We’re all in the gym this January on an arduous slog to burn off the brandy butter and the Courvoisier cream. The task of tackling our love handles was never going to be fun, but oh, how much more pleasant to park one’s bottom on a spin bike next to someone who’s sweating Armagnac. If we’re truly going to commit to a New Year fitness drive then it might as well be done with style and panache.
And so while the equipment itself may be interchangeable, here’s a glimpse at London’s most stylish gyms.
The Royal Automobile Club, which opened in Pall Mall in 1911, is presided over by Prince Michael of Kent. The piece de resistance of this Grade II* listed building is its Grecian style swimming pool which the Queen is rumoured to have graced as a child. All marble and mosaics, it’s no wonder it was the backdrop for Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson’s frolics in the Woody Allen film Scoop.
Away from the pool and outside the gym, members can be found in the Turkish baths, on the squash courts, or attending ballet, opera or balls. With a shared love of motoring, they’ll also be revving their engines on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Exclusivity: For the privilege of paying a £4,000 joining fee and an annual subscription of nearly £2,000, applicants should be proposed and seconded by two existing members of at least one year’s standing. After six months on the waiting list, the application will be reviewed by the Elections Committee, who may wish to appraise applicants in person.
Hack: Children and partners of existing members are fast-tracked through the waiting list, and joining as a couple results in a 50 per discount for the partner of a member paying the full rate.
Head to the City to slip inside this Grade I listed building that’s almost a century old. The former bank boasts heritage features including vaulted ceilings, verdite columns and ornate walnut cupboards designed to store top hats and canes. The rooftop pool overlooks St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton is amongst the big names popping in to push the spin class to its limit.
State of the art gym equipment includes BeaverFit training rigs complete with monkey bars, climbing ropes and punch bags. Post-workout treats include the traditional Moroccan hammam and “Urban Warrior” facials, while the barbershop offers traditional wet shaves. Physio, osteopathy and sports massage are all available.
Exclusivity: The gym is available to members of Ned’s Club which costs £3,150 per year with a £1,000 joining fee. Prospective members are advised to fill in their application forms with flair: “We’re looking for personality, and someone who genuinely wants to be a member of Ned’s,” reveals my source, who is not impressed by applications that look like they’ve been dashed off indiscriminately.
Hack: Spend the night – rooms are £280 upwards and they all have access to the gym and the spa.
The Queen’s Club
Established in 1886, The Queen’s Club in West Kensington houses its own museum. The first ever multipurpose sports complex, it was home to the annual Oxford v Cambridge challenges for over 30 years, and it currently hosts the World Rackets Championships and leading Real Tennis events including the World Championship, and the British Open.
The gym, which is over 1,200 sq ft, contains the latest Cybex equipment, and studio classes include yoga and pilates. There’s every kind of court you can imagine, and of course, saunas, steams rooms and Shiatsu.
Exclusivity: Would-be members must be proposed and seconded by existing members of two years’ standing, as well as providing supporting statements from two further members. Should this be achieved, a share must be purchased upon joining – the price of which is currently £15,000.
Hack: Perhaps an invisibility cloak.
Originally built for Countess Home, aka “The Queen of Hell”, 20 Portman Square has been described as architect Robert Adam’s finest surviving London town house, featuring his tour de force Imperial staircase. Earl Grey and the French Ambassador were amongst the building’s former tenants before it spent nearly a decade on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 most endangered sites.
Now a private members’ club, natural daylight shines on gym-goers who can take classes such as “Arms, Abs & Ass.” The steam room, sauna, and rainforest showers are all part of the package, and those who fancy it can enjoy a game of tennis across the road in Portman Square, or a round of golf in Buckinghamshire’s magnificent Stoke Park.
Exclusivity: Home House reassures prospective members that there are no esoteric initiation rites to cross the threshold – instead, recommended applications are simply considered monthly by the membership committee, with a favourable outcome leading to a joining fee of £299 and an annual subscription of £1,940.
Hack: It’s a steal – just grab it!
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