Enjoyed a Christmas turkey did you? There’s only one winner in that match: the stomach. The Insider investigates how to win the Battle of the Bulge.
Time does wicked things. By pursuing the largely irresponsible lifestyle of an adolescent, I’ve ended up looking like anything but one. Don’t apply the ‘my body is a temple’ mantra to me, my body is a dustbin – and now I resemble one. That in itself is hardly a revelation – it’s what happens naturally when you count Marlboro, Big Mac and Guinness as your three favorite brands. What was a revelation, was the bombshell news that my weight was slowly creeping up to the triple digit mark.
I hadn’t really noticed before, at least not until the end-of-summer sales. It was then I found myself being physically cut out of a jacket in a changing room after getting trapped in a lovely Armani while shopping at Van Graaf – “All staff to the changing room, we have an emergency, all staff to the changing room.” It’s for that reason alone I fast tracked my New Year’s resolution forward two months and broke a lifelong oath to never visit a gym. It was time, I decided, if not to return my body to peak physical fitness, to at least edge back from peak physical fatness.
Even so, sitting in the changing room of Holmes Place Hilton for the first time, I couldn’t help but think I’d made some dreadful mistake. “We don’t belong here,” whispered the monkey on my shoulder, “take me to the smoking room of the Tortilla Factory. Take me now.” Monkey is right, I found myself thinking, monkey must be obeyed. They say the first step is often the hardest, and I can attest to that. It wasn’t just the prompting of an imaginary baboon that had my mind swirling, but the realization he was right – I don’t belong in a gym; the only six pack I’m familiar with is the one sitting in the fridge.
“It’s never too late,” says Insider consort Bradley Ernstzen, a freelance personal trainer. “The only time it’s too late to start getting healthy is when they’re lowering you into the ground – then, I’m sorry, your time is up.” Still in a half-mind to leg it back to the pub (by taxi, of course), it’s these words I found myself repeating as I exited the changing room and climbed the steps to the gym.
For my first workout I had booked a session with Marcin, one of 20+ trainers employed by Holmes Hilton, and he soon confirmed Ernstzen’s philosophy. “It might sound impossible, but it’s not, it’s never too late to lose weight. But you have chosen a good time to do so – most people first start having heart trouble when they’re 40ish, so if you’re here before then, then that’s a good sign.”
As Marcin puts me through the paces I’m encouraged to reveal all. “I need to lose weight,” I say, proudly patting my beer baby bodyline as I pant on a running machine. “First thing,” he warns, “is don’t get fooled by any of those miracle weight loss programs. People say to me all the time, ‘I want to lose ten kilos in a month’, and while it’s perfectly possible, it’s not advisable.” I can tell he senses my disappointment. “The thing is,” he continues, “if you lose that amount of weight in such a short time, then you’ve got to make sure you continue your program – otherwise you won’t just get the ten kilos back, you’ll get some extra as a bonus.”
Once again, my pre-gym conversation with Mr Ernstzen reminds me he’s right. “The best way to lose weight is to make a decision to change your eating habits and make a plan to stick to it. A sensible healthy eating plan combined with exercise should encourage you to lose about 2 kg a month. Now some will say ‘but that is too little’, but in six months you would have lost 12 kilos and you will keep it off – instead of embarking on a quick fat loss solution that does not work.”
In spite of Marcin’s cautious and logical advice, I can’t help but feel I’ve already lost ten kilos – and we haven’t even finished the warm-up. It’s rigorous and challenging and my head feels like it’s going to explode; early slicks of sweat have become a torrent, and my body is yelling enough. But I plug away, urged on by an indefatigable Marcin. “Cardio, cardio, cardio,” he urges, “that’s what you need to work on, that’s how you’ll lose weight.”
At one stage he has me running – knees high, high, high – on a trampoline, and I catch sight of the darts player in the mirror. All sorts of bits and bobs are flopping and flapping about, among them the price tags on my ‘bought it ten minutes ago’ gym outfit. But I care not. I had imagined I’d be confronted by perfect specimens strutting about in neatly pressed outfits – the reality is different. While the gym has a healthy demographic of supermen and glam blonde weather girls, it’s not the vanity parade I expected – there’s no time to feel awkward, and we’re all in it together.
Eventually, the session winds down with 20 mins on the bike. Again, it’s another surprise. I look on most gym equipment as wicked contraptions that should have been put on exhibit at the Nuremberg Trials. Here, the state-of-the-art gear makes my view look obsolete – packed with hi-tech wizardry, I admire the calories flying off while engrossed in Sky News. Only when I accidentally jack the bike program up to ‘mountaineering’ level does the pain return. Exhausted, my workout ends with a triumphant feeling that good has conquered evil. Some say gym is addictive, and I’m not surprised in the least – I leave buzzing. Physically shattered, yet at the same time so alive. Say it quietly, but I’m now chalking the days off the calendar for the next end-of-summer sales.
Warsaw’s Top Gyms
Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa
ul. Belwederska 23 (Hyatt), www.cluboasis.pl
Includes an 18 meter pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and a gym equipped with the latest digital and variable resistance equipment. Classes include zumba, aqua zumba, power yoga and pilates. Day rate of zł. 100, for longer term deals enquire direct.
ul. Prusa 2 (Sheraton), www.sheraton.com/warsaw
The Sheraton spa features sauna, steam room and massage, while the gym comes with LCD-fitted running and cycling machines, and a dedicated cardio section. Personal training available, as are group classes covering pilates, yoga, aerobics and even ski conditioning. Prices from zł. 529 per month to zł. 3,420 for annual membership.
Holmes Place Energy
Al. Jana Pawła II 82 (C.H. Arkadia), ul. Wołoska 12 (Galeria Mokotów), www.holmesplace.pl
Making top-flight gym facilities available to the masses, the Holmes Place Energy brand offers high standard equipment, personal training and group classes. Six month membership available for approx. zł. 200 per month, though prices are subject to change. For latest details enquire direct.
Holmes Place Premier
ul. Grzybowska 63 (Hilton), al. Jerozolimskie 65/79 (Marriott), www.holmesplace.pl
Those who use it claim the Hilton branch is the best gym in Poland – we’ve found no reason to disagree. Set on two floors, highlights include a 25 meter pool, sauna and steam room and a spacious gym packed with the most modern equipment. Also on-site, a varied timetable of classes, excellent personal trainers and a Green Coffee relaxation area. Their latest outpost in the Marriott also has a pool and has been updated accordingly to fit the HP quality check. For prices enquire direct.
ul. Złota 59 (Złote Tarasy), level 3, www.purepoland.com
The Pure gym offers treadmills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines equipped with screens, as well as sauna and personal training. Updated prices were yet to be released at press time, though shouldn’t go much beyond zł. 200 per month.
RiverView Wellness Centre
ul. Emilii Plater 49 (InterContinental), www.riverview.com.pl
Top-class facilities and equipment, private instructors and small classes. The view from the highest pool in Europe offers a glorious panorama of the city. Annual prices from zł. 4,200 (access from Mon-Fri 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.), zł. 5,760 (all times), and zł. 8,350 for Diamond Membership (includes two personal training sessions per month, a complimentary weekend at the InterContinental, restaurant discounts and much more besides).