The World’s Most Instagrammable Gyms
Photograph by Mr Gilles Bonugli. Courtesy of BXR
Your body may be a temple, but if your gym is a hellhole where the walls drip with condensation and angels fear to tread (without picking up a verruca in the showers), you’re not living your best sweat life. Besides which, everybody knows that workouts don’t count unless you publicise them on social media.
Just like “healthy” coconut sugar and most fitness influencers’ credentials, this is, of course, a nonsense. You don’t need a fancy gym to get results. A utilitarian budget option will suffice, but the right environment can transform exercise from a necessary evil into something exalted – an “experience”, no less. Especially when you throw in free towels and hoity-toity toiletries.
Photograph by Mr Max Oppenheim. Courtesy of Blok
The hackneyed phrase “achingly hip” is applied to pretty much everything in modish east London, but rarely as accurately – or literally – as in the case of this artfully constructed boutique studio. Housed in a former Victorian tram depot in Clapton, Blok is prime Insta fodder, thanks to co-founder and photographer Mr Max Oppenheim. As well as a café that serves Sandows cold-brew coffee and Borough bone broth, there’s a gallery space, while the lighting is inspired by art luminary Mr Dan Flavin. It opened in February 2016, but Blok is defying the mayfly-like longevity of most hotspots by opening a third studio, 2,000sq ft of exposed brickwork (natch) ensconcing a full-size boxing ring, heavy bags and vintage-look gloves. If you’re sore after one or more of the 160 myriad sessions on offer each week – from calisthenics to animal flow – there’s always slower-paced yin yoga or Blok Stretch.
Rumble, New York
Photograph courtesy of Rumble
Boxing has blown up of late, thanks to the new breed of boutique studios. Entering the crowded Manhattan ring is Rumble in Flatiron/Chelsea, co-founded by erstwhile Barry’s Bootcamp master trainer Mr Noah Neiman. While the prospect of “10 rounds of fire” might make you question whether you can stand the heat, you’ll be relieved to learn that the first rule of this dimly lit club is no touching of the hair or face, while the punch bags are filled with water so they’re kinder to your delicate wrists and manicure. Another reason for the explosion in boxing is its effectiveness, and if personal trainers’ physiques are their business cards, then Mr Neiman is up there with Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or, to be more accurate, his watermarked nemesis Paul Allen/Owen (delete as per the film/novel).
Playlist Yoga, Los Angeles
Photograph courtesy of Playlist Yoga
Typically, the musical accompaniment to your asana might be monks chanting or whale song. Playlist Yoga in West Hollywood, however – which was founded by former lawyer and CrossFitter Mr Jordan Cohen – is different. Here, the walls are decorated with lyrics from Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” and Eminem’s “8 Mile”. Be sure to leave enough time for your breakfast/lunch/dinner to fully digest before you embark on one of the up-tempo vinyasa flows, which are set to tunes both contemporary and classic selected by the yogis-cum-DJs and seconded by the chief music officer. Yoga purists may mutter under their ujjayi breath, but you won’t be able to hear them over Major Lazer, Mr Marvin Gaye or whatever else is blasting out in synch with your downward dog. The lockers, meanwhile, are named after chart toppers such as Mr Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and Ms Taylor Swift.
Photograph by Mr Gilles Bonugli. Courtesy of BXR
It’s not just vowels getting knocked out at this shrine to pugilism, conveniently located within a jab of Chiltern Firehouse so you can burn off all those cocktails. The Firehouse’s owner, big-hitting hotelier Mr André Balazs, is a founding committee member, along with actual heavyweight Mr Anthony Joshua and, more unexpectedly, hit maker Mr Mark Ronson and Victoria’s Secret knockouts Mses Sara Sampaio and Maryna Linchuk. This isn’t a boxing club in the conventional, Rocky-montage sense. If there’s any spit here, it’s immediately polished, and sawdust swiftly vacuumed. Alongside the extensive range of boxing and gym equipment, you’ll find strongman gear such as giant tyres to flip Southpaw-style, an in-house clinic and a Joe & The Juice-powered lounge. If the membership fee is too punchy, try Sweat, a pay-as-you-perspire studio that, happily, allows you to use the steam room and sauna.
Photograph by Mr Fridolin Full. Courtesy of BeCycle
Giving the indoor cycling paradigm some fresh legs, this converted bank in the Mitte district provides ample return on your investment. Health is wealth, after all. BeCycle is a full-circle, yin-and-yang offering. The in-the-black Ride studio hosts 45-minute spin classes that can expend up to 600 calories, while the light and airy Refine Room stages 45- to 60-minute power-yoga sessions for strength, conditioning and recovery, plus ballet barre if you’re brave enough. This being the club capital of Europe, the music is curated by DJs from Berlin and beyond (you can also follow BeCycle on SoundCloud), while the complimentary shampoo, conditioner, bodywash and lotion are provided by Malin + Goetz. Round out your holistic detox in the chill-out zone, a co-working space and plant-based café that serves healthy treats almost as indulgence-free as the Architectural Digest-worthy concrete-floored and brushed brass-panelled decor.
MNDFL, New York
Photograph by Ms Julia Robbs. Courtesy of MNDFL
Like working – and working out – from home, meditating where you eat, sleep and Netflix is great in theory but often impractical. Nothing bungs up your feng shui like piles of dirty laundry and unread Ms Marie Kondo books. So, thank Buddha for MNDFL (what is it with the aversion to vowels?), a dedicated, clutter-free studio for non-denominational, om-less head-clearing. With waiting lists for evening classes at its original Greenwich Village outpost reaching a distinctly unrelaxing several weeks – which speaks volumes about the mental state of New Yorkers – MNDFL has expanded to the Upper East Side and Williamsburg. Expect white walls, tea bars and floor-to-ceiling foliage for a biophilic filip (the growing field of research into the benefits of natural environments and materials for wellbeing). Just bear in MND that the cushions go as fast as spin bikes. Not that we want to stress you out.
Barry’s Bootcamp, Dubai
Photograph courtesy of Barry's Bootcamp, Dubai
The concept that put the “boot” into the boutique fitness studio revolution is resting as little as those who manage to sign up for its relentless high-intensity interval training sessions. Following the success of its central and east London locations, where a merch-clad Mr David Beckham has been spotted, Barry’s opened its third location in the capital in Queensway. But further east, the US export – self-dubbed “The Best Workout In The World” – has rolled out as far as Dubai’s Central Park Towers. Pre-order your post-workout protein shake from the Fuel Bar, then brace yourself for 50 minutes of being shouted at by unfeasibly attractive and enthusiastic instructors wearing headsets as you alternate between treadmill sprints and floor exercises with weights. Being forced to high-five isn’t the worst bit. When you’re off your pecs on exercise-induced endorphins, you’ll actively want to.