The Art of Being Fit
You enter a workout space and the first thing you see is an art installation. Confusion or genius? After going to Blok, Clapton’s coolest gym – I vote for the latter.
Somewhat hidden in the industrial complex of the Tram Depot on Upper Clapton Road, Blok London was opened in February 2016 by construction business owner Ed Stanbury and photographer/designer Max Oppenheim, with a simple idea of bringing diverse workouts into London. Even though their first thought wasn’t to create a high-design interior, Stanbury said it happened organically: “The space actually came before the idea. The whole area was derelict and I just took it for warehousing and workshops for my construction company, but as we started to clear it out and look around we realised it was a bit special.” Special indeed. The space is a true nod to its industrial past – the overused exposed brick walls and exposed piping look at home between the punch bags and kettlebells.
The gym has three studios - the first one is a cardio workout space, the second is a shoeless dance and yoga studio with bars and mirrors and the third (and most recent) one is a large boxing space. But before you get into the studios, the welcoming space is where the idea of arts as part of fitness and wellbeing comes in. Between the Robert Irwin-inspired neon lights and the Sprint installation by Arran Gregory – you could easily confuse the front of house for a gallery space, or at least a gallery café. Stanbury explains: “People need to find time to be in beautiful space and take in art and bring culture into their lives, and if you can bring a little bit of that in their workout space which they are visiting several times a week anyway – I think that’s success.”
But even beyond the space, Blok thrives off variety. With 25 types of classes, everything from calisthenics and ashtanga through to methodology x and barre, the gym covers both of the moment workout methods as well as some well-known classics. It’s all about a well-balanced workout. “We really believe in cross training – if you’re going to do boxing, what we call block fit or other functional fitness, you need to balance that with some yoga and stretching classes,” Stanbury explains. So, instead of just going for one type of class, I decided to try out three very different classes. All in an attempt to become the new Rocky.
First one and the most difficult. Perhaps due to my lack of physical fitness, but I’d like to believe otherwise. In Studio 2, our teacher Corrine was amped up and excited to make us sweat on a Thursday at 8.40am, perfectly timed for a late pre-work workout. The class is a combination of barre, cardio and ballet, and even as an ex-dancer who has some experience in the latter – it was not easy. For an hour workout, the intensity is quite high with a session of croisés in the plank position or a classic ballet warm up in first and second positions with the addition of dumbbells, all finished of with a set of ballet jumps. What a (sweaty) way to begin the day.
Saturday, 10am. Just in time to cure a heavy Friday hangover, Jermaine J is blasting Ne-Yo and Beyoncé in Studio 1, encouraging you to let loose and embrace your inner JLo backup dancer. After a quick step-by-step workout, we got to learn a full choreography. But don’t be scared – it’s one of those easy-to-follow, easy-to-make-difficult ones. If you’ve got the case of two left feet, it’s easy to learn the basics and then take it from there. For all the dancers at heart – it’s a perfect chance to dance it out. Probably the best Saturday morning scenario – followed by a heavy brunch or at least a blueberry smoothie in Blok’s own bar.
In order to complete my transformation into Rocky Balboa 3.0, I had to try out boxing for the first time. I thought this was going to be a tough one. But quite the opposite – it’s scary how easy it is to channel all of your anger through punches. Part partnered workout, part solo, it’s an hour of boxing with Kenny yelling “Finish off the fight!” and counting seconds to the end of our rounds with the punch bag. In all of the glory of Studio 3, the gym’s recently opened space dedicated to boxing, I actually enjoyed throwing a punch for the first time in my life. Don’t mind me, I’ll be running up and down the stairs with Eye of the Tiger on my headphones.
Blok London classes cost £14 for single class, with a 7-day unlimited trial at £30, and an unlimited monthly membership at £145. Find out more options and information about the gym at bloklondon.com, The Tram Depot, 38-40 Upper Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton, London E5 8BQ.
Text by Dino Bonacic