The perks of city living, with top restaurants, boutiques and gyms a stone’s throw from the front door, are somewhat diminished in these times. A glossy urban apartment might have dazzling views, but what about the space to work out?
It’s time to make room for a home gym, an asset that has never been more desirable, whether it be to get through quarantine in good spirits or as a preparatory caution in case another pandemic lurks on the horizon.
Lockdown isn’t over just yet – and even when things do return to normal, it’s likely we’re looking at a very different, socially distanced future. Gyms, unfortunately, are germ hubs, and as our desire for cleanliness heightens, they may become less attractive. Training at home is on the rise, and it’s time to stop looking at it as a gloomy drawback.
We have spoken to top athletes, interior designers and equipment experts to find out how to design and furnish your own luxury workout zone.
“I love indoor training,” says three-time Ironman World Championship silver medallist, Lucy Charles Barclay, who lives with her husband and coach Reece in Essex. Like a growing number of professional athletes, Charles Barclay does up to 90 per cent of her training indoors, even in pre-coronavirus times.
“It’s more time efficient,” she says. “Every single minute of your workout is working. This style of training has taken me to the top level in triathlon quite quickly. It is more of a mental challenge, because there is less distraction, but that helps me for Ironman. Because it’s a very long distance, you have to have a strong physical and mental side.”
Charles Barclay has an enviably well-furnished home gym, which she calls the ‘pain cave’. “We’re so lucky that everything is here and ready to go,” she says.
To curate the perfect home training setup she recommends investing in the Wahoo cycling ecosystem (more on that later), a treadmill, and basic strength and conditioning equipment, to prepare for well-rounded workouts and injury prevention.
Her final words of advice to budding indoor trainers: “sticking to a weekly routine helps me to stay motivated as an athlete – and even though you’re training at home right now, you don’t have to do it on your own. Use virtual platforms to keep it social, and that will keep you going a lot longer.”
Gym Marine specialises in gym design for superyachts so its director, Edward Thomas, is an expert in designing where space is at a premium. “Think about the most essential parts of your workout and work back from there,” he says.
“Only fill the gym to 75 per cent at the first installation, because you never know what new hobby is just around the corner – and that may require a large new item at a moment’s notice.”
Extra floor space is never a bad thing, either, he tells me. “Over half of all gym goers spend the majority of their workout doing stretching, floor work and body weight exercises; and there are plenty of great fitness accessories and smaller items that can give you a full body workout without the need for a space-hungry dedicated machine.”
When creating your dream workout space, think about it in a year’s time, Thomas suggests.
“Will you be as keen to go in there and train as you were on day one? Will the machines have offered enough variety to stop you from getting bored? Does the equipment you’ve chosen complement your interior so well that you always show visiting guests your beautiful gym?
“If the answer is no to any of these questions then the gym isn’t part of a long term commitment you’ve made to yourself, and is simply satisfying a short term need.”
“An incredible gym should offer a wide variety of training options for everyone in the family, an amazing digital entertainment environment that motivates even the most reluctant, and stunning interior design to ensure that the room is on par with the rest of your property.”
It’s that last consideration which is most important for Gym Marine, which introduces luxury materials to fitness spaces, and creates bespoke equipment and clever storage to make home gyms look sleek. And the service is still available during lockdown.
“We are offering virtual consultations, and in the prime property area we are able to get hold of 2D and sometimes 3D architects’ drawings for rooms to supplement photos and videos from the client. We can do ‘live’ space planning for clients, so they can engage with the layout process in real time and feel like they’re playing a big part in the design.”
Running on a treadmill is a time-efficient way to get a workout in and adhere to social distancing. Walking, running and interval training on a home treadmill are effective ways of re-energising, boosting your cardiovascular fitness and building strength. The issue is finding one that both looks attractive and provides a pleasant running experience – one that is gentle on your joints.
One brand that you will find consistently inside top gyms, hotels and superyachts is Technogym, which provides a full suite of fitness equipment. Its latest treadmill, My Run, has a compelling personalised proposition.
An ‘adaptive running surface’ is able to identify the user’s style of running or walking, which allows it to absorb impact without slowing you down. This dampens the force, limiting damage to joints and facilitates spring to maintain running momentum.
