by John O'Ceallaigh from The Telegraph, April 18, 2017
Removing the calipers from the ring of fat that some years ago stealthily claimed squatters’ rights on my stomach, personal trainer Mike concludes my Body Oracle health consultation with some good news: “This might sound like a strange compliment, but it’s nice and soft.” Hard fat that has ‘set’, he explains, is imbued with toxins and difficult to shift; with his team’s guidance and some effort on my part, I should see improvements in my physique and overall sense of wellbeing within weeks.
It is, I suppose, an encouraging start to my week at The Lanesborough Club & Spa. A new addition to The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge, the 18,000sq ft complex is one of the most advanced fitness facilities operated by any hotel in the country but it is well-to-do Londoners, rather than overnight guests, who will gain the most from its opening. After paying a £2,000 joining fee and £6,000 in annual membership costs, just 450 individuals will have unrestricted access to the space each year. The club’s promise is that judicious use of the amenities on offer will leave them feeling better than ever.
Those amenities are ample. Alongside the expected well-equipped gym, there is a private restaurant serving appropriately healthy cuisine, boutique and dimly lit spa area where rooms are supported by faux Doric columns and therapists administer treatments using Ila and La Prairie products. Members and guests can convene in the Butterfly Room lounge or separate to use the male and female thermal suites. After a vigorous workout, a ‘spa butler’ - a dapper attendant on hand to provide fresh towels, concierge services and words of encouragement - might recommend you try the ‘experience shower’, where a cool mist infused with mint essence serves as a refreshing salve for aching muscles. (Afterwards, bashful males have the option of changing in a private dressing room encased in glimmering gold.)
More valuable still is the expertise at visitors’ disposal. The Lanesborough has partnered with wellbeing specialist Bodyism, which provides clients with the fitness and nutritional guidance they need to fashion “long, lean athletic bodies” and counts Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley among its alumni. Every new member will receive a Body Oracle consultation and can subsequently join group classes led by Bodyism personnel (complimentary for them; £35 a pop for hotel guests) or book one-to-one training sessions with Bodyism coaches.
It's that on-site expertise that should set the facility even further apart from the existing hotel members' fitness clubs and spas in London, and it goes some way to explain the premium clients here will pay. (Though the capital's Corinthia hotel charges its members £6,500 all-in in their first year and £6,000 per annum thereafter, included in the rate is an overnight stay in the hotel and a broader range of in-house discounts.)
From a range of sports and health-industry backgrounds, the Bodyism team is briefed on clients’ consultation results and shares expertise to create highly tailored but diverse programmes for club users. I am attended to by Mai, whose background in yoga and meditation introduces a contemplative element to our session; having trained since the age of six, East End boxer George leads an invigorating sparring match; previously a video analyst for the British Olympic rowing team, Yiannis makes a series of minute changes to my postures to significantly ramp up the exercises’ efficacy.
Varied though their approaches are, they are uniformly chirpy, convincing ambassadors for the Bodyism programme, each radiating glossy good health. I am told Bodyism founder James Duigan encourages his staff to “show love” to their clients and though I am initially suspicious of the effusive encouragement that follows each stretch and lift I make, I’m soon forced to wonder why my ‘friends’ have never once praised my remarkable flexibility. Yiannis commented on it within minutes.
At £150 for an hour-long session, such support is prohibitively priced for most but will likely be considered a worthwhile investment by the club’s privileged clientele - between 40 and 50 per cent of its members are expected to sign up for individual Bodyism programmes and the launch of the club comes at a time when consumers are spending significantly on health and wellbeing experiences. The Global Wellness Institute has found that the worldwide wellness industry grew by 10.6 per cent between 2013 and 2015 and is worth $3.7 trillion (£3 trillion) today. Wellness tourism is now one of the fastest growing sectors within the tourism industry overall.
Those figures go some way to clarify why the Oetker Collection, the company behind the Lanesborough and a scattering of other ultra-luxury hotels worldwide, has invested so heavily in this new facility. For CEO Frank Marrenbach, providing impressive fitness facilities is “an absolutely essential part of a hotel experience, especially as the global traveller becomes more health aware… spas are [nowadays] less about beauty now and more about health and wellbeing.”
I reflect on this after rounding off my week’s membership with an intimidating-sounding but manageable Warrior fitness class and a leisurely Sunday lunch with the papers at the club’s restaurant. Recommended by that day’s trainer Simone, a chocolatey £8 Bodyism Body Brilliance-branded shake goes down a treat with a squash, quinoa and asparagus salad and a side order of matcha and coconut pancakes. Aching after my training sessions though I am, it strikes me that for those who can afford it this is a very agreeable way in which to remain in good shape.
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