Burn and learn at the School of Mind Body Athletics


FEW fitness start-ups revolutionised the way we work out quite like ClassPass.

The subscription-based network of boutique fitness studios took cities like New York and London by storm in 2015 with its commitment-free model, allowing users to flit between HIIT and hatha yoga at their convenience without forking out for multiple, seldom-used memberships.

Jennifer Hersch and her husband Dr Theo Koutroukides established ETHOS, a high-end hybrid studio offering barre, yoga, HIIT, spin and TrX in the heart of Spitalfields last year, dutifully adopting the membership-free model of their competitors for fear the word ‘contract’ might kill their shot with commitment-phobes.

What they ended up with, however, was a whole lot of clients showing up with half a head in the game, which, as ex-dancer Jennifer explains, wasn’t the ethos of ETHOS at all.

“I think at the moment the ClassPass culture means that everybody is trying to do everything, without actually perfecting any one skill or technique… a lot of people end up being half present,” she explains.

“It works for some people, but we realised our real passion is working with serious students.”

And where do serious students go to learn and develop their knowledge? Why, back to school, of course.

What is it?

The School of Mind Body Athletics (SOMA) is a fresh new incarnation of the ETHOS offering; barre, yoga, spin, HIIT and TRX classes arranged as ‘terms’ or training programmes designed to develop skills, track progress, and ultimately help participants achieve their goals.

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SOMA’s TRX studio

How does it work?

Each student at SOMA chooses from four training programmes; whether Hot Yogi, Total Athlete, Cyclist or Barre. Just like a real school, each of the programmes has learning objectives, curriculum, and are results oriented, but are tailored to suit beginners right the way up to semi-professionals.

Most studios are heated to maximise the efficiency of workouts, and there is a big emphasis on body analysis tools to track progress based on Dr Theo’s background in biotechnology, but they are not a prerequisite and students are free to train without them.

ETHOS’ super slick facilities have also been enhanced with an extended terrace where students can lounge with friends, grab a drink or catch up on work before or after class; think of it like the playground at school.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ETHOS’ pay-as-you-go model has been shown the door, replaced by a flat monthly membership fee of £125 permitting access to an unlimited number of SOMA’s classes.

What are the benefits?

While there are indisputable advantages to the ClassPass culture of trying new training programmes and classes week in week out, SOMA is your opportunity to hone in on, and get the most from, your favourite workout.

“We’re looking for students with the right mindset; that is having integrity, mindfulness, the patience to really work towards their goals and aren’t looking for a quick fix,” Jennifer says.

“It’s really not about your level of ability – pro-dancers can have the same mindful approach as someone who has never tried ballet or barre before – and as a teacher you can see it straight away.

“The programmes will give those sort of people an opportunity to really focus, to train like a professional.”

How much?

£125 per month for unlimited training.

Where can I try it?

SOMA opens at Old Spitalfields Market E1 6EW from mid to late September. .