How Effective Is London’s Newest Fitness Regime?

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When an LA-based trainer like Sebastien Lagree rolls up in London with a workout named after himself and opens his first gym in the city, it’s tempting to dismiss it as being a bit gimmicky. But from the minute we walk into his minimalist training studio, Lagree Fitness, we can tell he and his team mean business: they tell us we’ll hurt so much in two days’ time that we’ll feel like we had flu. “Not a chance!” we think blithely, as we watch the class performing leisurely stretches and lunges. It seemed as if we were in for the gentlest workout of our lives, but oh, how wrong we were…

To an observer, Lagree Fitness looks like an incredibly painless way to shed a few kilos. The moves, which are performed on a Megaformer (a tension-based workout machine designed by Lagree himself), are slow and leisurely, and worlds away from the fast-paced HIIT trend. Two rows of Megaformers fill the studio, the lights are dim, and dance hits from ten years ago are blasting from a stereo. Because Lagree is wearing a black shellsuit zipped to the neck, it’s impossible to tell what effect his fitness regime has had on his own abs as he glides around the room instructing the class to stretch, push and “go slow”.

As we enter, we’re handed a pair of toe socks (yes, you have to wear them while doing this) and directed to a vacant Megaformer. It doesn’t take long for our complacency to melt away.

The burn in our thighs sets in after only two sets of lunges. It’s a different feeling from a regular workout; somehow more fiery. Lagree adjusts the tension on the Megaformer’s plate for different moves, and thank goodness for the grip-soled toe socks, because our leg muscles threaten to give way and let the plate slide away. We can tell we’ve been well and truly stretched afterwards – our legs feel like jelly and we’re slightly light-headed.

Lagree, who counts Hollywood actors Sofia Vergara, Ben Stiller and Nicole Kidman as clients, is honest and genuine, and the antithesis of faddy fitness. He began Lagree Fitness in 2001 after being introduced to Pilates, and was impressed with how it covered all elements of keeping fit. 

“I’m not here to sell the pre-packaged, Hollywood version of fitness,” he says. “The reason 95% of fitness regimes fail is that people only focus on one part of it. I want to redefine fitness. I’ve seen the effects of a 20-year bodybuilding career and it breaks you down. Most fitness regimes out there are not healthy. People think they’re really healthy because they go running every day – you can be good at running, but it doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Some crazy people have sold the idea that that’s what fitness is, but it’s so much more evolved than that.”

Redefining fitness is something Lagree has made his mission - so much so that he’s made a documentary, The Future Of Fitness, examining what fitness actually means, which is due for release next year.

“Fitness is not just physical but emotional, intellectual and psychological,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages of convincing people about [Lagree Fitness] but it’s about making people feel good. The benefits go way beyond the anatomical.”

While the moves themselves are easy enough to be done by people of all fitness levels, a standard class is 50 minutes, which may require more stamina than a workout newbie has. But even if you have to take a breather for a few minutes between stretches, you’ll feel the effects. We didn’t ache to the point of feeling ill like we’d been promised, but we did work muscles that go untouched by a standard treadmill or cross-training session, like the intercostals.

If you can stand to commit the fashion crime of wearing toe socks and work through burning in places you’ve never felt it before, Lagree Fitness is a thorough workout that hits your muscles hard – all over your body.

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