Equally as appealing is the minimal design – sleek and compact, it has an attractive matte finish. The contemporary, clean style means it looks just as at home next to a desk in an office setup as in a dedicated gym space. The most compelling feature of all, however, is that it claims to be silent – even for runners using the top speed of 20kph.
The machine connects with tablets (for which a holder is installed) and is able to select the music that best syncs up with your running rhythm. It also has advanced feedback capabilities, all of which feed into the ‘run rate’ algorithm, providing users with interactive instant stats, including step frequency, stride length and displacement. This element is said to improve users’ running in speed and efficiency.
Expert tip: run at a 1 per cent incline to mimic on-road foot strike and reduce your chances of injury
Compatibility: users can connect to the Zwift running platform (iPad version only). The MyRun also hooks up to Garmin and Strava.
£3,250, including delivery and installation; technogym.com
The free weights
Hock’s suite of free weights and stands is unbelievably good-looking. The German company’s modus operandi is ‘style in motion’ and it sticks to a very selective eight products.
“Car and watch brands, for example, have very high standards of design, quality and materials at the top end of the market,” says CEO Kristof Hock. “But fitness equipment was the exception to the rule. Why shouldn’t things like dumbbells and toning weights be desirable too?”
Hock’s Goldloft collection offers a pair of two-kilogram dumbbells made with 18-carat gold, connected by Grenadilla wood for over 100,000 euros. Only 50 pieces have been made, and each pair comes in a hand-made wooden casket.
The more affordable Loft set is an oiled walnut rack bearing one pair each of two-, three-, four-, five- and six-kilogram dumbbells. These are made of high-quality stainless steel and the same walnut. The rack including weights is available for £5,995 through the Conran Shop.
Resistance cords and skipping ropes are two of the most useful pieces of equipment that you could have in isolation: versatile, highly effective and easy to use.
Hock’s version of the former is made from natural latex fibres and finely woven into a safety jacket, so you shouldn’t have to worry about breakage. Its expression of the latter is super light and crafted from anodized aircraft aluminum parts and oiled walnut handles.
The world seems to have gone crazy for Peloton, but I am no such fan. Far less gimmicky is the Wahoo Fitness ecosystem, which requires some investment and set up but will get you hooked on cycling (real cycling).
The Kickr (£999) is Wahoo’s hero product, a smart turbo trainer which connects with your bike and virtual reality cycling platforms like Zwift, where you can train and race with thousands of people and pros from around the world at any one time.
When you hit a climb, the resistance will tighten, and when you’re directly behind another rider it will loosen, allowing virtual drafting.
Last month, Wahoo released the Kickr Bike. Priced at £2,999, this smart bike is the best that money can buy in the world of indoor cycling. Both products when paired with the brand’s mini cycling computer provide extensive, accurate and instant feedback – from wattage to cadence and time spent.
Pair them with Kickr Climb (which simulates gradients by lifting the front end of the bike off the ground) and the Kickr Headwind Fan.
“The Wahoo setup has transformed my training,” says Lucy Charles Barclay. “I recently got the Kickr Bike, which I pair up to Zwift. If you’re doing a long ride, it makes it so much more interesting because it gives you that outside road feel in the safety of your own home.”
“Most elite athletes, particularly triathletes, are very data driven, so it’s super beneficial to have the instant feedback and data the system provides, because we’re able to see progress day by day.
“But it’s also extremely helpful for amateurs. I was a novice not that long ago, and I found the data instantly motivating – it makes training more interesting and gives you that added knowledge of different areas that need work.”
Expert tip: join in Lucy Charles Barclay’s group Zwift rides on Tuesdays and ask your best questions as you cycle
The water rower
Just looking at the material options for this custom water rower is calming: woods such as ash, cherry and walnut will certainly make for a premium-looking machine. Then there’s the swish and flow of the water tank, created not only to be soothing but also to provide a more natural rowing experience.
Nohrd is an ultra-chic sports equipment manufacturer based in Germany, which specialises in premium wood (sourced from sustainably managed forests in the USA and Germany) and luxury design. It is the antithesis of the sweat and gunk to be found in regular gyms countrywide, providing a clean and minimal setup.
