An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ Remember that? In the olden days, leading a healthy lifestyle used to be pretty 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 bodies the best they can be. We want to live for ever!
This trend has reached new heights, literally, with the opening of the five-star Pan Pacific London ‘wellness’ hotel, housed in a 43-storey tower in 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 sqm dedicated to ‘the most innovative health and wellbeing haven in the capital’.
Personal wellness has become a huge industry and a middle-class obsession. Daisy Waugh (pictured) has checked out the five-star Pan Pacific London ‘wellness’ hotel
For once, the publicity may not be exaggerating. Aside from the infinity pool, with views of the city skyline, and the spa, there is the gym. It’s equipped with stateof-the-art fitness-monitoring appliances which, until now, were the preserve of sports champions. The Pan Pacific has 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, I run four times a week and, last autumn, I qualified as a yoga teacher.
But at 55, it feels as though the slippery slope is just around the corner. What happens when my body seizes up and I have to stop? Never mind running for the fun of it — I won’t even be able to run for a bus.
So when I was invited by Robbie Leung, Pan Pacific’s director of wellbeing, to undergo its Body Assessment treatment, I leapt at the chance (as long as I’m not paying: the test is £300, but it’s only available to hotel guests and prices start at £325 per night.)
Maybe a body MOT will help to waylay the slippery slope ahead. Plus, it would be interesting to know if I’m as fit as I like to think I am.
I also found the idea of checking into a swanky hotel and emerging more in tune with my health and fitness rather appealing.
Daisy with Robbie Leung, Pan Pacific’s director of wellbeing. Robbie, now in his early 30s, was an elite sportsman himself, playing hockey for Great Britain
After all, at this time of year most of us return from sojourns bleary-eyed and half a stone heavier after having too many pina coladas while putting our feet up by the pool. Rare is the woman who finishes the summer fitter rather than fatter.
Robbie, now in his early 30s, was an elite sportsman himself, playing hockey for Great Britain. After that he worked in Formula One as a human performance coach. Pulling together his knowledge of sport psychology and technology, he designed the Body Assessment.
Robbie tells me that by the end of our two hours together, he’ll know more about me than I do.
With the help of his space-age machines, he says, he’ll find out 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 one right. By measuring my breathing and heartbeat, he can tell how quickly my brain adapts to pressure — vital information if you happen to be a professional footballer, for example, which I am not.
Stage one involves a rubber mask being strapped to my face. It looks like a cross between Darth Vader’s helmet and something people wore during the Blitz. It’s very heavy and, necessarily, tight.
Robbie pushes it against my face and asks me to exhale, to ensure no air is escaping. None is. My cheeks feel like they’re exploding.
A superhero knapsack is then tied to my back and a heart-rate strap attached to my ribcage, before I climb on to the running machine.
I haven’t used one for years. Something about the moving belt and the flashing panel makes me feel a bit panicky at the best of times. It’s not surprising that my heart rate takes a while to settle.
Robbie talks me down: ‘I am here with you,’ he says. Slowly, as my heart rate calms, he ramps up the belt speed: walking for five minutes, then striding, then jogging — and finally sprinting. ‘You just keep going,’ he says, ‘until you fail.’
When the pace gets too much, I just have to make a thumbs down sign and put my feet on either side of the moving belt. After that comes two-and-a-half minutes of recovery time. All the while the machines are watching me, taking note of my heartbeats, breath depth and frequency, and CO2 release.
According to the test report, I become quite stupid when I’m out of breath. Or, to put that more technically, I have a low ‘breathing and cognition’ score.
I will quote from the report (and there’s 40 pages of this stuff, so count yourself lucky that this is just a couple of lines): ‘A low level of CO2 (hypocapnia) due to breathing too quickly (hyperventilation) will lead to vasoconstriction of the vessels in the brain, resulting in less oxygen being available to your brain cells, thereby affecting your cognition (the ability to think and react rapidly).’ It’s true. After a long tennis rally, I can never remember the score.
Stage two is the D-Wall, which was originally designed to help patients to walk again. I stand on a mat in front of a motion-capture video screen. In seconds, it tells me my weight, height and BMI, and informs me I lean slightly to the right. The machine draws lines between my joints, and moving around in front of it is quite funny. I have to jump and bend and skip and twist, and do some press-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 nonelite sportspeople to compare my results with other women my age.
Elements o f m y breathing aren’t optimal, — I smoked for years, so this is not a great shock. Robbie says this could be improved with some swimming. I also have low ‘upper limb endurance’, so I could benefit from push-ups.
I had a lot of fun. And who knows? I might even take up 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 been putting into my mouth these past 55 years, including milk, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, apples, bananas…
My take-home from this exercise? If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Elite sportspeople need these reports, but you and I don’t need a mask to tell us how to ‘enjoy wellness’.
But if you’re looking for a quick summer reset, then maybe checking into a fitness hotel is for you.