Spa Junkie at... Equinox, London

Our covert reporter is face-flicked and “chisel’d” at London’s new high-spec, high-tech gym

It’s out of the spinning class and into the spa…

3.30pm

While it’s not ideal to have a facialin between classes (I’ll sweat off the creams), it’s the only time that one isavailable during my trial day.

The chocolate- and mahogany-hued spa hastwo treatment rooms and offers a range of therapies including HungarianOmorovicza facials, hydra facials, microdermabrasion, an array of massages(from Swedish to hot stone), reflexology, Reiki, craniosacral healing, waxingand tinting.

I choose an 80-minute Omorovicza Deep Cleansing & Pore Refining Facial. The paraben- andpetrochemical-free brand, developed by a former US diplomat and the descendant of a noble Hungarianfamily, uses minerals from Budapest’s thermal spas, and has garnered somethingof a cult following since its launch in 2006. I’m keen to see what all the fuss isabout.

My therapist explains that the facialopens with a 30-minute modern interpretation of an ancient Hungarian massage technique. “Benefits include an increase in blood flow, delivery ofoxygen and nutrients to the skin tissues, and natural lymphatic drainage. Thisstimulates the muscles, collagen and elastin, which improves firmness.”

I undress to the waist, lie down on myback and cover myself with a warm towel. My therapist returns and begins bycleansing and exfoliating my skin using rosemary and pineapple extracts to helpreduce the size of my pores and buff away the dead layers.

She removes the excess cream with warmflannels before commencing the famous Hungarian “fan” technique – amassage movement involving four fingers flicking upwards across the cheeks,which stimulates microcirculation and lymphatic drainage.

The sensation is strangely pleasant andI feel a rush of warmth to my face throughout. The rhythm soothes me into ameditative trance, and I doze off. I awake to a mineral-rich Hungarian moormud being applied to my face.

My therapist says that the mask willhelp draw out impurities and nourish my skin. While this tingles on my face, she rubs a gold shimmer oil on my arms and hands. The mask is removedafter 10 minutes using warms towels, then a reviving eye cream and balm areapplied, followed by a spritz of a rosemary, sage and orange blossom infusion that is based on a 14th-century recipe originally made for Queen Elizabeth ofHungary.

My skin looks a little pink from theincreased circulation but is silky smooth to the touch. I leave the treatmentroom glowing and glistening with gold.

With time to kill before my next class, I nip out on to Kensington High Street and into Whole Foods Market to stock up on supplies forhome.

6.45pm

My final session is called “Chisel’d” (the stateI want my abs to be in at the end of it), which promises to give atotal body workout, with exercises that transition from one muscle group to thenext.

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I sidle up to instructor Neil Bates,fresh from his Cardio Blast class and clearly still buzzing, to get thelowdown. He tells me that “Chisel’d” is similar to a body pump class, using freeweights and continuous movement for a sweat-drenched session.

I take an exercise mat and a setof both 2kg and 4kg weights. I overhear a worried classmate ask Neil whetherthe heavier weights will bulk up her arms. Neil reassures her that the largerweights are used for short blasts and not for sustained periods, so there is nodanger of bulking.

We warm up by running on the spot andjumping from side to side. We then move into a regime involving 12reps of squats, lunges, planks and crunches, using the weights to addresistance.

I take both 2kgweights in one hand (which I find a little tricky) and raise them to work the biceps, then repeat the move out to the sides to work the triceps.We swap arms.

For the squats, we aretold to take one 2kg weight in each hand, bend our knees to 45° and curl the weights in towards us and out again –working the biceps and quad muscles at the same time.

The lunges also use the 2kg weights, one in each hand, curled up and down. We aretold to swap sides and repeat the move to work the triceps; we start with the 2kgs by our sides and, with our palms down, curl our arms up.

We then hold a 4kg weight in both hands behind our heads, stand on one leg, andraise the weight up and down for 12 reps, working the triceps and, throughkeeping our balance, engaging the core.

Back with the 2kg weights in each hand, we side-step to the left for four steps,bend down and position the left weight on the floor. Then, with both feet, we jump over the weight, back over ir again, pick it up and repeat the move to theright. It is a real test of my co-ordination.

Our instructor then asks us to channel our inner John Travolta and point to theceiling using the 2kg weights, one in each hand, in a Saturday Night Fever-inspired routine.Then on to crunches: we lie down on our backs, bend our knees at a 90° angle, and push the weights up and down, working the biceps and core stomachmuscles. We then hold this crunch pose but move the arm curls out to the sidesto work the triceps.

The cheesy pop tunes blasting outmake for a fun, high-octane class. After 45 minutes, I am sweaty and energisedrather than completely wiped out. My arms, thankfully, don’t feel overly pumped either.

I leave my day trial with a spring inmy step.  

The bottom line:

Equinox prides itself on being a lifechoice rather than just a gym, and it’s certainly better than your average workoutspace, as the stylish mix of shop, lounge, gym, studios and Kiehls-filledchanging rooms demonstrates.

It is not a place for thoselooking for an intimate, boutique gym experience – it’s more of a grand-scaleepic fitness adventure. And for those who wantto try a variety of classes to work every single muscle group, Equinox is greatoption. While some classes, such as the Reformer Studio Pilates, cost extra, of the smarter gyms it is one of the best value-for-moneyexperiences I have encountered in the capital.

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