Image: Getty Images/OJO Images
November 24 2012
The Lomax Red Carpet Ready programme could also be called “the seven days of the recreation of Spa Junkie” – only instead of bringing heaven, earth, sun, seas, moons, people, animals and, well, just about everything else (except maybe Spanx) into existence, the team at Lomax promise to burn, sculpt, feed, pamper, tone and pummel my body into flashbulb-worthy shape. And unlike the great Creator, these guys don’t rest on the seventh day.
I’m at Lomax Bespoke Fitness, Nutrition and Wellbeing, a newly opened and membership-free “pod-based” training temple of fitness and wellbeing on the Fulham Road in Chelsea. Jonathan Lomax, the gym’s founder, is introducing me to the bootcamp programme I have opted to undergo in the week’s run-up to a red-carpet Saturday. It’s the day before I officially start and I am here for a check-up so that the team can ensure everything is accurately tailored to my needs.
“The seven-day programme is targeted to achieve a specific ‘look’ rather than weight or size. It integrates fitness, nutritional and wellbeing services, delivered by a crack team of professionals working under one roof,” explains the public-school-educated, City-boy-turned-trainer Jonny Lomax. “It involves daily workouts, menus, food deliveries and therapeutic treatments.”
In preparation for the challenge, I have been asked to bring along the item of clothing I hope to wear at the end of my seven days. My target garment is a tiny Chanel dress I picked up at the Paris couture shows after having done a detox. However, after a few weeks off the wagon, it is now more snug than sexy.
“This programme is about giving you the confidence to shine on the night, on the beach or on your big day,” says Jonny, who has a plethora of brides on his books.
I am measured, weighed and photographed, before meeting with the in-house nutritionist, Zoe (who works alongside the renowned Vicki Edgson), and the chef, Alexander, who will be preparing and delivering my three daily meals, juices and snacks.
“Our plan works 110 per cent better when combined with a controlled diet – not in the sense of calorie restricting, but rather what and when you eat,” says Jonny. “The general rule is to eat three main meals a day and two snacks containing carbs, proteins and fats. We all burn fat at different rates, but eating small portions every two to three hours is best for everyone.”
I’m pleased to hear that I’ll be on a regime; the daily routine will make the diet easier to stick to.
7am: I start the day with a Lomax pre-prepared breakfast; porridge with stewed apple, cinnamon, flaked almonds and coconut milk. It’s delicious.
8am: half an hour of low-impact cardio is on the agenda – I opt for a gentle run around the park as I know the evening workout is going to be hard.
11am: a snack of mackerel paté with oatcakes.
1pm: lunch is roast chicken with a delicious wild-rice and ratatouille mix.
4pm: I snack on a handful of mixed nuts accompanied by a green “power” juice.
5.30pm: my hour-long workout at Lomax focuses on lower-body weight training – legs, bum and core. It is circuit-style and combines a variety of squats and lunges with jumping, stretching and stabilising exercises, as well as dynamic rotational abdominal movements using the CrossCore 180 (a pulley and handles trainer that is also known as the War Machine).
Jonny explains that “the backbone of Lomax training is this kind of Metabolic Conditioning, or MetCon, which optimises the energy production of each cell in the body and burns fat fast while building muscle stamina”.
MetCon is often based on high-intensity interval training, such as sprinting and circuit sets involving three or more exercises back to back – for example, jumping on and off a box holding a weighted medicine ball, followed by push-ups, then triceps dips – with only a short rest period at the end. Interestingly, the specific exercises within the workout are not particularly relevant; what defines MetCon is how you put the exercises together, how long you perform them for, and how long you rest before starting again.
These MetCon sessions will be done in the early evening to promote maximum nutritional uptake and increase the potential for thermogenesis – the process of heat production that can lead to higher energy expenditure and fat oxidisation. Apparently (and to my great relief), using high-intensity training methods early in the morning is not a good idea, as they can place a lot of strain on the body and increase stress hormone release. In turn, this can lead to muscle catabolism – when you actually break down muscle mass and potentially slow down your metabolic rate.
7pm: my post-training snack is a bespoke smoothie blend with hemp protein. It tastes great.
7am: breakfast is Bircher muesli, made with yoghurt, flaked almonds, coconut milk and sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which was delivered to my house last night. Thank God, as I am pretty destroyed from the workout. I’m not used to weights, and I can feel the backs of my legs and thighs pull as I waddle down the Fulham Road.
8am: I am back at Lomax for a Reformer Pilates class, which is more like a one-to-one traditional session than, say, Vita Pilates (my favourite cardio Pilates class). The fast-paced, 55-minute workout on a Pilates reformer is great for intermediates and munches up calories faster than Pac-Man. Today we work on my core; I pull on the different ropes with my feet and hands and push down on the foot bar. I can almost feel my muscles growing longer with every movement. “It’s very important that we weave lengthening and stretching exercises into the strength training to get the longer-looking legs you are after,” explains Hilary, the trainer.
11am: I snack on a hummus pot with mixed crudités.
1pm: lunch is sea bass ceviche and vegetable soup.
2.30pm: I return for a CrossFit class, the Lomax Super 10 Cardio Training. This assault on my body tests key areas of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Five 45-second exercises back to back, followed by a minute of spinning is just one set. The aim is to complete 10 circuits, but most people only get to six or seven – me included. Hilary remarks that calorie expenditure can reach the thousands in this one class. It definitely feels like it.
3:30pm: I am rewarded with another smoothie with hemp protein.
