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…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My therapist says that the mask will help 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 removed after 10 minutes using warms towels, then a reviving eye cream and balm are applied, followed by a spritz of a rosemary, sage and orange blossom infusion that is based on a 14th-century recipe originally made for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary.

My skin looks a little pink from the increased circulation but is silky smooth to the touch. I leave the treatment room 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 for home.


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


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

I take an exercise mat and a set of both 2kg and 4kg weights. I overhear a worried classmate ask Neil whether the heavier weights will bulk up her arms. Neil reassures her that the larger weights are used for short blasts and not for sustained periods, so there is no danger of bulking.

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

I take both 2kg weights 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 are told 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 are told 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, and raise the weight up and down for 12 reps, working the triceps and, through keeping 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 the right. It is a real test of my co-ordination.

Our instructor then asks us to channel our inner John Travolta and point to the ceiling 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 stomach muscles. We then hold this crunch pose but move the arm curls out to the sides to work the triceps.

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

I leave my day trial with a spring in my step.  

The bottom line:

Equinox prides itself on being a life choice rather than just a gym, and it’s certainly better than your average workout space, as the stylish mix of shop, lounge, gym, studios and Kiehls-filled changing rooms demonstrates.

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