this is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.

NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

  • Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £99.95/mth + £30 joining fee
  • Minimum 12-month contract membership: £92/mth + remainder of January free + no joining fee

Gloves Boxing Club, 198a Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead
Specialised one-to-one or group training in this friendly, unintimidating boxing gym. Read about my visit to the club in 2012. Prices vary depending on class package/ type of training.

There are many different options here, covering membership or pay-as-you-go packs of 10 or 20 classes. It’s worth chatting to the team at Gloves for the package that would suit you best, but here are some example prices:

  • 10-class pack: £125
  • 12-month contracts range from £50/mth – £125/mth
  • There are also fixed-length short-term memberships of 3, 6 or 12 months.

Movers and Shapers, 148 West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offer 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines. Free trials are available if you want to find out more. Read about my experience last year here.

  • Course of 10 classes: £199
  • Course of 20 classes: £369
  • Full Monthly membership – £125 per month
  • Off Peak Monthly membership – £99 per month

No joining or admin fees; includes initial and ongoing health consultations

Until the end of February 2014, West Hampstead Life readers can claim £25 off any of the above memberships*. Simply go in to the West Hampstead branch of Movers & Shapers and mention that you saw the offer on the website.
*offer available to new customers only

Mid-range (££)

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. The standard membership covers access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, sessions in which can be paid for separately.

  • Standard monthly membership, with access to gym, pool and classes (no minimum contract): £51.80/mth (no joining fee in January)
  • Premium monthly membership, as above + access to sauna, steam room, and other gyms in the network (no minimum contract): £54/mth (no joining fee in January)
  • PAYG: £32.90 membership for Camden residents + one-off payments of £6.50 gym/ £4.25 swim/ £7.25 class

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, 4 Greville Road (off Kilburn High Road)
Bizarrely, membership here is structured around whether or not you get a towel each time you work out. There was a huge stack of them behind the reception desk when I walked in, and very white and fluffy they looked too. There’s a gym, fitness studio and 25m pool. If you’re a Kilburn-based towel fetishist, this is the place for you.

  • Minimum 6-month contract (WITH TOWELS): £58/mth (+ £20 joining fee)
  • Monthly membership (NO TOWELS), no minimum contract: £39/mth (+ £40 joining fee) – offer valid until the end of January. From February, this membership is £49/mth.

My Fitness Boutique, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers around 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice.

Example prices (from website):

  • Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
  • Single class: £12
  • 30-day pack (unlimited classes): £75
  • 90-day pack: (unlimited classes) £165

Budget (£)

The Gym Group, Unit D2, 41 Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry.

  • £20.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee)

Fit4Less, 34a-36 Kilburn High Road
If you can see past the garish bright green walls, and aren’t bothered about classes or a swimming pool, this new no-frills gym might be for you. Friendly staff were on hand to answer questions on my visit, and personal training is available too. Initial feedback on Twitter has been positive.

  • £19.99/mth + £29.99 joining fee

Outdoor gyms: Kilburn Grange Park, Swiss Cottage, Maygrove Peace Park

SwissCottageOutdoorGym
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Headmasters comes to West Hampstead

Next Friday, January 10th, another hairdresser arrives on West End Lane.

Ice cream or a haircut?

Ice cream or a haircut?

Headmasters is a chain with 65 unisex salons in the UK and Norway, and its West Hampstead branch will be at 220 West End Lane. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that these are the premises previously occupied by Chez Chantal.

It is tempting in prospective customers with an opening offer for the first two weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how another salon fits in to an already crowded market. From a first glance at the price list, it looks like the closest local comparison is HOB, with a ladies’ cut and style starting at £42.

Will you be giving Headmasters a visit, or staying loyal to your regular stylist? Let me know below or on Twitter @ZENW6

Fitness classes at JW3

I went to an open day at JW3, the new Jewish community centre on the corner of Finchley Road and Lymington Road, to check out its health and fitness offering. Various classes will take place in the pleasantly light and airy dance studio, which was all set up for a yoga class as I put my head in. For yoga fans there’s a range of different disciplines and levels. Pilates and Cardio Pilates are also on the schedule.