4pm: I pop along the corridor to see Heysell, the massage therapist, for lymphatic drainage. “The combination of very light pressure with soft, pumping movements in the direction of the lymph nodes speeds up the draining process,” she explains. “This boosts the immune system, clears blockages, eliminates toxins, transports nutrients to cells and increases metabolism.”
Jonny has scheduled in this low-pressure massage as I have already exerted myself today – a sports massage would have been too much for my body to handle.
8pm: dinner is poached salmon with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, topped with mixed seeds.
7am: I start the day with muesli, yoghurt and mixed berries covered in almond milk and sprinkled with cinnamon. It also comes in a pretty little lunch box with coloured juice bottles to take to the office, much to the envy of my Starbucks-swilling colleagues.
8am: my daily 30-minute dose of slow cardio is another gentle run in the park.
11am: a mid-morning snack of mixed nuts and seeds.
1pm: lunch is salmon stir-fry with buckwheat soba noodles.
6pm: I am leaving the office later than I hoped, but it’s the earliest I can get away. I dash to Lomax for my hour-long upper-body weight-training session focusing on my arms, chest, back and shoulders. It’s a personal training session with Jonny, taking place in one of the private pod areas, and involves various pressing and pulling exercises. I’m no flying squirrel, though, and poor Jonny has to support my derrière with his hands once, twice, thrice, so that madam can achieve the minimum five pull-ups. It’s not pretty. We also do circuits of bench and shoulder presses, chin-ups and rowing, but when Jonny makes me lift a substantial bar on my shoulders like a bodybuilder, I squeal. I tell him that this is not something I want to do, as it will make me bulk. “This is a common mistake made by women,” is his rejoinder. “You may be lifting weights, but you are only doing a few repetitions. We’ll chop and change it with cardio to beautifully sculpt your body.”
He goes on to explain that by working with energy timelines – exercising at different intensities for short periods of time; fast then slow, heavy then light – weights and cardio can be used to push the body into more rapid fat loss and muscle tone. For women worried about bulking, mixing weights and interval cardio will raise the metabolism more and create a leaner frame than with pure cardio. In fact, women who only run can develop bulkier thighs than women who do squats and lunges three times a week. (A friend who is newly converted to the Tracy Anderson method has quit running, having discovered this new commandment.)
This session is seriously punchy and there are moments when I can feel my heart pounding in my throat and my lunch almost back in my mouth. And if it isn’t tough enough already, Jonny mixes the throwing, stretching and stabilising exercises with yet more dynamic abdominal movements, using Swiss and medicine balls. It’s the most hard-core workout yet, and I swallow hard when I realise I’m not even halfway through the week.
8:30pm: I’m turning down drinks and dinner invitations until I hit my target. It’s only for seven days after all, and the rewards should be worth it. Besides, I don’t have the energy to do anything more than flop with my pre-prepared dinner – tonight it’s a tasty prawn and three-bean tomato stew with quinoa.
7am: the intensity of the workouts, the delicious healthy eating plan and the fact that I have abstained from alcohol and late nights means I am feeling great and wake up looking forward to the day. Progress? Definitely. I’m feeling better and looking much more toned. My only misgiving is that I’m not a great fan of heavy-duty lifting – I feel very unfeminine squatting and grunting with a bar above my head. I also still worry that if I do it too much, I will turn out more Muscle Mary than red-carpet Cameron Diaz.
Today’s breakfast is a mixed berry and yoghurt smoothie with a nut and seed pot.
8am: I am meant to be on a hiatus from my morning exercise, and yet I’m itching to go for a run. Hmm. I wonder if they’ll notice if I just skip around the block a few times? I decide on a compromise and power-walk to work.
11am: an avocado and oatcake snack.
1pm: lunch is a chicken, cumin and mint buckwheat wrap with a super-antioxidant salad.
5:30pm: time for a RealRyder indoor cycling class; an intense cardio workout on the latest stationary bike, which turns and steers like the real thing. I’ve tried this before and although it’s hard work, I’m a fan. Hilary takes me through an hour-long session that engages my core, bum, arms and legs. It’s certainly high octane, and I finish feeling euphoric – especially since I’m now past the halfway point of the programme. I’m also confident that I will already be able to squeeze into the Chanel – but I don’t want to tempt fate.
7pm: I treat myself to a facial therapy. After a deep cleanse to clear out my sweat-filled pores, the lovely therapist, Abigail, delivers her assessment: “The main concern is your eye area. If you incorporate a few of the Image skincare products we’ve used into your daily routine, you should get good, fast results.” She hands me a tub of The Max Eye Cream. “This is my first choice; it has great anti-ageing ingredients, combats inflammation and puffiness, and aids lymphatic flow.”
I scan the accompanying brochure. The brand hails from Florida and falls into a new group of highly natural yet efficacious skincare ranges (among the others are Oskia, which just won a Best British Skincare Brand award, and Ila, a favourite of How To Spend It’s own Grand Dame of Luxury, Lucia van der Post). Another of Abigail’s suggestions is the Ageless Total Eye Lift Cream, which increases cell turnover with retinol and glycol. Abigail advises me to apply it morning and night, but warns me that it will induce a mild peel around my eyes when I first start using it. I leave glowing and dreamy after a day of bespoke care.
8:30pm: I’m utterly knackered – almost too tired to eat. I nibble on aubergine and chickpea curry with kale, mushroom and okra salad, then apply my new eye cream before collapsing into bed. I am asleep by 10pm; I haven’t managed to do this since I was 12.
Read the next tasty instalment in Part Two when Spa Junkie becomes addicted to the Lomax five-meals-a-day plan.