The age of the gym is dead - it’s all about palatial five-star wellness hotspots
Is the age of the gym dead? Fitness fanatics who’ve spent the past year exercising in increasingly imaginative ways - running along riverbanks instead of on a treadmill, or adopting the warrior pose in their garden rather than a sweaty studio - may feel reluctant to return to a gym that looks and smells like a battery hen farm.
No wonder five-star hotels are becoming increasingly attractive places to hone slack abs, whether you're a guest there or not. The newest on the block is the latest Nobu hotel - the legendary sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s second in London and 13th around the world - which is polishing its doorknobs preparatory to flinging them open next week.
Here Marsha Lindsay, a pilates instructor of 12 years’ standing, presides over a gloriously sunny studio which boasts 12 reformers and their accompanying chairs, and blocks. She’s also installed a cadillac which is the large bed-type reformer on which you can do aerial stretches, and a ladder barrel which is, she says, “great for extensions, backbends and handstands”.
The hotel, which overlooks Portman Square in London’s West End, is blessed with a terrace on which Lindsay and her team of four instructors will be offering protein shakes and outdoor pilates classes on sunny days (of which there will surely be a few this summer, God willing). But if the weather’s unkind, it hardly matters when your studio is clad in smoked oak, and your changing room’s coated in creamy marble.
Lindsay, who will be offering private training sessions as well as group classes, is tiny and wiry and, as a trained gymnast and kickboxer, takes an athletic approach to her lessons. She had me bouncing on a rebounder attached to the reformer. It’s power pilates rather than the zen kind, and my muscles were shuddering with the effort of all the leaping and sliding.
She also introduced me to the ladder barrel but thankfully not to the full handstand extent. She has, she says, ‘learned a lot of anatomy’ in her training, and took photographs of me pre-workout to assess how symmetrical I am and what areas of my posture I need to improve.
It turns out I’m extremely lopsided, and my head tilts five degrees to the right and 6.1cm forward, which - as it apparently weighs 5.6kg - must be doing a lot of no good to my spine. But that’s exactly the sort of thing a course of pilates can see to.
I also tried a class with one of her staff, Gary, a kindly soul who clearly saw me as a friable geriatric and offered up a much more gentle, stretchy routine. Horses for courses: I enjoyed both sessions in completely different ways though probably Lindsay’s muscular approach would deliver faster results.
This attitude to health comes right from the top - Matsuhisa himself is a bendy kind of gourmet who starts each zoom meeting with his new London team with a set of stretches and Lindsay is looking forward to putting him through his paces when he is finally able to touch down and visit the Portman Square hotel.
Here’s hoping all that oily fish keeps him well lubricated around the joints. No news on whether his business partner, Robert de Niro, is also a pilates aficionado but Travis Bickle springing athletically on the next-door rebounder is perhaps a step too far.
If you fancy more traditional, heart-pumping, cardio-vascular workouts there’s a full-on 140m2 technogym here too with a personalised workout-tracking app. Plus a spa for Nobu signature facials and massages, and talk of signing up a cosmetic doctor so guests and locals who come in for a spot of tummy toning can have a touch of filler and botox on the side.
That’s as well as a natty little shop stocking LA favourites Alo Yoga sports kit, and Jennifer Meyer jewellery. Not to mention the small added attraction of the best black cod and toro sushi in town in a David Collins Studio-designed restaurant for post-workout relaxation. Which is absolutely not something your average sweat-box gym is going to be able to provide.
£120 for a single one-to-one class, or £2,100 for 20; nobuhotels.com
Five more five-star wellness landmarks in London
Workshop at Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge
Cost: annual membership from £5,500 with a £2,000 joining fee
Socialites queue to work out at this swanky gym under the watchful eye of celebrity trainer Lee Mullins. Workshop focuses on one-on-one training and is installing a new private studio for discreet types. To boot, there’s a Vicenza stone swimming pool, thermal pool with massage jets, sauna and steam room to enjoy. Simply push the button by your lounger for service. bulgarihotels.com
Lanesborough Club and Spa, Kensington
Cost: annual membership from £6,000
Mini but mighty, the gym at this Hyde Park Corner establishment is fitted with cardio equipment from leading brands such as Wattbike, as well as weightlifting and recovery areas. The marble changing rooms lead to a calm-inducing hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room, and offer the ideal spot to beautify before you head back out. lanesboroughclubandspa.com
Mandarin Oriental, Green Park
Cost: £3,000 annual membership with a joining fee of £350
Newly installed as part of this legendary hotel’s refurbishment, membership at Mandarin Oriental includes access to the calm 17-metre heated swimming pool, gym area with state-of-the-art machines from Technogym, a relaxation area and an internet lounge with touch screen computers. All new members receive fitness orientation and a lifestyle assessment. mandarinoriental.com
The Corinthia, Westminster
Cost: £6,500 annual membership
Boutique Chelsea studio FitSpace has recently taken over the gym at The Corinthia, offering one-on-one classes with specialist trainers. Members can relax after their session in the ESPA Life spa which includes a swimming pool, thermal pool with massage jets, sauna, steam room and lounging area. The marble changing rooms are an added joy. espalifeatcorinthia.com
The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, Knightsbridge
This new establishment is opening in June with game-changing wellness facilities to lap up, for those who can foot the bill. The Peak Fitness Club and Spa will feature a 20-metre swimming pool and a Technogym-supplied fitness suite with panoramic views across the capital. There’s even a private garden for morning yoga, and two tennis courts. jumeirah.com
Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion.