K West Hotel and Spa

This week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the K West Spa and Hotel for an afternoon of relaxation and sister time with Grace. We arrived at 12 and were shown around the spa and gym facilities and shown all the rooms they have on offer. Now I’m a massive fan of spa days, but I’m used to the basic swim, sauna, shower, out. K West is NOT one of those spas! Let me tell you why:

Grace and I were shown the best order to do things in. I wasn’t aware that there WAS an order, because usually you can see everything you want to use in the same room and you sort of just potter about until you’re stressed by being so relaxed and then leave (or at least that’s me). At K West we arrived and were taken down to the spa floor, which is a long corridor of different rooms with different functions.

IMG_7218

Hydrotherapy pool/100% best photo opportunity ever

Our first room was the main spa room, where we sat in the (huge) hot tub/jacuzzi (which I was told was the ‘hydrotherapy pool’), which is heated to body temperature and is gorgeously warm and relaxing (not to mention beautiful, with the starry ceiling). After the spa we had a footbath with salts to ‘cleanse and relax’.

Feeling slightly too relaxed, Grace and I decided to brave the cold and headed to the snow room, which is literally a giant freezer, chilled to -15. However, the benefits are real – moving from hot to cold can increase circulation, decrease respiratory problems and boost your immune system. After all, if the Scandis do it, there must be something to it! After Grace locked me in for a few seconds too long, we escaped and ran to the sauna, for a nice warming lie-down.

IMG_7232

A bright sauna! Most relaxing one I’ve ever been in (no joke)

Most saunas I go to are quite small and dark, making an already hot and slightly uncomfortable experience even hotter and claustrophobic. However, both Grace and I noticed the light glass walls and open feel to the sauna – no uncomfortable feelings of being trapped in a coffin in the desert were felt.

We had been shown to a door down the main corridor at the beginning, and told to arrive there at 2pm for our ‘treatment’. With the enticing name of sun meadow, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but happily arrived at 2pm on the dot. To explain, the sun meadow is a vitamin D therapy room, where you lie on a bed (literally a bed on the floor) and are gently warmed with artificial sunlight (after putting on eye protection of course!). No harmful UV rays are used (which also means no tan) but the light is enough to promote the production of vitamin D in your body and reduce the effects of S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), which many people in the UK suffer from to a varying degree due to the lack on sunlight over the winter months.

I’ve never seen somewhere that offers such an innovative number of treatments and rooms – although Grace and I stayed for around 3h, we didn’t even visit all the rooms, although we were very impressed with the ones we did see!

With the hustle and bustle of life in London, it’s often hard to take time out to relax, but it is SO important (see my post on how to relax). K west offers a tranquil break from the hectic rush of everyday life. With express treatments such as the nail bar, express facial and back massage, it can also be a short wind down between meetings (or, more likely, after a stressful day sale shopping in the nearby Westfield).

If you’re keen to visit, check out their website

Barry’s Bootcamp

london-hero2

The central London bootcamp room. Photo taken from website

This. This is where it’s at. I absolutely LOVE Barry’s bootcamp. Last week I attended the bootcamp in Euston, having heard great things about it from multiple people, including Maiken (@maikenf) who I attended it with. There are two bootcamps in London – one right by Euston station, and the other in east London, near Old street. The one in Euston is somewhat smaller than the one in Old Street, but leaves plenty of space for everyone to workout safely without fear of being whacked by their next door neighbour with their medicine ball.

 

Upon arrival at the bootcamp, I signed in, was told to sign a medical questionnaire and offered the chance to order a protein shake for after the session, which I did (blueberry cobbler FYI). I was then told that newbies would have an induction five minutes before the class started, to make sure we knew what was what. Still not entirely sure I knew what was what, at 12:30pm I took my place at bench 12 for the first round of floor. The workout was 1h in total, alternating between floor and treadmill work (although you can choose to stay on the floor for the full time – or treadmill if you’re mental….). The day I attended it was abs day, using 5kg+ medicine balls (I used 6kg which was tough for me) to do minute long exercises, each working abs in a slightly different way. The instructor (@hannahlouiseluck IG) flawlessly instructed both the treadmill and floor group, shouting out instructions to each, which certainly made me at least feel like I was in a personal training session, rather than a group of 30 people.

The floor exercises could easily be made easier or more difficult by using different weights – a minimum weight for men and women was given at the beginning of the class, allowing everyone to work as hard as was comfortable for them. The treadmill section had three levels, denoted by different speeds that Hannah would shout out at each change of speed. This allowed less fit people to decrease the speed in order not to have a heart attack, and those cardio bunnies to jack up the speed to get the most out of the workout. As a very competitive person, I loved the row of treadmills, where if was possible to look at how fast your next-door neighbour was going. This really pushed me to my limits, which was way faster than I would go in my own workouts.

After the class, Maiken and I went to get changed and shower in the small but beautiful changing rooms (but alas, no sauna). Before leaving we went to collect our pre-ordered smoothies from the smoothies counter (and of course took a bunch of photos).

img_8146

Maike (@maikenf) and I post class, all sweaty with protein shakes in hand!

Good for:

  • The endorphin buzz was like something I’ve never felt before. I’ve had a ‘runner’s high’ after training before but this was something else!
  • The competitive aspect of this was great for me, and really pushed me
  • Hannah, the instructor knew many people’s names and would congratulate and encourage those who she knew by name and often those who she didn’t as well.
  • All round workout – I was aching all over the next day (in a great way). Although I went for abs day, this worked out my entire body
  • Cardio bunnies who want a little more than just a run

 

Less good:

  • This was TOUGH – good for fitties! Although it is possible to make it easier with lighter weights and slower speeds, so this isn’t really a negative.
  • Cost – this class is not cheap! At £20 per person per class, it’s not really feasible to do this on the regular.
img_5113

Almost worth the £5 they cost

Cost: £20 for one class, decreasing down to £15 per class if you book a block of 50 (£750 total).

http://www.barrysbootcamp.com

HIIT – Another Space

Another Space in Covent Garden is designed to provide class-based workouts to those who don’t fancy finding a workout plan and slogging it out in the gym. Gyms are great, but sometimes having someone push you harder than you could push yourself is needed to get the results you want. The ‘gym’ itself is absolutely beautiful – all white walls, clean lines, lots of greenery and a food/smoothie/juice bar. Included in the price of the class is everything you might need for a workout, from towels to shampoo and conditioner (Cowshed, no less), as well as boxing gloves, cycling shoes (cleats and all) and you can even pre-order a smoothies to be waiting for you in the fridge when you get out of the class! Another Space is from the same people as Third Space, which you might remember me reviewing before. It has the same feel, although it is smaller (yet somehow more spacious).

Another_Space_JMS-012

Another (beautiful) Space entrance, Covent Garden

Another Space provides three types of class: Spinning (called Cycle), HIIT and Yoga. The HIIT class (the one class I have been to there) is described as “toning strength exercises with high-energy punchbag work, firing your metabolism to burn extra calories for hours”. It combines Muay Thai with boxing for the punchbag exercises, and high intensity body weight exercises for most of the floor exercises. The class was split into two, so the floor space wasn’t too cramped, and so that we got a punch-bag each. However, I was told by my friend, (a frequent visitor to the club) that the maximum capacity was around 17. We only had 10 in there, and as the space isn’t huge, this filled out the room – I think 17 would have been difficult to fit in comfortably!

another-space-6

The HIIT room

The class began with stretches and a quick warm-up, before the class was split between the punch bags and floor area. Each group was given an exercise to do for a minute, before moving on to the next exercise for another minute. Every 5 minutes there was a minute break while the groups switched to the floor/punch bags. The exercises were tough, and probably a bit unfair to those who don’t work out a lot – 180-degree rotation jump squats for a minute aren’t easy for anyone, let alone a fitness newbie! The instructor (@Jayrayfitness IG) was fantastic, encouraging everyone in the class to get the correct form/body stance and to really go at it. The great thing about HIIT is it does give you rests, allowing a bit of recovery between exercises so the next minute can be as intense as the one before.

