Caroline Issa tries the Lomax way
New year, not so new intentions. Top of my resolution list is always, without fail, to get fit. To feel strong. To turn the mush into muscle. It was a big surprise for me that a couple of years ago, I reconnected with the idea of working out – I’d had about a decade lapse (is a decade timeframe allowed to be called a “lapse” or rather more of an abandonment?) whereby I completely de-prioritised any time to spend on getting my pulse up and sweating it out.
I’d had spurts here and there – in college having gained the not-so-fabled Freshman 15 pounds, then when I lived in San Francisco where everyone was so healthy around me you felt out of place if you weren’t living in a pair of sneakers. Then, when I joined Tank, working entrepreneurial hours (e.g. 24/7) for my first few years meant I got out of the habit of being active. In my 30s I finally decided to take the bull by the horns and get a personal trainer, Ray. He was amazing but I worked out only when I could get some time with him. When he moved to Los Angeles I mourned and tried another personal trainer but work seemed to always take priority.
Finally a fellow fashion editor, Pippa Vosper, introduced me to spinning last year – a class she taught at Lomax, a beautiful little gym in the heart of Chelsea. For some reason the high intensity, drench making workout on the stationary bikes appealed to me. I got hooked. Shortly after reconnecting with being physical I decided to try out a personalised seven-day fitness detox programme created for me by Hilary Rifkin, a woman who proves that muscles are super sexy.
Based on the Fulham Road, with a sister branch in Victoria, Lomax is one of the buzziest in the line of fitness centres offering holistic care for the body. Inventive exercise “pods” created by Jonathan Lomax create spaces for your individual workout the size of a closet with all the required equipment you need for a full body workout. Downsizing at its best.
I met with Hilary and agreed a plan to get me ready to face a particularly upcoming busy period of non-stop travel. I needed a stamina boost and to feel healthy, strong and lean. Hi she would help me tailor an after-work evening workout that could accommodate my diary by also preparing a healthy meal after each workout!
Thursday – Day One
My trainer is Katie as Hilary is off this day. Hilary promises me Katie will kick my ass. A bright and cheery character (an ex-gymnast, go figure) who works out wearing mascara and pearls, she’s the kind of trainer you both love and want to please, but equally terrified of. I'm handed a coconut water since Katie grills me on what I’ve eaten that day and since I haven't had any carbs since the morning (steamed fish for lunch and half a crème brule do not count) she figures I”ll need the energy from the coconut water. She’s right. We start with a legs and bum focus and I'm already warned I will have trouble walking the next day. She’s not wrong.
After a warm up on the bike, Katie uses a bench to show me a simple bum lift – so simple that is, until I'm four sets in and the burning takes over. It’s exercises like these that make you appreciate how much your body can actually do. We continue with squats (with and without a bench) pushups, and tummy tucks. Katie is all lean muscle, and when I ask her what got her from the floor mat to personal training, she tells me she had entered a bikini competition, and ever since has been doing a lot of weight training that has changed her body shape. She tells me her story, thinking it will keep my mind off the burn, but I can barely keep it all straight as the pain takes over. Later that evening, I find it difficult to climb my stairs home but make it up and into a hot bath. I finish off the day with a warm chicken coconut curry for dinner from the Lomax kitchen and flop into bed, grateful for a soft landing.
Friday – Day Two
I start the day off with a breakfast prepared by Hilary and the Lomax kitchen – the meal I love the most of the day will now consist of bench pressed oats and pour-water-heat-in-microwave whey protein porridge. No full English breakfast then. I had briefed the Lomax team that snacking was a weakness, and so they added into my food package a vanilla pod chia container, the consistency of which was not dissimilar to jelly with seeds, and of which I’m still not 100% sold on. But I understand that a Snickers bar may not be the best regular snacking choice so I give it a go.
The healthy breakfast and snack put me in a good frame of mind for lunch – so at a lunch meeting at the Editions Hotel’s Berner’s Tavern, I find some quinoa and salmon on the menu and give myself a pat on the back. It doesn’t take much.
