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LA’s scariest exercise class comes to London



I visit my sister in Los Angeles once a year and when there I can be sure of two things — we will party hard and we will exercise hard. Often she will force me to attend modish exercise classes that have yet to arrive in the UK. I fell off a bike in West Hollywood’s SoulCycle long before you could do such a thing in London. Fortunately, the room was so dark and the music so loud no one noticed. I have been dragged — just off an 11-hour flight — to hot yoga so hot that I felt my blood broil while lying on the cork floor in a pool of my own sweat. The shirtless, tattooed man playing guitar in the corner did not make this experience any less alarming. But the scariest class of all was something called Lagree Fitness. Which my sister is obsessed with — and which is how I knew it would be terrifying.

“You have never seen women with bodies like this,” she told me as we drove to the Motivate Studio in Silverlake in January 2022. And it was true: the women in the studio did have amazing bodies in their very shiny, very tight pastel leggings and bra tops; lean and muscular and pert. A bit like Barbie. “If you did this three times a week, you’d look like one of them,” my sister told me. “I very much doubt that,” I replied.

Lagree Fitness is sort of like Reformer Pilates, but on potent steroids. Like Reformer, the exercises are done on a machine, in this case the Megaformer, which sounds like it might be a dinosaur. The Megaformer has two carriages, multiple straps, pulleys and intensity levels, as well as numbers that indicate where you must put your hands and feet for torturous planks, wobbly gliding lunges and impossible pulses. One must transition from one move to the next in a matter of seconds, which requires ungodly dexterity and reflexes. There are no rest periods in the 45-minute class, the aim being to reach a point where your muscles are trembling and you are begging for mercy. I reached this point pretty fast, unable to keep up with my sleek gym companions as they crunched and pulled and pushed. “Go, G,” the instructor shouted. “You’ve got this,” she continued. I really did not. I nearly cried with relief when she announced that we had only 20 seconds to go. It felt like 20 hours.

The Megaformer machine was more like an “advanced spaceship”

My sister had warned me that my muscles would ache the next day. I didn’t expect that I would be so sore I would not be able to walk. Which was a minor issue as I was flying home since I had to hobble through LAX. It felt like someone had stripped my calf muscles from my legs, rolled them into solid little balls, then reattached them.

Yet I was intrigued. My sister’s words, “You could have a body like that” replayed in my mind like a motivational mantra as I ploughed through the complimentary pretzels on the flight back. When I got home I looked up Lagree Fitness. The “method” was founded in 1998 by a man called Sebastien Lagree, who, on his website, describes himself as a “visionaire”. Michelle Obama, Jennifer Aniston and the Duchess of Sussex are fans. According to the literature, Lagree Fitness is more like bodybuilding than Pilates, and the Megaformer more like an “advanced spaceship” than the classic Pilates reformer. This all sounded suitably impressive. The problem was, back in 2022, I couldn’t find anywhere in London to do Lagree Fitness. My total body transformation would have to wait.

Then I heard about Studio Fix, a gym that opened this year in Kensington. Here was a devoted Lagree Fitness studio. “Sculpt your physique in a modern, luxurious space,” the website suggested. OK then. The gym, which has three studios and also offers Barre, HIIT, yoga and boxing with wheelchair access, was designed by WGB architects and is suitably swanky, with a smoothie bar in reception and Dyson hairdryers in the changing rooms as well as a big tub of free hairbands. Always useful.

The Lagree studio is comfortingly dark, with nightclub lights, cool hotel-lobby music and lots of mirrors in which the other attendees, who did indeed have very sculpted physiques, could take photographs of themselves to impress their followers on social media. I explained to the instructress that, although I had attended one class before, I considered myself a relative newbie. She talked me through the rigorous complexities of the Megaformer, and we began.

Studio Fix was designed by WGB architects

Studio Fix was designed by WGB architects

Now, I am not a complete sloth. I do yoga twice a week, weights once a week and run a bit when the weather is temperate. But my God, within about three exercises I was already having to down-level because I just couldn’t manage, I didn’t have the core strength. Or the anything else strength. The instructress called out things like “Grab the Ring of Fire” and “In 20 seconds we will be doing the sexy back,” while I puffed and floundered. I sought comfort and camaraderie from the women to my left and right, but they were at it like machines. The pace was marginally slower than the LA equivalent, but still I mostly failed to keep up.

At the end of it all the instructress told me that I’d done well, adding that it was a tough workout. And for the next three days my stomach muscles were stinging and sore in a way they had never been from any other workout. But still, I think I’ll return. Something that tough surely should make a difference. And who doesn’t want a sexy back? Or indeed free hairbands?

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