This post originally appeared on Saturday 17th March in ‘The Week’, from the Guernsey Press. Read it at GuernseyPress.com.
Coming into a new year has made me acutely aware of how London really excels at fitness mania. Walk five minutes and you can come across all kinds of brutal, bootcamp-style fitness classes, or bike spinning studios with cult-esque followings. But walk another five minutes and you can also find a cafe that specialises in raw cookie dough served in a cone with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. There’s a cafe that serves grilled cheese toasties with a macaroni cheese filling. It seems that in London, there are as many quirky ways to lose a few stone as there are to put them back on again. It can be motivating and upsetting in equal measure. Luckily I’ve managed to find a routine I’m sticking to, but I can’t deny I’ve had my interests piqued by some of the more… unusual fitness classes.
Last year, London got its first ‘Doga’ class. That’s yoga, but with dogs. Sadly I didn’t have a dog of my own and I didn’t really like the idea of ‘borrowing someone else’s’, as described in the programme, so I gave it a miss. I’ve also read about 111Cryo, a ‘cryotherapy’ studio in Knightsbridge where you can step into a pod before they drop the temperature to -90C. You stand there shivering for three minutes and the claim is that your body gets shocked into thinking it’s dying — so the automatic increase in metabolism allegedly helps you lose calories and feel better. It costs £95. Hell, if I wanted to face extreme temperatures, I’d walk to an Iceland shop and get in one of their freezers. You’d fundamentally get the same experience and at the end of it all you can treat yourself to an apple crumble for a quid. It’s all the fun of the cryotherapy, but with a £94 saving.
Last month, for the first time in my life, I went for a massage. My workplace had a massage therapist coming in to offer 30-minute sessions, and after sleeping so terribly lately that my posture has been like something out of the Addams Family, I figured it was a good time to finally try it out.
I have a theory that the situation in which you have a massage can have just as much effect on your mood and your assumption of the ‘results’ as the therapy itself. A spa, for example, where it smells good and you’ve probably paid a lot of money to be there is the ultimate in relaxation and good feeling. However, during my time in London I’ve also seen plenty of other options for a massage that had just scared me away from the whole idea.
Chinatown, for example, has a raft of herbal medicine shops, all open questionably late and all with massage chairs right there in the window. I certainly wasn’t in need of any herbal ‘remedies’, and I really wasn’t keen on getting a backrub in front of the denizens of Soho, so I gave it a miss. Then there are apps like UrbanMassage, where the therapist comes to you, massage chair in tow, and they can give you a deep-tissue massage right there in your front room. I find this idea terrifying, mostly for the fact I’d become incredibly anxious about the state of my flat; I pay money NOT to have to think about all the mess and dirty dishes lying around thank you, so, I gave it a miss.
Finally, in nearly any decent-sized shopping centre you go to in London, there’s always, bizarrely, some sort of stall offering ‘pay what you like’ back and neck massages. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything more relaxing than getting a back rub in a shopping centre. I can just picture the scene: lying back, taking in the aromatic scents of the McDonalds next door, and of course the calming sounds of an unruly child in a buggy, being pushed around by their equally disinterested parents. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but: I gave it a miss. While I can’t say the massage I had at work was the relaxing wonder I was hoping for — my neck is probably just as stiff as before — at least it ticked all the boxes: it didn’t cost £95, it wasn’t in a window in Soho and it was in a venue I trusted.
So here’s to a more flexible February.