Later that evening, I leave work and rush to the gym in Chelsea. Hilary’s back and I have my first session with her. She’s the kind of trainer you can’t help but want to do your best for, so when she explains to me that today’s focus will be on chest, biceps and abs, I mentally prepare myself to push my limits to show her I'm no wimp. Needless to say, it doesn’t take very long into the routine and repeats that my arms soon feel like jelly and I am very soon reduced to childlike pleading.
She tells me that I’ll be feeling the brunt of these biceps and chest exercises in about two days time, which doesn’t bode well given I have another five days of these intense workouts. On the upside, having someone guiding me through routines means the session goes by in a flash and I surprise myself by the weight I’m lifting given I usually use the smallest weights found in any gym.
Dinner is given to me in a brown bag from the kitchen, and it’s tasty broccoli, lentils and chickpeas. At least all the ruffage feels filling.
Saturday – Day Three
Yes, I'm working out on the weekend. Third day in, and I’m feeling sore pretty much everywhere. The previous two days’ worth of workouts resulting pain has now kicked in and this morning’s breakfast of champions consists of vanilla whey and some coconut water. Yet I’m feeling rather energetic despite the difficulty in walking – oddly looking forward to today’s workout.
At the gym, Hillary dives right into my routine focused on burpees and abs, mixed in with boxing, which looks deceptively simple, but is a killer. One exercise that Hilary demonstrates for me to mimic looks like a sprinter’s starting block position – your knee comes up to connect near your face, and while it starts off easily enough, up and down, up and down, it…is…actually…not.
The rest of the day I do nothing at home – I figure my body deserves a bit of laziness.
Sunday – Day Four
So this is the day it all kicks in and I literally can’t move, it aches too much. But I drag myself to the gym and Hilary is relatively kind to me (note, I did say relatively). She lets me do an all around workout and stretch session so that I’m warmed up and my muscles aren’t as stiff as when I walk in. But the minute I leave, I treat myself to one of the yummier smoothies and prepare to stretch even more at home.
Monday – Day Five
“Assassination”. That’s what Hilary calls today’s session, and she’s right. That’s what it feels like; Just when I thought the worst was over and was feeling a little less sore, a series of lunges and other backside tightening exercises have my neurons kicking in. I had never been more aware of my gluttonous maximus and thigh muscles. As a drop of sweat rolls slowly down the side of my face I wonder how a ‘simple’ lunge can wreak so much havoc. And yet I’m having fun with the workout – I can feel blood pumping and bits of my body I haven’t felt in years. No pain, no gain right?
Tuesday – Day Six
The pain is turning into something oddly pleasurable, as if in the last six days my mushy bits have tightened up slightly and even if they aren’t, mentally something has shifted. I’m looking forward to the exhausted feeling after the workout where the endorphins kick in and the buzz arrives. But before that happens, Hilary has me rowing to work on my back and triceps, another simple exercise that really works the entire body. To keep the focus on the back and tricpes, she has me try two different variations of a pull-up, one normally while the other uses rings to stabilise. By this night, I was no longer dependent on Lomax’s kitchen to eat right – got home to some deliciously steamed fish and rice and some steamed broccoli.
Wednesday – Day Seven
Ok – full disclosure – I never made it to day seven. Not for want for trying, just the good old work schedule got in the way and I couldn’t manage the final night. Then it seemed I could never quite get my last session in, so I had to consider it a six day detox with almost as much result as the full seven days.
Re-connecting with your body, and feeling aches and pains as well as the results of hard work, is incredibly satisfying. Once over the hump of actually committing to the time and the effort, it’s all about what you put in to get out of it. I can say hand on heart in my case that without Lomax and Hilary and her team, I wouldn’t have been able to positively and out of my own volition started working out again regularly to imbue my lifestyle with a sense of physical movement, of doing something good for my body and my future. I’m now a regular at Psycle, a newish gym focused solely on spinning that is around the corner from my office.
New year, act on those intentions. January is a time of detox, so why not try your own to get your 2015 started as you intend to go on.