An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ Remember that? In the past, leading a healthy lifestyle was quite simple. Now it’s a lot more complicated.
“Personal wellness” – what we used to call “health” – has become a huge industry, not to mention a middle-class obsession. It’s not enough just to be healthy. We want to make our body as good as possible. We want to live forever!
This trend has literally reached new heights with the opening of the five-star Pan Pacific London ‘wellness’ hotel, housed in a 43-storey tower on Liverpool Street.
Inside, it feels like a hermetically sealed spaceship of serenity and soft lighting: a universe away from the hot bustle of London. And then there’s the wellness floor: more than 1,000 m² dedicated to ‘the capital’s most innovative health and wellness haven’.
Personal wellness has become a huge industry and an obsession for the middle class. Daisy Waugh (pictured) checked out the five-star Pan Pacific London ‘wellness’
For once, the publicity should not be excessive. Aside from the infinity pool, overlooking the city skyline, and the spa, there’s the gym. It is equipped with state-of-the-art fitness equipment that has until now been reserved for sports champions. The Pan Pacific made them available to the public for the first time. ,
I’m not immune to a bit of a health obsession myself. I play tennis three times a week, run four times a week, and last fall I received my yoga teacher diploma.
But at 55, it feels like the slippery slope is just around the corner. What happens if my body gets stuck and I have to stop? It doesn’t matter to run for fun – I won’t even be able to run for a bus.
So when I was invited by Robbie Leung, Pan Pacific’s director of wellness, to undergo the Body Assessment treatment, I jumped at my chance (as long as I don’t pay: the test costs £300, but is only available to hotel guests and prices start at £325 per night.)
Perhaps an MOT for the body will help curb the slippery slope ahead. Moreover, it would be interesting to know if I am as fit as I think I am.
I also found the idea of checking into a swanky hotel and getting more in line with my health and fitness quite appealing.
Daisy with Robbie Leung, Pan Pacific London Director of Welfare. Robbie, now in his early 30s, was a top athlete himself and played hockey for Great Britain
After all, at this time of year, most of us return from our stay with blurry eyes and a half a stone heavier after eating too many pina coladas while standing with our feet by the pool. Rare is the woman who finishes the summer fitter instead of fatter.
Robbie, now in his early 30s, was a top athlete herself, playing hockey for Great Britain. He then worked in Formula 1 as a human performance coach. Bringing together his knowledge of sports psychology and technology, he designed the Body Assessment.
Robbie tells me that by the end of our two hours together, he will know more about me than I do.
Using his space-time machines, he says, he will discover how I breathe; how my heart beats; my fat-to-muscle ratio; my speed, flexibility, mobility, strength and endurance; my food allergies; even how my brain works.
Yes, you read that last correctly. By measuring my breathing and heart rate, he can see how quickly my brain adapts to pressure — vital information if you’re a professional soccer player, for example, which I’m not.
In phase one, a rubber mask is attached to my face. It looks like a cross between Darth Vader’s helmet and something people wore during the Blitz. It is very heavy and necessarily tight.
Robbie pushes it against my face and asks me to exhale, making sure no air escapes. None are. My cheeks feel like they’re exploding.
A superhero backpack is then strapped to my back and a heart rate strap to my ribcage before I climb onto the walking machine.
I haven’t used one in years. Something about the moving strap and flashing panel makes me a little panicky at the best of times. It is not surprising that my heartbeat takes a moment to settle down.
Robbie talks to me, “I’m here with you,” he says. Slowly, as my heart rate calms, he increases the speed of the belt: walking for five minutes, then walking, then jogging — and finally sprinting. “You just keep going,” he says, “until you fail.”
If the pace gets too fast, all I have to do is draw a thumbs down and put my feet on either side of the moving belt. This is followed by two and a half minutes of recovery time. All the while, the machines monitor me and record my heart rate, breathing depth and frequency, and CO2 emissions.
According to the test report, I get pretty stupid when I’m out of breath. Or, to put it more technically, I have a low “breathing and cognition” score.
I quote from the report (and there are 40 pages of this stuff, so consider yourself lucky that these are just a few lines): ‘Low CO2 levels (hypocapnia) due to breathing too quickly (hyperventilation) will lead to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the brain, making less oxygen available to your brain cells, impairing your cognition (the ability to think and react quickly).’ It’s true. After a long tennis rally I can never remember the score.
Phase two is the D-Wall, which was originally designed to help patients walk again. I stand on a mat in front of a motion-capture video screen. Within seconds it tells me my weight, height and BMI, and tells me I am leaning slightly to the right. The machine draws lines between my joints and moving in front of it is quite funny. I have to jump and bend and skip and twist and do some push-ups.
And then comes the final stage: a blood test for food intolerances.
I get the full report within 24 hours. Not surprisingly, given how much I exercise, most of the results are good, although they don’t have enough data on non-athletes to compare my results with other women my age.
Elements of my breathing are not optimal, — I’ve smoked for years, so this is not a big shock. Robbie says this can be improved with some swimming. I also have low ‘upper limb stamina’ so I could benefit from pushups.
I had lots of fun. And who knows? I might even go swimming. My only beef is with the food intolerance test. It turns out I have ‘very strong symptoms of intolerance’ to almost everything I’ve put in my mouth for the past 55 years, including milk, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, apples, bananas…
My take-home from this exercise? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Elite athletes need these reports, but you and I don’t need a mask to tell us how we “enjoy wellness.”
But if you’re looking for a quick summer reset, check-in at a fitness hotel might be for you.
- Book a stay in Pan Pacific London at www.panpacific.com