The rower is the brand’s prime product, although it also makes a spin bike (spotted in a recent episode of Dynasty in the Carrington mansion) and wall bars. It is equipped with a clear S-4 performance Monitor which displays data such as time, stroke rate and intensity, and can be connected to computers and used with the free We-Row software.
The real genius, though, is that the rower is designed as a space saver and can be turned upright to occupy no more space than a chair, meaning it’s suitable for almost any space. Its centre of gravity lies in the water tank, which means one person can lift it without an issue.
From £999; nohrd.com
The wall bars
Handmade luxury fitness equipment made to individual order specifications, Swedish brand Pent is one of the best-looking providers around.
“Our private gym equipment is not only created so that clients can work out in comfort, but also to actively enrich the interiors with handmade, luxurious equipment conceptualised by top designers,” says CEO, Marcin Raczek.
The full fitness suite includes everything from dumbbells to balance balls, but it’s the Scala wall bars that are most appealing. An extremely versatile piece of equipment, the bars are made to fit close to the wall, taking up minimal space. Handmade from European walnut and stainless steel, it’s one of the most practical additions to any home gym.
The weighted rungs are removable and can be used as fitness bars for lifting, squatting and lunging (they can be made as heavy as five kilograms). The wall bars are also made with dedicated TRX handles for a low-impact, full body workout, and it’s easy to attach resistance bands for a variety of functions.
Expert tip: These bars would be an excellent investment for someone working on core strength and flexibility, who is interested in mixing it up and trying something new
The endless pool
Swimming is one of the best ways to get a full body workout, without any impact. A good swimming programme will increase your strength, endurance and mobility, and can be used as a workout or a cool down.
The problem is, with all of the pools closed, most swimmers have been left out to dry on land, performing all manner of bizarre-looking exercises to simulate swimming despite the lack of water.
Now is the time to splash out on an endless pool, which is a fully customisable tub that can be installed indoors or outdoors with spa and swimming functions. The adjustable current propels water back so that you can swim without actually going anywhere or needing to tumble turn, much like running on a treadmill.
Among London fitness circles there have been whisperings of privately-owned endless pools offering bookings for socially-distanced swimming. Having your one to yourself, like the Olympic gold medalist triathletes Alaistair Brownlee and Jan Frodeno, will make you endlessly enviable.
From £13,000; endlesspools.com
The tennis buddy
If you have garden space and a passion for tennis, look no further than the Pro Wall from Rebo. Andy Murray caused a buzz when he posted a video of himself playing against the wall last week – until he hit the ball into the neighbours’ garden.
It is essentially a large green wall, which is installed at an angle (for realistic rebound) on a freestanding support. Available in three-, five- and seven- metre diameters, the board is also weatherproof and has high-density sound insulation for both indoor and outdoor use.
Of course, the main consideration here is space. But tennis is a super calorie-burning, strength-building sport to get geeky at during lockdown if you can. The board is installed for single and multiple play, but also so that its owner can practice drills.
From £9,995; rebowall.com
If you’re going to increase your workout schedule during lockdown, you must also increase your recovery time: that includes time spent stretching, massaging and encouraging muscle relaxation.
A high-tech, easy-to-store solution is the Normatec recovery system, which looks like boots or full body suits that you zip into on your downtime. Available in leg, leg and hip, or full body sizes, the system is created to enhance blood flow and speed recovery.
The (very techy) ‘pulse massage pattern’ employs three key techniques – pulsing, distal release (release of the deltoid), and gradients (applying hold pressures to keep fluids from being forced in the wrong direction) to maximize your recovery. All you really need to know is the system should be used for 10 to 60 minutes and will fast-track your muscle recovery.
If you have room to fill, then heat treatment is the pinnacle of recovery. Purchase a Vacuactivus (£POA) and plunge your body into as low as 170 degrees celsius to enhance blood and lymphatic circulation activity and reduce inflammation by clearing toxins and metabolic waste with a supply of oxygen and nutrient-enriched blood to stimulate cellular regeneration around the body.
Accelerate the benefits from the cryo chamber by hopping straight into a custom-designed sauna from Gym Marine (from £2,598). The extreme contrast in temperature will dilate and constrict the vascular system, causing muscles to relax and calories to be burned.
Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion.