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November 20, 2008

Gym'll Fix It

By Spear's

There aren’t many beneficiaries of the credit crunch but the new breed of exclusive high-end super-gyms are currently enjoying a vogue in these lean financial times.

There aren’t many beneficiaries of the credit crunch but the new breed of exclusive high-end super-gyms such as KX in Chelsea – which also double up as private members’ clubs – are currently enjoying a vogue in these lean financial times.

To survive the credit crisis, you need to be able to deal calmly with whatever catastrophe or crisis comes your way on a daily basis — from your hedge fund blowing up to redemptions to having to deal with the stress of having to lay off half your staff, including your brother-in-law.

The best way to deal with stress is to crunch your brain and body back into shape, becoming mentally and physically super-fit. Detox, diet and cutting down on booze before the Christmas party season are clearly part of a trend this season.
‘We have had more membership enquiries that at any time we can remember,’ said Gideon, my fitness manager at KX Gym, the gym of choice of the Chelsea social brigade where I recently enrolled after visiting my doctor for a routine medical.

He told me that if I started playing squash again I would be in danger of dropping dead. He ordered me to quit drinking for three months and said that before I could step onto a squash court I needed to lose at least a stone and introduce my 42-year-old body to the word ‘exercise’ again.

Since I knew I was going to be in for some genuine body torture, I wanted the pain to be in a civilised, club-like environment. A place whose changing rooms are not decorated with sinister giant padlocks, making it look like a police station locker-room. A place where the benches are not littered with scrofulous plastic bags and where the towels are not like the sort issued to guests at a motorway Travel Lodge.

KX Gym on Draycott Avenue is not exactly cheap — currently £3,500 per year — but once you have your personal leather key fob, you suddenly feel as if you have become initiated into a secret energy-lifting, life-affirming, cult that you can’t imagine life without. It is the Blake’s of gyms, with every tiny detail (down to the the quality of the robes and slippers, to the polished Mocassa wood finish around the club, to the Kiehl’s shampoo and the Guinot product ranges) being what you would normally expect to find in a super-luxury hotel spa like One & Only’s Reethi Rah.

The difference is that you don’t need to spend £20,000 travelling all the way to the Indian Ocean in order to enjoy a work-out, Japanese Facial or a Thai Yoga Massage. And instead of being ripped off by the sort of absurd spa prices that are now standard at luxury hotels, all the classes and treatments are competitively priced, and that includes KX Cafe which is one of the chicest power breakfast or lunching spots in Chelsea or South Kensington, regardless of whether you even so much as slip into your track pants or training shoes.

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When you consider that a year’s membership is actually only about the price of a business class ticket to New York, it’s the best money you can ever spend in a credit crunch because the only way high-net-worths are going to remain high-net-worths in the current financial jungle conditions is by being fit, sharp, switched on and feeling that you can conquer the world on a daily basis.

‘Declare your own. Be you’ states the gym’s mantra. Which reminded me of Tina Brown’s advice to me some years ago when I launched Spear’s and she said that the secret to making a new magazine stand out from the crowd, especially if it didn’t have tens of millions in funding behind it, was that ‘if you didn’t have a budget, have a point of view’.

The same applies to the world of staying on the high-wire as a Master of the Universe in these troubled times; okay, so you might have to cut back on your suite for two weeks at the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz in February, and you might have to put on hold renting the Edmiston 100 foot yacht or that order for a new set of Purdeys.

But the one thing you can’t afford to cut back on is being at the very top of your game — and KX Gym, I’ve found, is the only gym I have ever joined (along with the Bath & Racquets Club behind Claridge’s) that is so convivial and comfortable that — despite the pain — you actually look forward to going there every day.

This is true whether it’s for your Cardio Box class, Power Vinyasa Yoga, Muay Thai Fight Fit (the instructor is World Champion Mati Parks), Hi Energy Streetdance, Intensive Core Pilates or AB Attack class. Or — like me — you might just want to stroll in at 7am and climb a few mountains on the tread mill while watching Sky News.

One of the clever aspects of the gym is that it doesn’t really feel like a gym, or a high temple to the mind and body; every time you arrive, you feel like you are checking into a luxury hotel spa like Canyon Ranch in Arizona (where a week can cost you $20,000). And like any good hotel, there is a well stocked bar where you can have a cocktail or a glass of wine if you wish after your class.

So fashionable has the urge become to beat the credit crunch with a weekly crunch routine — backed up with a bespoke fitness diet, training schedule and de-tox programme — that I can report that KX is going to be increasing its annual membership fee from January to £3,900 a year.

To any Spear’s WMS readers who are thinking it is the time to put one’s life into turnaround, and embark on an Obama-style mission to turn one’s hopes and ambitions into reality, I’d advise enrolling as a member before the price hike kicks in next January.

KX Gym, 151 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AL. Tel: 0207 584 5777

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