I was dubious about the abilities of the Vibrogym a platform similar to a step up bench that vibrates to increase exercise efficiency. The literature for it contained phrases such as “human performance enhancement” and claims that it is “the most widely studied, evaluated and tested device in the world”, linking it to the vast world of weight-loss and body-building fads, populated by sinewy monsters with fake tan and tie-dye swimwear. Nevertheless, with the principle of nothing ventured, nothing gained (or in this case, nothing lost), I embarked upon a month’s experiment at Heaven Health, where I would train with the Vibrogym three times a week to find out whether it did indeed help people firm up, shift cellulite, and lose weight. Once there, the logic was explained: During exercise only 40-50% of muscle fibres are used. The vibrations cause up to 95% of your muscle fibres to be ‘recruited’, so your training is more effective.
Thankfully, Heaven Health held none of the hurdles for self-esteem that gyms usually contain. For starters, there are no full-length mirrors. More importantly, training is very much a private affair, so there is no worry that you are less fit or able than your neighbour. The staff are friendly and incredibly helpful, providing you with everything from moral support to tips on how to get the best results to meal suggestions. Training can be done in your own clothes, so there’s no need to take a heavy bag of decaying, slightly damp clothes around all day. And – this is really brilliant – each session only takes 20 minutes, tops.
Having your entire body vibrate at 50hz is an unnerving experience. I felt nauseous and light-headed. My legs became itchy. It wasn’t pleasant: just imagine thousands of bubbles travelling up your spine and around your body. My idea of doing very little to lose weight quickly vanished. You work hard with a Vibrogym. For 30 seconds you perform certain stretches or hold positions such as press-ups, squats and sit-ups, and for those thirty seconds you sweat, shake, curse and ‘feel the burn’. Each muscle is used and toned but by the time you’re ready to give up, it’s time for the next exercise.
Does it work? Well, I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I gained some. Muscle is heavier than fat, so while eventually I will lose weight when my metabolism speeds up and reduces my fat content, for now I had simply gained muscle that led me to be more toned. Within two weeks my jeans were loose and I had to make an extra hole in my belts so that I didn’t look like a dirty old man who can’t keep his trousers up when he walks (actually, because I’m a relatively clean, young girl, I wouldn’t have looked like this at all, but paranoia is a wonderful thing). I could feel my previously neglected muscles working, and, when they weren’t, I missed it. For the first time in years, I ate close to the government-recommended allowance of fruit and veg.
It didn’t all go according to plan. I got bored. Bored of having to eat in places that served salads, bored of saying no to offers of take-out and beer, bored of my flatmate’s continuous complaints about the tasteless-looking items in the fridge.
This problem was compounded by the fact that I’m a girl. You see, men and women think very differently about food. Most men see health as an ongoing process. Men understand that if you eat too much at one meal, you simply cut down on calories on the next. Conversely, if you eat salad throughout the day, a bowl of ice-cream probably won’t do you any harm. For women, however, weight loss and health is done on a 24-hour basis. Days are categorised as Good or Bad. There are no mediocre days. So, while most logical people, when faced with a nagging desire to scarf down some crisps, simply do so and then eat a little less the next day, I couldn’t. Instead, I ate a pack of crisps, and since that day was instantly labelled Bad as a result, I continued to eat crisps, and wheat, and chocolate. And drink aplenty.
After this bender, I learnt my lesson. The next day, I did my usual workout and then saw a dreadful film at the cinema – and ate some popcorn. I’ve managed to find a balance. Heaven Health’s policy is to make beautiful, healthy, happy people. They do as much as they can to make that possible, and now, I’m a convert. My fridge is still full of strange foods that will always scare my flatmate, I train 3 times each week, and I still think that Guinness is man’s greatest invention.