Stepping into world of luxury wellness: sampling elite invitation-only fitness class SBC
Prudence Wade takes up an offer to sample the elite invitation-only fitness class SBC
Even if you haven't heard of SBC, at least 150,000 people have, judging by Russell Bateman's Instagram following.
He's behind the cult workout favoured by Victoria's Secret Angels Romee Strijd and Taylor Hill, as well as stars like Ellie Goulding and Liv Tyler.
As someone who is interested in fitness and spends an unhealthy amount of time on Instagram, I was aware of SBC so jumped at the opportunity to train with Bateman and find out more about his new super supplement.
More than anything, I was curious. I enjoy working out and do so regularly, but would a Victoria's Secret-approved workout push my limits? Also, I definitely don't think I'm a classic SBC girl. A look on its Insta shows scores of women who are incredibly slim, and the classes are invite-only, which no doubt ensures attendees are all gorgeous and have six packs. I might be fit but I'm no beanpole, so I couldn't help but wonder how it would go with Bateman, who is much more accustomed to working with models.
So here's what happened when I delved into the world of SBC, trained with the company's founder and tried its new exclusive supplement...
Bateman is an elusive figure on social media, so I really didn't know what to expect on meeting him, but was pleasantly surprised. There's no doubt I was worked hard in the gym ('rest periods' between sets involved running the long length of the gym and back again) but he was also very attentive and helpful in improving my form. It was similar to other personal training sessions I've done - challenging because there's nowhere to hide, but by no means impossible.
You can't fault Bateman's reasons for setting up SBC in 2012 when he posted a picture of his model friend doing lunges on Facebook. "SBC has always been a female-oriented project," he explains. "When I was starting out it was a very male-dominated area and I felt I could really shine a light on strong women who were killing their workouts.
"I come from a strength and conditioning background, and these were the kinds of exercises women and girls were shying away from because they thought it was going to make them bulky or muscly, and they just weren't."
This I can totally get on board with, but Bateman is less sure of his answer regarding body positivity in the fitness industry.
"Everyone's welcome," he says, after I ask him why the women on his Instagram page are all the same body shape. "Just from my point of view, in a class there are movements which designate a certain level of fitness, so the people who are coming to my classes are already quite fit."
This didn't sit entirely right with me - I feel like after smashing a session with Bateman I proved you can be fit without being a size 6. He goes on to say: "It's more of a performance for everyone else to see," which suggests SBC is far more of an "inspirational tool" (as Bateman says) than a project on inclusivity.
My session with Bateman might have felt constructive, positive and more like a normal PT session than I anticipated, but the exclusive SBC classes sound like another world. "It's constantly evolving, it's emotional, it's raw, it's intense. I never know what I'm going to do in a session, I never know what music I'm going to play, it all depends on the mood, the moon, the stars, the emotions in the class, the personalities of the people in the class," says Bateman. Make of that what you will.
After the session we met up with Bateman's business partner Lucy Goff and soon I was immersed in their world of luxury wellness.
Their supplement LYMA is a high-end product which Bateman describes as "an all-round upgrade". That, to me, sounds a little bit like it's for robots, but by this point I was so caught up in the glamour, I didn't really notice.
This isn't your run-of-the-mill pill, but is meant to help with hair, skin, nails, inflammation, immunity and stress levels. The starter kit - complete with a handmade copper vessel to put your pills in - will set you back £199, and monthly refills cost £149. Goff justifies the price by saying: "It works out at £5 a day - you'd spend that on two coffees, so it's about prioritising. So £5 a day on something that's genuinely going to upgrade your body and your mind - it's an investment and it's achievable."
It was repeatedly described as "next level", although I'm not 100% sure what the next level actually entails...
I was lucky enough to try LYMA for a month, so did I level up as a person? Unfortunately, I couldn't really see much difference. My hair, nails, skin and anxiety were all pretty much ticking along as before - I was hoping the inflammatory properties of the pill would help ease my severe IBS, but no such luck. Maybe I would need to take it for more than a month to see any real change.
In all honesty, I felt best after the session I had with Bateman, which is definitely a step up from how I normally start my day. I went in with a lot of preconceptions and I'm happy to say some of them were smashed.
However, it's only really when I left the cosy bubble of the brunching with Bateman and Goff at London's Chiltern Firehouse and listened back to my audio that I realised how wild the whole experience was. Over the course of breakfast I started talking about the moon's patterns and referring to things as needing to be "authentic" - no judgment to anyone else, but that's definitely not me.
It's a little scary how easy it was to get swept up in the glamour of luxury wellness, but I'm not too worried - I don't think it's quite the place for me. It's not particularly well-suited to my bank balance either, but it's oddly tempting to see if prolonged use of LYMA would cause me to "level up" as a human.
For now, I'm just left with the fancy copper pot, which is a pretty good place to store my spare hair ties.