Good for:

  • Fitness addicts who are bored of the gym/want to mix it up a little
  • Workaholics who don’t want to be taking a huge bag of towels, food etc etc around with them all day – you can get everything there!
  • Anyone who wants a full body workout
  • If you need to workout in the morning/middle of the day and want to leave looking like you’ve just come out of a beauty salon, not a gym (GHD straighteners and hair dryers, cowshed moisturiser/shampoo/ conditioner/body wash and deodorant all free!)

Less good:

  • If you don’t enjoy being shouted at (although I doubt this happens in the Yoga classes). This class is quite bootcamp style in the teaching methods – if you want results, you have to work for it.
  • The cost – these are PAYG classes, and at £20 per class, it’s not something everyone can afford regularly. Recommended for the occasional workout boost.

Cost: PAYG £20 per class – no membership required.

IMG_4918

Bodypump – easyGym

Before I start reviewing this class, I’d like to say some words on easygym – the reason I LOVE the idea of easyGym is that it’s totally affordable and has everything that is needed in a gym. It’s not ‘swanky’ or beautiful, like some of the (much) more expensive gyms in London, but is 100% functional. I attend the gym in Oxford Circus, London, but have also been to ones in Cardiff and Fulham. Easygym has everything needed for a good workout – plenty of floor space, mats, free weights and no shortage of cardio machines for all you cardio bunnies out there!

I was apprehensive about the class, to say the least – I’ve done my fair share of budget classes (hello university gym) and it appears you really do get what you pay for with classes! So whilst I set up my step-up bench and bar, I was half expecting to have to do another full workout after the class to make sure I got in a decent workout.

 

IMG_4555

The class started with a short lightweight barbell warm-up, before going straight into alternating leg and arm exercises. The great thing about this class was that Leo, the instructor, pushed people to use the heaviest weights they physically could. I think a lot of people, women especially, are so scared to use heavier weights, for fear of bulking up. However, the high reps used in this class are known to target both fast-twitch muscle fibres (the ones used for anaerobic fitness, such as weight-lifting) and slow-twitch fibres (used for aerobic fitness, like running). The high-repetition exercises are known to increase toning rather than bulking, so higher weights just means more fat burnt!

Another benefit to this class was that it didn’t just focus on one body part. This allowed for very little rest between sets – leg work was used as a ‘break’ from arms, which, once exhausted could be rested using more leg work.

The class lasted 45 minutes, most of which was spend working out – and hard. The music was thankfully loud enough to drown out my groaning, whimpering and the occasional swear word. In the end I was drenched in sweat, and pleased with how hard I had worked in the 45 minutes. Despite being 12:15pm on a Thursday afternoon, the class was packed – true testament to how good it was!

Good points:

  • No further workout was needed after 45 minutes – this was tiring enough for one day!
  • Cheap cheap cheap – membership is no contract and affordable for everyone
  • I couldn’t walk down stairs afterwards
  • The difficulty of the class could be altered to suit everyone’s ability, using different weights on the barbell
  • High energy, high fat-burning class

Less-good points:

  • The class was very full (although this didn’t seem to hinder anyone at all)

 

Cover photo from the Les Mills website,

For more information on the easy Gyms around the UK, check out https://www.easygym.co.uk

 

Boxing – Third Space

Third space is the epitome of luxury gyms in London. I attended the gym in soho, just south of Carnaby Street. As I walked in, I did wonder if I’d got the right place – apart from being surrounded by scaffolding, the entrance was more like the entrance to one of those whole foods cafés, welcoming me in with acai bowls and vegan smoothies.

The staff at the desk were lovely, and showed me around the club before donating me some hand wraps (necessary for the boxing session) and showing me to the changing room. I know you’re here to hear about the class but MY GOD what a changing room. Like all great gyms, it had plenty of space, towels, hair dryers, hair straighteners (that’s when you know it’s a swanky gym), a sauna, a steam room and lovely showers.

ThirdSpace_soho_header1-1400x450

View of Third Space, Soho from the 3rd floor (photo from Third Space website).

On to the class.