The focus isn’t all on relaxation and serenity. The London Krav Maga school will teach classes in this brutal self-defence technique, developed and practised by the Israeli army. There are also Krav Fit classes (concentrating on fitness rather than combat) and women-only classes.

If you don’t fancy yoga poses or fighting off simulated attacks, there’s always good ol’ Zumba. The “original dance-fitness party” will be happening twice a week until the end of the year.

Just five minutes away from West End Lane, the fitness classes at JW3 are a great addition to the area. The centre has been explicit in saying that people from all faiths (or no faiths presumably) are welcome. More details on all these classes and more on the website.

Summer swimming for free

Quite a few people have been asking about this on Twitter, so here’s the form you need to print out and fill in for free swimming at Swiss Cottage leisure centre during August (Camden residents only).

Click the image to get the full-size version

So many salons, so few recommendations

Are there too many hairdressers in West Hampstead? I hear a resounding chorus of “yes” ringing out. An oft-heard criticism of West End Lane is the sheer number of stylists (and of course estate agents, but I’m not here to discuss them, slick though their hair may be).

Wandering the main streets of the area (West End Lane, Mill Lane, Fortune Green, Broadhurst Gardens) last weekend, I counted no fewer than 17 salons.

When I set out to produce the definitive guide to the best local women’s salons, I was therefore braced for a deluge of comment, opinion, recommendations, debate. Where would people suggest was the best place for a trim? Or a more “directional” cut and restyle? Or colour treatments? Where can you find the friendliest welcome, the most passionate and hair-savvy stylists, or the best coffee? Where’s the best place to go if you’re on a budget?

Instead, only a trickle of feedback was forthcoming (thank you to everyone who shared their recommendations, with a special mention for Heather who is the veritable whamp hair expert). And 90% of it was for the same two salons: HOB and Holistic. Barely any mention of the other places, which remain shrouded in mystery.

How to explain the surfeit of salons, given the local apathy? I asume there’s a demand for their services: most usually look busy (when I walked past on a typical Saturday, all had at least one customer and some places were positively buzzing) and of course all whampers are impeccably coiffed. So, perhaps it’s time to challenge the notion that there are too many. After all, the 17 salons encompass traditional-looking men’s barbers, trendy men’s salons, high-end unisex salons, and even a salon specialising in natural hair extensions (Helena’s Haircare on West End Lane).

As for the lack of hairdressing recommendations… do many locals get their hair cut in town (near work, perhaps?), and are the customers I see frequenting West Hampstead establishments price-sensitive souls attracted by special offers? Or are you just all jealously guarding your beauty secrets? Please use the comments below to let me know your thoughts on all matters follicular in West Hampstead.

By the way, your hair looks fabulous darling.

The well heeled of West Hampstead

Rumour has it that summer might finally have reached North West London. The BBC predicts sunshine and temperatures of 20C and upwards this week, and I even spied a few summer dresses and pairs of shorts at the farmers’ market yesterday.

Of course my first thought was for the horrendous state of my feet (shallow – moi?). Having been encased in thick socks, tights and boots for what feels like the past five years, I was rather… podiatrically challenged, shall we say. Not what the people of West Hampstead want to see while sipping their macchiatos on West End Lane.

Haunted by visions of being politely turned away from the Wet Fish Café or laughed out of The Gallery on account of my unkempt hooves, I went to Be Lush, the new-ish beauty salon on Broadhurst Gardens, whose spa pedicure is a rather reasonable £25. If you’re based at the other end of West Hampstead then you could try Nail Suite on West End Lane, which will set you back £31, or Beauty Blossom on Mill Lane for £28.

