So – imagine you had a friend and their house looked like this
Imagine now that friend has spent her life working in fitness and nutrition and can bring you the cutting edge science required to sculpt the body shape you’ve always wanted. Oh, and she’s kitted out her place with everything you could possibly need to do that.
Imagine finally, that friend loves you so much she wouldn’t torture you with long, laborious workouts and instead insists you do short ones then relax in the chill out space she has built upstairs replete with Chesterfields, fluffy cushions, throw rugs and natural light.
That’s what you get at the new The Library Gym, opened two months ago in Notting Hill by Zana Morris, a nutritionist, personal trainer and the brains behind the super-successful Educogym centres in Harley Street at Barnes that every chi chi editor I know seems to be doing and has seriously shrunk on lately.
Warm and chatty and from Dundalk, Ireland, Morris is a walking encyclopedia of facts about fitness and nutrition and in The Library she has built a space where she can share that knowledge (with paying members of course).
Designed to fuse the idea of a private members’ club where you can go to hang out and chill out with a serious, yet luxe gym where you workout smart in only ways that get proven results, The Library seems a new concept in gyms. This is Designer Fitness – a move away from the maddening crowds and mirrored giant studios of the gyms most of us join and don’t attend. It’s a small, warm yet superbly modern space all subtle olive paint, panelled walls, skylights, shiny equipment and reception kitted out with beautiful, smiling people and large and small screened Apple merchandise.
In the middle of the gym floor two large units feature various weights machines: squat lifters, leg presses, pull-us, pull downs, bench presses and more (they adjust to make hundreds of combinations that work every muscle and body part large and small),
All the training at The Library is hard. Hard and thankfully, short. Based on the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) concept that is super-hot in sport science right now, the idea is to lift heavy weights working body parts hard and move through the workout without any rest periods. While most new members will have one on one sessions to get to know the equipment, there are then scheduled classes all week of four people (maximum) they can take that move through the weights circuit style.
Morris’s training system is also based on split body part training. This is body-sculpting in which you focus on lifting moves for legs and lower body one day, chest and back another and then arms another and then rest and go back to the beginning, making workouts time efficient and easier on muscle groups.
New members usually do a 12-day program in which they are given a low Glycaemic Index, low-carb nutritional programme designed to lower their insulin levels and get their bodies burning fat for fuel. In fact, it usually means eating protein with piles of fat in those days including cream, cream cheese, nuts, avocados and oil. It sounds gruelling but I have seen people lose nine pounds in the 12 days and keep it off months.
Given The Library’s personal approach, Morris wasn’t sure what to do for me as I had basically walked in off the street to do a workout – which doesn’t normally happens – members go through a solid assessment programme before being set goals and programmes for their needs. All clients sign up for at least the 12 day programme, if not for months of membership (see below). But after a lengthy consultation and medical and fitness history, she decided I had enough fitness baggage to warrant her ‘thrashing’ me with a tough leg routine.
Morris loves squats and we began with my squatting 100 kilos in full squats (that’s where you start from a full squat position, bum almost on the floor and lift 100 kilos on your shoulders as you come up – Zoe Smith eat your heart out). I had to do 20 reps, which is actually the hardest lift I have ever done and no I didn’t take any pictures because the faces I was pulling and the veins popping out of my head were not fit for human consumption. Morris was right there egging me on and at the 18th rep, had to help me come up or I’d have given up and laid down. Morris is big on training the muscle ‘to exhaustion’, something you hear serious trainers talking about as this is the most efficient way to build lean tissue in the body. Mind you, in women lean tissue doesn’t translate to bulky or chunky muscles unless you take ample supplements. Instead it means tone and shape – Morris herself had this in spades – but also, a killer metabolism that burns masses of calories when you’re doing nothing.
Here’s how this works. Lean muscle tissue uses up 50-100 calories to maintain itself at rest each day but the same amount of fat uses only a paltry two calories a day. This means a lean person burns 25 times more calories than a fat person when they’re both sat around watching telly. You know how often the rich get richer, well – the lean get leaner even when they’re not trying. Most adults lose half a pound of muscle each decade after 30 but add 2-4 pounds of muscle and your body could burn 100 extra calories a day, when you do nothing. This is why lean tissue building is such a big part of this programme.
I have however never done a weights session with no rest. This is new to me. This was hard for me. Almost unbearable. The thing is, when you’re lifting heavy weights, it’s incredibly aerobic and makes your heart beat quickly because it’s such a shock to the system. But I had only a second or two to catch my breath before moving on to the next set or weight. There was none of the standing around resting for 30 seconds to a minute that is traditionally done between lifting sets in weights workouts as most of us know them.
What’s the purpose behind this? This short, intense training or HIIT has been shown to lead the body to naturally produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH), an essential youth-building hormone (it declines from the age of 25 and some people stop naturally producing it by 30) that aids fat loss and builds toned muscle. But it’s only really during hard, intense workouts that we make HGH, Morris says. Plus, these short intense workouts might burn fewer calories while you’re doing them than say, a long run but they can increase the body’s metabolism afterwards for around two hours (but up to 48) after you’ve finished the workout, an effect called Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) – another concept trainers are currently ga-ga over.
So anyway, my heavy weightlifting continued through my just surviving the squats to hamstring and quadricep curls and calf lifts (pictured) in which each muscle was worked to absolute exhaustion in short but heavy sets. Then we did about 100 different abdominal exercises, again with no rest between them that closely targeted not only the tummy area but also the waist. The whole thing took 12 minutes. 12 minutes in which I almost passed out.
The idea is to work workout 3-5 times a week targeting the various sections of the body with short, sharp workouts and then add yoga and Pilates to stretch out the muscles as they recover. The Library offer small yoga and Pilates classes upstairs in the relaxation zone with maximum four people and all members can access all areas and all classes anytime.
What about the cardio – surely you need some? The Library offer intense boxing classes – again where numbers are limited to four people or less – mainly as a stress release. But Morris insists you don’t need cardio on this programme. Ya what?
‘An Irish boxer using this system, Steve Collins, who few people know beat Chris Eubanks twice, did this kind of training for only two and three quarter hours a week for his fitness, supplementing with technique and body work,’ says Morris. ‘But straight after he beat Chris Eubanks he went for a 10 kilometre run. This system is great for fat burning and metabolism and because you don’t rest between sets and are lifting heavy, it works the heart for fitness.’ I don’t know about the Irish boxer but I have seen editors on Morris’s system shape up not only quickly but in that healthy way where their faces don’t age while their bodies shrink without losing shape – and to keep it off. That as they say, is a result.
Calories burned: 127 (in 12 minutes)
Calories calculated using the KiFit Body Monitor
Booked through: PR
Cost: The minimum you can sign up to is the 12 day total body programme for £495 which includes training, supplements, consultations and nutritional advice. Depending on which membership you go for members pay £345 – 395 a month which includes all training, classes, chill zone facillities, nutritional advice and supplements
Did I pay for it? No I wrote about it for a magazine and was invited to try it out for Healthista
Would I pay for it? If I lived closer, wanted to shape up and wanted an education in fitness and nutrition that works – yes – because I have seen the results
More info: thelibrarygym.com