Women’s fitness has been the subject of far fewer studies than men’s and many fitness coaches have more or less said that women should train just like men. To dispel this myth, we interviewed Alla Meijer, fitness bikini (a competitive form of bodybuilding) champion, specialist in advanced female training and owner of the Booty Parlour studio.

“I started my fitness journey around 12 years ago. After trying various different approaches, I have developed my own understanding of what women’s bodies really need. Fitness bikini helped me to realise how to build my body’s aesthetic and proportions while improving athletic performance. As I like to say, strong is the new sexy but that’s not all. I take into consideration many different aspects to build the perfect program for my clients. There are a few things to remember to make sure you get more out of your workouts.”

The male and female hormonal cycle

The male hormonal cycle is quite different to that of women as male testosterone levels generally remain very steady. They slowly decline as men age but day to day they don’t fluctuate much, which contributes to consistent energy levels, mood and focus. Women’s monthly hormonal cycles are dynamic. They affect mood, energy levels, cognition, the ability to focus, motivation, creativity, the digestive system, nutrient requirements and much more besides. It means that most fitness and nutrition plans are not suitable for women.   

“Women are more hormone-dependent than men. That’s why fitness coaches should take into account the female hormonal cycle and factors such as menopause and  perimenopause when putting together a training program. I specialize in women’s health and have extensive experience and qualifications in this field. 9 out of 10 of my female clients are mothers. Working with mothers requires additional knowledge in areas such as recovery after childbirth, pelvic muscles and antenatal classes.” 


What should women know before they start training?

“You have to work out in the kitchen as well as in the gym. You can’t train on an empty stomach. If you go to pilates or yoga classes, you can run on empty but if you are doing a good gym session, you have to eat. An easily digestible slice of toast with peanut butter on top or any good carbohydrate snack containing some fat 30 – 40 minutes before your work out is ideal. After you have been to the gym you want to have some protein to encourage recovery. The other thing that helps with recovery is something like the banya. The heat will relax the muscles and alleviate any stiffness. This is a good time for a deep tissue massage as the benefits are enhanced when your muscles are relaxed.”

Amplify the benefits of the banya on your body with a deep tissue massage at The Bath House – Banya London.


Banya for women’s health

It’s well-known that banya promotes recovery after exercise and has benefits for the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Banya is particularly good for women’s health. According to The Journal of Human Kinetics time spent in the steam room increases women’s levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which in turn helps the body break down fat and build muscle.

“Banya alone won’t help you to lose weight or build your dream body but it’s a good idea to incorporate banya visits into your overall program. Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, banya is definitely a good tool to help you reach your health goals.”


Banya and menopause

Female hormone levels are prone to fluctuation and use of the banya can help with problems caused by hormone imbalances such as menstrual cramps and other menopausal symptoms. In addition, the menopause brings about hormonal changes that can contribute to the accumulation of fat in the body and the banya can be useful here.

“Banya alone won’t help you to lose weight or build your dream body but it’s a good idea to incorporate banya visits into your overall program. Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, banya is definitely a good tool to help you reach your health goals.”

Banya is effectively a passive cardio workout, helping you to maintain a healthy weight by detoxifying the body, burning calories, and increasing the metabolism. Banya also brings about the release of endorphins, builds immunity and helps to fight infection.

If you have any questions about The Bath House – Banya London or would like to book a banya session, please call 0203 906 2060.

Aunt Sara then appears with some veniks and “in that steam heat began to birch me, very lightly at first…and then harder and harder…until I began to yelp. More steam came belching up, and she turned me over and began to work on my chest and stomach. I was fairly interested by now, for mildly painful though it was, it was distinctly stimulating”.

I will leave the rest to your imagination or you can search out the book. Flashman concludes that “the Russians have some excellent institutions” and that Sara was “undoubtedly my favourite aunt”.

There is no bad time to visit the banya – you can go alone or with friends, you can celebrate, commiserate or meditate there. I moved to Moscow in 1999 and by this time I was generally using the banya to recover from the night before. I usually visited Kransopresnenskaya banya which was most famous for an incident in 1994 when a notorious Georgian gangster was shot by a sniper as he walked out onto the street. S Legkym Parom indeed!

Wherever I travelled for work in Russia or nearby, I would sample the local banya, from small shacks in the countryside to grand urban complexes like Sanduny in Moscow or Arasan in Almaty. I also began to think about opening somewhere back in the UK and, when I moved to London in my 30’s, I researched the contemporary bathhouse scene. There wasn’t much to get excited about. My favourite was probably the Porchester in Queensway had a glorious kidney shaped pool and beautiful tiled rooms with a range of temperatures ranging from the coolest (Frigidarium) to the hottest (Laconicum), but none of them offered the same rejuvenating experience as banyas in Russia.


The Bath Houses of London

At the same time, I learned that London had a rich history of bath houses. These included an opulent Oriental bathhouse opened in 1862 on Jermyn Street by a former British diplomat in Constantinople and a Russian banya on Brick Lane called Russian Vapour Baths, set up by emigree jews who had fled the pogroms of the Tsarist empire for East London.  There were also numerous “bath houses” or laundries where people could go to literally take a bath and do some washing. Look carefully around the city and you will see examples like this one in Kentish Town.

The Bath House – Banya London opened in 2019 and we hope it is a worthy addition to that history.