“It’s not fitness. It’s life.” Start spouting lines like this down your local leisure centre and brace for an eye-roll. But to a fast-growing social sect, the mantra, as it suggests, is absolutely a phrase to live by.
It’s also the strapline of high-end fitness brand Equinox that, since opening its first Fitness Club in New York in 1991, has amassed a century of outlets across North America and London.
Famed for its “high-performance living”, Equinox fuses the active with the alchemic, but perhaps its boldest innovation yet came last summer with the opening of its debut hotel property – Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards.
The 212-room temple to toning is part of the west Manhattan neighbourhood, which much like Equinox guests is also all about remodelling – through $25 billion worth of skyscraper steel; this area represents pumping iron of both varieties.
While some city breakers may quibble over dedicating precious suitcase space to their trainers for a less-than-likely gym visit, the crown jewel here is of course the Fitness Club; in fact it’s Equinox’s largest-ever premises at 60,000 square feet – almost the size of a UK professional football pitch – and is a destination in itself.
Offering every element of personal training and group classes you could think of there’s also the brand’s most exclusive E by Equinox “gym within a gym” sanctum, with membership worth a cool $500 a month plus a $1,500 initiation fee.
Having completed my first London marathon in 2019 and (at the time of my stay) ramping up training for this year’s event, I was eager to experience a slice of the Equinox lifestyle.
Despite feeling a tad bleary eyed from a 6am call and encroaching jet lag from the day before’s arrival, I soon felt enthused by the benevolent Duracell Bunny-air of my allotted trainer, Jenna.
If I thought I was approaching a big fitness task, Jenna’s was a step beyond; her latest triathlon, organised by the US Marines.
The session she set for us was about core strength, with Jenna saying she also wanted to help me avoid the niggling knee pain that had persisted during my last 26-miler.
All personal trainers are given a science-backed education through Equinox’s Fitness Training Institute, overseen by the company’s Health Advisory Board comprising doctors, nutritionists, scientists and top-level coaches. And even for our short session, the results-driven Equinox mindset was evident.
As we stretched out on foam rollers, Jenna explained the process, usually including an hour-long pre-session assessment to build a personal programme and set tailored goals.
“There are so many fads and bad trends when it comes to exercise. That’s what makes us different here – it’s all about results,” she told me.
The highest level of personal training at Equinox Hudson Yards is Tier X, which claims to offer “a lifestyle management programme” with a unique holistic approach and features the use of Halo Neuroscience headsets to stimulate brain function and boost performance.
As Jenna and I moved across the club floor to get into the workout, the scale of the place became clearer too.
The Fitness Club and spa are designed by Joyce Wang, and high-end equipment meets sleek urban architecture brilliantly, with prime views of Hudson Yards’ centrepiece, Vessel, the huge explorable sculpture by British designer Thomas Heatherwick.
Beyond the gym, there’s a 15,000sqft outdoor pool and sundeck and an indoor saltwater pool with a reflective ceiling for swimmers to perfect their stroke technique from above; health- conscious Broken Coconut adds a dining option on the terrace. Even a trip to the spa comes with added science – from the cryotherapy chamber and infrared sauna to on-demand vitamin IV drips, which can also be administered in guests’ rooms.
Designed by Rockwell Group, the hotel’s overall design is just as impressive. Whisked up on arrival to an effortlessly cool reception area of black stone floors and Zaha Hadid-designed sofas, hip staff in white suits – think some of Roger Federer’s Wimbledon wardrobe - were warm and helpful.
My premier river-view room offered understated luxury with clean lines, neutral colours and soothing views of the Hudson.
Aside from fitness, Equinox also prides itself on the science of sleep, and my spring-free, handmade, Coco-Mat mattress – designed to keep you cool at night and mechanically support your spine as well as providing a natural elasticity to encourage rest and recovery – gave me the most peaceful night’s sleep in a hotel bed I’ve ever had.
All guest rooms also have medical-grade filtered air, filtered water, acoustically isolated sound-cancelling walls, Lutron temperature control system and total blackout window system.
As you might expect from its core audience, in-room treats are like something out of a Goop catalogue, with a trove of tonics available, and now a collection of more than 80 products are available, ranging from nutrient-packed snacks to vitamins and supplements, and essentials like masks and gloves.
Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards also boasts Electric Lemon, a sleek dining spot from US restaurateur Stephen Starr.
With its zest-shaped yellow lighting hanging above cosy seating, the place oozes a fun, relaxed vibe – handy after a day of gym graft – and through its “Mid-Atlantic” menu, offers guests a chance to recharge with “clean, conscious cuisine”. A standout moment for me came via the otherworldly Moon Rock dessert – a chocolate ball encased in honeycomb crisps – and the perky, popping candy-infused Electric Lemon Curd.
While my one-night stay here felt pretty packed, from exploring the jaw-dropping design, to perspiring through the fitness session and soaking up the dining vibe, I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of Equinox Hudson Yards’ potential.
One thing’s for sure. It’s definitely not just fitness... And as the world emerges from this Covid-19 nightmare, hotels so focused on wellbeing can only be a good thing.
GOOD TO KNOW
■ Some 66 million tourists typically visit the Big Apple each year, but many factors are at play as to when New York will be open for international tourists. See nycgo.com for the latest updates.
■ The hotel’s planned reopening date was scheduled for 1 July; a mobile app means guests can limit interaction through mobile key, texting and check- out features.
■ The hotel has a series of meditations to aid focus, relax and sleep during these stressful times: equinox-hotels.com/nyc/the-experience/rituals
■ Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the US’s history and the largest development in the city since Rockefeller Center. The plan is to have 100 shops, a collection of restaurants, approximately 4,000 residences and The Shed arts centre.
How to book it:
Rooms from $700 per night.
Tel: 00 1 212 328 9050, equinox-hotels.com/nyc