But enough about you. Just under an hour after setting foot in Be Lush, I walked out with my feet buffed, soaked, exfoliated, moisturised and polished to perfection thanks to the very lovely Rinku. Finally, I can show my face – and feet – on the streets of West Hampstead this summer.

Shaken, but was she stirred by Movers & Shapers?

For my latest fitness review, I’ve looked into my crystal ball to discover how the people of West Hampstead will be exercising in the future. We’ll be consuming our Eggs Benedict and soya latte in pill form, naturally, but how are we keeping our bodies toned?

Movers and Shapers, on West End Lane, offers a suitably cutting-edge answer to this question. Positioning itself as the “smart alternative to a gym” (the staff never use the G-word), it’s a small-but-growing chain of boutique fitness studios in and around London that use only Power Plate machines.

A power plate lurks among the sofas in reception

A power plate lurks among the sofas in reception

Power Plates have been around for a while – I’ve sometimes seen these large vibrating platforms at gyms I’ve visited, but always been too intimidated (and confused) to investigate. So I was happy to discover that all Movers and Shapers’ workouts are guided by expert instructors in classes of up to five. They kindly offered me a free trial so I went along to find out first hand if I, too, could get the toned physique of celeb fans such as Claudia Schiffer, Kylie and, er, local favourite Jonathan Ross.

My initial consultation session, with friendly trainer Dimitri, consisted of a body analysis and introduction to the machines. Using a specialised set of scales and a good old-fashioned tape measure, Dimitri built up a comprehensive – and quite hi-tech – list of personalised data including muscle mass, bone density and body fat percentage. I quite liked being presented with a printout of results. As regular one-to-one progress reviews are included in the membership cost, I can imagine the quest to improve my stats could become geekily addictive.

For the uninitiated, Power Plate machines are often billed as “the microwave of fitness”; the manufacturers claim that the effect of any exercise you do is magnified by up to 70% by the intense vibrations of the plate, meaning that even a short workout can deliver impressive results. The vibrations stimulate and contract your muscles, making a gradual warm-up obsolete, and with regular use you can improve tone, core strength, fitness and stamina.

It sounded too good to be true, so I was disappointed to find out that some effort was required on my part too – as with any exercise, the harder you work, the better the results, apparently. Not quite the technological advancement I’d dreamed of.

So, it was down to work. The vibration is a bit unsettling at first. However, when I got used to the sensation of hearing my teeth rattle in my skull, and after just the briefest of 30-second warm-ups, I was amazed to be able to touch my toes (pathetically impossible in my creaky pre warm-up state). After another ten minutes of press-ups and stepping on and off the plate, I was rewardingly knackered. Maybe there was something in it after all.

For my first timetabled class, on a Friday evening, I was slightly taken aback to realise I was the only person taking part. It was great to have the instructor, Nicola, all to myself, but there would definitely be nowhere to hide. She took me through a series of different moves, including some gruelling abdominal work. However, the session was over before I knew it – Movers and Shapers’ 30-minute class format is designed to fit in around their customers’ busy lives.

Nicola was also leading the next class I went to. This was a busy Tuesday evening and all five Power Plate stations were occupied. It felt a little cramped at times, particularly when the tall guy next to me couldn’t swing the weight bag above his head under the low basement ceiling. I was impressed that Nicola knew everybody by name – the small class size makes for a friendly personalised experience.

My third session, on Saturday morning, was led by Dimitri. It was interesting to experience a different teacher’s technique. It’s possible to do so many exercises on a Power Plate that the workout can vary quite a bit depending on each individual instructor’s approach.

So, did I feel suitably moved (and shaped) by my four visits? I definitely felt healthy and energised after attending each class, as well as feeling more toned and taut. I think it would be good for busy people who want a quick fitness fix or have a specific event or holiday they want to tone up for. The friendly, personal service would also be a bonus for those who don’t enjoy going to conventional gyms.

