Virgin (Active)

Crouch End has a number of options when it comes to trying to keep the Boulevardier waistline in check and biceps appropriately pumped!

Park Road has a local authority run centre with swimming pool, gym etc. Rather regular but for the outdoor lido which becomes awash with bathers, both sun and water, in the summer months. However, this tends to attract the family crowd, so if you are happy to conduct your Boulevardier bathing activities amongst hoards of SCREAMING and excited children then this is the place for you. For me, not so much.

There is a Fitness First for Women on Crouch Hill. Again not really so good for me!

A new small centre opened on Park Road, which advertises ‘Burn 1000 calories in 20 minutes’. I am not sure how this could be achieved without inducing a coronary.

YMCA. I have never been, but not really sure how anyone can work out seriously in an establishment thus named without erupting into the Village People and associated dance moves.

I attend Virgin Active, previously Holmes Place, which is right in the centre of Crouch End and housed within an original opera house. A befitting location for a Boulevardier. ‘Yes my gym. It used to be an opera house you know…’ may have tripped across my tongue on occasion. It looks quite small and unimpressive from the outside, saddled between Marie Curie Charity and Red Shoes shops, amid the main parade.

Once through the entrance it extends up and out to house a massive studio (for floor classes), cafe and crèche (this is family central after all). The changing salons, spin studio, pilates studio and Heaven V Spa sit on the first floor, and the main gym, and yoga studio on the second. There is little in the decor to remind me of its grand operatic beginnings, but I know and that is sufficient.

It is quite usual to come face to face with a celebrity in Crouch End, and this also applies to Virgin Active. I have spun with Nigel Harman and Silas Carson (Star Wars and Waterloo Road), body pumped with Narinder from Big Brother, seen Sarah Cawood with her personal trainer and Jimi Mistry pumping iron.

Does anyone else plan what to wear to the gym or is that just me? I do like to make sure I am not wearing the same outfit again and again, and so mix and match various ADIDAS t shirts, of the drifit variety, Abercrombie and Fitch neon pink and green t shirts. The only staple are black Nike shorts. I do believe black shorts look smarter. I always attend to my coiffeur before leaving the house, with extra squirts of spray. The quiff could easily fall mid spin class which would result in not only my having to leave the class but probably being too ashamed to return again.

There are a number of spin instructors but my favourite by far is Kathy. She is of Greek descent, and mixes music between house, pop and rock. An eclectic collection. She motivates without becoming a drill instructor. Those skills are left to military Mel, who takes absolutely no prisoners. I have seen her force attendants to increase their weights, against their wishes in Body Pump, and woe betide an individual who ignores her chant of ‘No drinking while you’re sprinting’ in spin, and ‘I SAID FASTER’. She is petite but would not need a microphone even if performing at the Hammersmith Apollo!

Back to Kathy, she is funny and engaging with the members. I sit at the back in the corner with my friend Mia. Mia is the original Camden gothic punk, fully made up, tattoed from the neck down, corset making, bodybuilder. However, she does like to have a little or rather long chat, and we quite often receive a shriek from Kathy suggesting that our energies from mouths should be put to better use. Mia is a story in herself and I can not do her justice with just a few words in my blog…

Kathy quite often has the room in hysterics, especially when arriving at the front of my bike. I try to look serious and intense and hard working, whilst it has to be said puffing and panting like a rhino.

‘WOW! Feel free to join in at any point Wayne!’

I mop the sweat from my brow and double my efforts.

How do people go to the gym and manage to not even break into a sweat. There are a constant group of guys (it has to be said) who parade and peacock around the mirrors, tensing their biceps and congratulating each other. Do they have somewhere private where they actually work out? They don’t break a sweat, and seem to barely touch a weight in Crouch End, but maintain pumping huge muscles.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to become a body builder. I look to maintain my waist size, and keep my chest biceps and triceps defined and toned. It allows for a Boulevardiers clothes to hang properly, and maintain my Boulevardier persona.

So an aria to the Active Virgin of Crouch End!



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