Ever avoided the weights room because it’s full of scary men grunting as they slam a 100kg barbell to the floor, or worried you might turn into the Incredible Hulk after a weights session and a protein shake? ONE LDN aims to quash those fears and get you wrestling, fighting, and punching your way to a face redder than a baboon’s bottom—and a lean, toned body to boot.
Offering the latest strength and conditioning classes including boxing, HIIT, Tai Chi, Muay Thai and cycling, Londoners can now get a piece of the action at their club in Imperial Wharf.
I like the gym. All gyms. In fact, I regularly refer to gyms as being a ‘little piece of heaven’. I think I may have even clapped my hands in glee when Shannon, the club manager, showed me their Woodway treadmills—four brand spanking new treadmills with a curved running belt, and powered entirely by the runner.
ONE LDN has all the high-tech fitness equipment you could wish for. Powerplates, a rope-climbing machine, a martial arts and boxing studio (described as ‘cage’, which actually freaked me out until I saw it was a glorified mats area with three padded walls), a phenomenal army of pro-cycle indoor bikes, huge saunas in the changing rooms, and an array of classes designed to sweat, lift, and sprint your way to achieving Jessica Ennis’ abs, the bottom of a Kardashian, and Cameron Diaz’s arms (and also becoming an exhausted mess).
There’s a juice bar in the reception, the friendliest, most welcoming team of staff, and a magical key fob system that scans you into the club, logs all your fitness sessions, uploads your workout data to an app, and digitally locks and alarms your changing room locker.
To say I’m a fitness fanatic is a slight understatement. However, it may please you to know that I’m not a personal trainer, I don’t run triathlons, ultra marathons or feature in bodybuilding competitions, and my surname isn’t Schwarzenegger. I’m your typical desk-job worker who enjoys a four-mile run now and then, eats Nutella off a spoon, and Instagrams the odd porridge or quinoa salad.
BabeBox is led by professional female fighter Sofie, who is pint-sized—don’t be fooled though; one punch could send you flying, hence the padded walls (part joking). BabeBox is a partner workout with pads, broken up into about 10 minutes of learning different punch moves and practicing them in slower, powerful movements, then picking up speed, until you swap over the pads and gloves to then support your partner.
It felt exhilarating and strangely stress relieving, and before we knew it 45 minutes had flown by. I leant into my punching partner and whispered, “That might mean that we actually had fun!” It’s true: we did.
Verdict: The idea of a partner workout would usually make me run in the other direction, but the girls in the class (no guys allowed) were great company and Sofie is inspiring, informative, and encouraging. Will I return? My shoulders may kill two days later but I’m already planning my return, and with BabeBox their most popular class, Alex Fitness is looking to add more sessions to the timetable.
Tip: Pick a partner of similar height and build to you for the optimum workout, and be sure to trim your nails beforehand.
When I was offered to try out the MMA (mixed martial arts) class, I replied that it ‘really isn’t my sort of thing’ and initially declined. However, as we were finishing up in BabeBox, Sofie invited us to stick around and try out her MMA class that was immediately following. Thanks to the peak of endorphins from the boxing class, I ended up staying.
I’ve never even seen martial arts, let alone done it, and I panicked when I couldn’t even do a forward roll. However, Sofie was great and encouraging once again, and fortunately didn’t dwell on the forward rolls (or backwards rolls… or ‘shrimping’…). There were two of us in the class, and I went from ‘okay so basically if I get attacked, I’m going to die’ to thinking by the end ‘if I do get attacked, there’s a slim chance I might survive’.
I really enjoyed following on from BabeBox into the MMA, and Sofie’s instructions are straightforward, enabling you to pick it up relatively easily. The class is slow, methodical and gentle—you won’t be thrown to the floor in the first five minutes.
It’s almost impossible not to form friends and have a laugh in the MMA class thanks to the ‘friendly’ sparring, which verges on Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-esque contortions (straddling each other, grabbing the top of your opponent’s legs). You can either do it really seriously and leave feeling horrendously awkward about the whole experience, or you can push them to the ground, sit on top of them with your legs in their face, lean over and say ‘hey, how you doin’?’ before you both cry with laughter.
I played my best party trick and gave my opponent the fright of his life when my shoulder clicked loudly whilst I was being held in an arm bar, leaving him horrified at the thought that he’d dislocated my shoulder. It took me a while to stop laughing sp I could reassure him I was absolutely fine.
We finished off with an intense core workout using 10kg sandbags (in the hope of chiseled abs one day) and a well-deserved stretch.
Verdict: It’s tough but surprisingly satisfying, and two hours with Sofie felt like I’d had a very thorough PT session.
Tips: You’ll be grateful for even a slapdash attempt at shaving your armpits beforehand, and applying an extra spray of deodorant before the class.
Tuesday saw a rude awakening as I was buzzed out of bed at 5:15, to attend a 6:30am CUT class with Enrique. Thanks to the early start there were only four of us, making it feel like a personal training session instead of a group class. CUT was a step up from BabeBox—you vs the punching bag, doing an impressive sets regime with a minute of boxing, then a ‘break’ of 10 burpees, mountain climbers or squats, followed by another minute of boxing and another combination of jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.
We then took it up a notch by learning leg kicks, kneeing, and elbow digs into the bag—causing slightly painful boxing bag burn, but working just about every muscle in my body, leaving me a sweaty mess by the end. Thankfully the club staff were ready and waiting to snap a photo of my traumatised and puffy face. Super.
Verdict: I’ve been looking for a class that is exhausting, challenging, fun, and unbelievably sweaty, and I think I’ve found it. It was refreshing to have completed so much by 7:30am, and thanks to that post-workout high, I signed myself up for a PT session at 6:30am later on in the week.
Tip: Bring a towel for the shower you’ll 100% need afterwards.
I finished the week feeling weary and worn, but also stronger, fitter, and itching to return to another class… so I signed up as a fully-fledged member and was granted one of those multi-tasking key fobs that links up to my phone.
Ripped six-pack or bulging biceps have not burst through my sleeves (yet), but I definitely feel I’m on the right track with such intense, action-packed and resistance-filled HIIT classes, designed to give you the body of an athlete, the mind of a soldier, and the endurance of a kick-boxer. And definitely not the body of the Hulk.
The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, London, SW6 2UB; oneldn.com
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.