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.


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!


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)


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.”