However, the personalised boutique feel and sophisticated gadgetry comes at a higher cost than a standard fitness centre. A month’s membership with unlimited classes will set you back £125, or a pay-as-you-go block of 10 classes is £199. I suspect anyone serious about fitness would also want to combine this with some other form of exercise, particularly cardio. The other drawback for me is the lack of showers; the advantage of the “just pop in” approach is slightly lost when you aren’t able to go straight out for dinner after your workout.

If you want to find out more about the place, there’s an open day on the 27th April with complimentary classes. Mail the branch or call them to find out more (020 7342 4222).

Which gym meets your budget and needs?

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

It might be a January cliché, but many people are looking to start a healthy regime after the excesses of Christmas, and gyms and fitness centres are all too aware of this. But which to join in NW6? I reluctantly left the comforting embrace of the sofa to do a tour of Kilburn and West Hampstead’s fitness facilities and find out who was offering what.

There are three price brackets: luxury, mid-range, and budget. There’s even some free options in there. Take a look and let me know if anything takes your fancy. Also, please let me know if I’ve missed any out! (You can leave feedback in comments section below or tweet me @ZENW6)

Luxury (£££)
Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage
Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more “health club” than gym, and this is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.
NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £99/mth + £30 joining fee
Minimum 12-month contract: £89/mth
(Special offer: join now and get January free, with joining fee waived)

Gloves Boxing Club, Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead
Specialised one-to-one or group training in this friendly, unintimidating boxing gym. Read about my visit to the club. Prices vary depending on class package/ type of training.

Current offers include:
10x personal training sessions: £400 (usually £700)
Bantamweight package (3 classes/wk): £60 (usually £69)
Lightweight package (morning/ Sat classes): £69 (usually £75)
Heavyweight package (all classes) £99 (usually £125)

Movers and Shapers, West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offer 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines. Free trials are available if you want to find out more (or look out for a review coming soon).

Minimum 3-month contract: Peak £125/mth; off-peak £99/mth. PAYG available.

Mid-range (££)
Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. Membership prices cover access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, sessions in which can be paid for separately.

Monthly fee (no minimum contract): £49.80/mth (+ £40.25 joining fee)
Monthly fee with access to other gyms in the network and racquet sports within Camden: £53/mth  (no joining fee)

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, Kilburn High Road
Bizarrely, membership here is structured around whether or not you get a towel each time you work out. There was a huge stack of them behind the reception desk when I walked in, and very white and fluffy they looked too. There’s a gym, fitness studio and 25m pool. If you’re a Kilburn-based towel fetishist, this is the place for you.

Minimum 6-month contract (WITH TOWELS): £58/mth (+ £30 joining fee)
Minimum 3-month contract (NO TOWELS): £49/mth (+ £40 joining fee)

towels

My Fitness Boutique, off Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers around 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice.

Example prices (from website):
Single class: £10
Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
30-day pack (unlimited classes): £55

Budget (£)
The Gym Group, Fortune Green, West Hampstead ()
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry.

£19.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee). No minimum contract.

It's not usually this quiet

It’s not usually this quiet

Fit4Less, Kilburn High Road
If you can see past the garish bright green walls, and aren’t bothered about classes or a swimming pool, this new no-frills gym might be for you. Friendly staff were on hand to answer questions on my visit, and personal training is available too. Initial feedback on Twitter has been positive.

£19.99/mth (+ £24.99 joining fee). No minimum contract.

Outdoor gyms, Kilburn Grange Park and Swiss Cottage.
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Pulling no punches: Gloves Boxing Club review

Everyone laughed when I announced I was off to a personal training session at Gloves Boxing Club. Aside from any concerns or prejudices about women participating in combat sports, I don’t think people see me as particularly tough or aggressive. “What’s lighter and girlier than fly-weight?” mused my sister. “You’re probably powder-puff weight.” Ignoring the mockery, and inspired by Nicola Adams’ Olympic gold for Team GB, I figured when better than 2012 to step into the ring.