I have never done real boxing before, so was intrigued to see how the coach, Keith, would handle being with a complete newbie. We started the class with some warming up, before learning the basic moves (1, 2, 1, 2), demonstrated by Keith and others who had been there before. The class was small enough for everyone to have a go with Keith several times before the end of the class, to check on technique as well as have a professional sparring partner. The class was as much technique based as fitness based, and although it wasn’t as tiring as most of the classes I do (probably because it mainly focussed on arms), it certainly got me drenched in sweat within about 10 minutes. We also split the session in two, completing some abs and legs exercised in the middle to give our arms a rest whilst keeping out heart-rate up (yay calorie burn!).

IMG_4465

Sweaty Flora post boxing session (ft. the ThirdSpace sprinting track)

The class was 45 minutes in total, with about 30 minutes of that spent boxing (drills and sparring). By the end I was very hot but with plenty of energy to continue exercising (the perfect time to check out the pool, or the other 3 floors of beautiful gym equipment).

Good points:

  • If you fancy looking hard-core whilst getting a workout, boxing is for you!
  • This class could definitely substitute your arms day. Mine are still shaking 4h later
  • This is a quick way to get your heart rate up in the lunch break or after work, or the great start to a longer workout.
  • I had SO MUCH FUN – I was really smiling by the end, which rarely happens in a class!

Less-good points:

  • Despite leaving me shaking, I had recovered within about 10 minutes of the class, and left wanting a little bit more of a workout. For me, this class was more about having fun, whilst getting my heart-rate up, a little bit like going trampolining – it’s great fun, good exercise but not crazily tough on the body unless you’re really good.

Bike & Beats – GymBox Westfield

As you may be able to tell, I love trying out classes at different gyms. And a sure-fire way of telling very quickly how good the general standard of the teaching is, is by taking a spinning class. Similar to sweet potato fries at a restaurant, spinning classes are found at almost all good gyms and are relatively good wherever you go. However, some are just the BEST – spinning classes aren’t supposed to be easy, but they’re not meant to be hellish either. Any instructor who can make a spinning class ‘fun’ is doing an amazing job – you leave feeling like you’ve really aced your workout and you deserve whatever delicious food you want for the next day.

The GymBox class ‘Bike and Beats’ is a class that uses something I’ve always found incredibly helpful when working out, especially when running or cycling: the beat of your cadence. The music for the class was fantastic, and was set by the instructor so that the cadence of the cycling was to the beat to the music. This has been shown in studies to increase endurance and decrease perceived effort in running, and it seems to have exactly the same effect in cycling.

B&B

Bike & Beats (photo from the GymBox website)

What sets this class apart from others I do, is the use of coloured lights on the front of the bikes – these change from white to blue, green, yellow and finally red as you pedal faster or turn up the resistance (i.e. increase your wattage). In addition, the lighting on the ceiling of the room matches the average lights of all the cyclists in the room – pretty cool right? The instructor for my class, Jason Mellars (@rhythmtrainer) took no prisoners – if anyone was below the desired wattage/colour, he would just repeatedly should ‘red! RED!’ etc. until everyone was working hard enough. I can imagine this isn’t for everyone, but for me, someone who works well when being pushed as hard as I can go, this was perfect!

In addition, the class works your entire body, not just your legs. We used our arms a lot, doing ‘push-up’ type exercises on the handlebars whilst spinning, which after a while was quite tiring for the arms. It also distracted my mind from how tough the actual spinning was, as I was having to concentrate on something else.

The class is 45 minutes long, which considering I felt like I was going to vomit/die at 20 minutes in, felt too long, but thankfully the hard cycling only lasted around 30-35 minutes, before a cool-down and stretch (ever so important!).

Good for:

  • Cyclists and anyone who’s legs need a real workout
  • Cardio bunnies
  • Anyone looking to increase both endurance and power
  • People who struggle to motivate themselves on their own workouts
  • Anyone who wants a short but intense session that works your entire body

Less good:

  • For me, it was perfect, but anyone who doesn’t enjoy shouted motivation may find this a bit much
  • People who are less fit. I struggled. Everyone struggled, and everyone in there was pretty damn fit.