Suitably fired up, I flounced off to the club on Broadhurst Gardens. It’s housed in what was the ticket hall of the original West Hampstead Metropolitan Line station. The building has a cool industrial vibe with exposed brickwork and other original features; but I wasn’t here to admire the architecture, I was here to train like a boxer.

Ben – my trainer for the afternoon – took me through a set of exercises based on the different classes that Gloves offers. This was a great introduction to the various disciplines they teach, and gave me an insight into the club’s philosophy. You can train here to compete in “white collar boxing” events, but many club members are happy to stick to non-contact boxing training.

Gloves founder, Tony Riddle, has an impressive boxing CV having travelled the world and worked with big names such as highly-regarded coach Kenny Weldon, who himself worked with world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. This year, Carrie Barry from the US women’s boxing team trained at the club while recovering from a knee injury.

One of Tony’s core beliefs is that good training starts with your feet. There’s a large poster of a bare footprint on the wall, and my trainers were quickly cast aside as my whole workout was barefoot.

If shoes are bad, I soon learned that many other modern-day vices are even worse for encouraging unnatural movement and posture, such as spending a lot of time sitting down. “Chairs are the enemy,” declared Ben, as he ordered me to do about a million squats. Ouch.

We then spent time on toe drills, involving balancing (somewhat painfully) on broom handles to find where to put my weight. With regular practice, these exercises apparently help prevent bunions as you learn to avoid putting pressure on the toe joints. We also did some wrist exercises, beneficial for people like me whose wrists are weakened by daily typing on keyboards.

Then on to some kettlebell exercises and animal movements. I felt slightly silly crawling like a cat and emulating the movements of a frog, but apparently this is all part of getting back in touch with natural human movement patterns, which we’ve gradually lost since our hunter-gatherer days.

Finally, after this preparatory training and a warm-up, it was on to some boxing. It was quite exciting having my hands wrapped and putting the gloves on. I was instantly transformed into a fearsome-looking pugilist. As you can see from the picture. Ahem.

Ben’s first job was to banish any Wii Sports perceptions of boxing, which leads people to tire their arms quickly with aimless punching. Instead, he showed me how to move efficiently, shift my weight and use my body’s natural momentum to throw the perfect punch. Footwork plays a big part in this (it’s back to the feet again).

I was soon adopting a passable stance and moving with light springy motions as instructed. I’m not sure I quite managed to look as effortlessly graceful as Ben, who is also a Parkour and free running practitioner. Finally, after much practice, I managed to land a few satisfying punches on a punch bag.

I was curious about how many women use the gym. Tony reckons the male-female split is about 60/40. More women than I’d expected. He also said that it’s often easier to train women as we tend to have a “better, quicker grasp of the movement patterns,” though of course this is a generalisation!

The session was over. I felt exhausted but also exhilarated. It had been very satisfying to train in a meaningful discipline and learn real sporting skills instead of performing dull repetitions on a gym machine.

The only downside for me is the cost. Access to professional coaches and specialised training doesn’t come cheap, and this is reflected in the membership prices. There are various packages depending on whether you opt for one-on-one coaching or join in group classes. The ‘Heavyweight’ membership, which lets you attend unlimited timetabled classes, is £125 per month (although there’s a special offer price at the moment of £99). The ‘Bantamweight’ package, for three classes a week, will set you back £60 (usually £69).

I feel this is good value, but you’d really have to commit to attending regularly and build it into your lifestyle. This might be a stretch for those of us who have guiltily neglected gym memberships in the past. However, unlike a conventional gym, you might just develop a passion for honing your skills in “the sweet science”, which may motivate you to return.

If you’re considering investing in personal training, then this boxing regime might be the way forward – and it doesn’t have to mean facing an opponent in the ring. As the Gloves motto says, “Training like a boxer is different to training to be a boxer.”

A hands-on experience: Tui Na at Yi Dao

In the first of a regular new West Hampstead Life column, my health & beauty correspondent @ZENW6 investigates an alternative to a sports massage at a new Mill Lane clinic. Over the coming months, ZENW6 will look at everything from hair salons to fitness studios in and around West Hampstead. Do with any comments or suggestions for articles.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I was invited to the Yi Dao clinic for a complimentary Tui Na massage. Google had helped get me up to speed: it’s a traditional Chinese physical therapy encompassing eastern body movement principles such as Tai Chi. But that wasn’t very detailed, so I was slightly apprehensive. Much as I enjoy a relaxing massage, was this the latest extreme health fad that I’d soon see endorsed by Madonna in the pages of Grazia? Would there be chanting?

Husband and wife team Zarig Cooper and Conny Duxbury, who took over the clinic (formerly The London Health Clinic) on Mill Lane around three months ago, were on hand to explain more. Both passionate and knowledgeable about eastern healthcare techniques, they talked me through the treatments they offer. They are both experienced Tui Na practitioners who have studied and trained in Chinese hospitals. Conny also specialises in acupuncture. I got to look at some interesting photographs of their last visit to China, including pictures of dedicated Tui Na massage wards; apparently it’s a very mainstream treatment offered in hospitals there and Conny’s dream is to make Tui Na therapy mainstream here in the UK.

“When people suffer from back pain they don’t need to automatically reach for painkillers or anti-inflammatories, or in extreme cases undergo unnecessary surgery,” she explains. Having been a Tai Chi teacher for 10 years (and with the enviable posture to prove it), she firmly believes that most people’s muscular aches and pains are caused by inefficient movement and bad posture, which put undue stress on the body over time.

What’s different about Tui Na from massage techniques we’re more familiar with? Zarig and Conny argue that it’s not a quick-fix solution for specific aches and pains that can then recur later, but more a way of living and moving. So, although they use Tui Na therapy to treat injuries, for example as an alternative to conventional sports massage, Yi Dao’s wider mission is to analyse people’s lifestyles and observe their breathing patterns and movements to help them break ingrained “patterns of tension”.

Zarig showed me around the clinic – there’s a nice softly-lit treatment room for western-style oil based massage but the Tui Na room was a little more austere and clinical, though still comfortable. My session started with a consultation to talk through my problems – I often suffer from a stiff neck caused by long hours sitting in front of a computer screen. Zarig demonstrated how limited my movement is; for example, I couldn’t touch my chin to my collarbone. We also discovered I have a chronic inability to relax; after a long day at the office, my back muscles were tense just lying on the massage table. There was a lot of work to be done here.

The massage wasn’t all relaxing; the tension in my back and shoulders meant that at times it was slightly painful and a bit ticklish. When I got used to the pressing / rolling movement it became much more enjoyable and soporific and I started to believe Zarig’s claim that some regular clients fall asleep mid-massage. I liked the fact that this massage can be carried out fully-clothed; there was no awkward disrobing or oil transferred onto your clothes.

Zarig’s style is down-to-earth. He was quick to reject any talk of “mystical energy flow” or any of the other unconventional terms often associated with alternative medicine. Rather, he believes that stress contributes to many conditions and that this manifests itself in physical terms. In short, the cumulative effect of tension and stress leaves the body in a tense and weakened state. I suspect it may be unrealistic for some to commit to incorporating these principles into their daily life, in which case the effect of the massage alone is not unlike a conventional sports massage or osteopathy session.

Would I go again? Yes, probably. I certainly left the clinic feeling more relaxed, calm and healthy than I had for a long time, and with a new found superpower of being able to turn my head to the right. Tui Na wouldn’t be for everyone – those expecting an indulgent treat may come away disappointed – but I liked the straightforward, scientific approach and think it would be a good treatment for those with sports injuries, or for anyone with ongoing mild aches and pains caused by the stresses of everyday life. If you’re looking for Christmas presents, you can get £30 vouchers for an hour’s Tui Na massage or oil massage (both normally £50). There’s no chanting.