Hero of the Month – LARA HASSAN
Today I met: Lara Hassan, personal trainer, creator of ‘Body by Lara’ and health & wellbeing consultant for a number of magazines and lifestyle journals. Over a cup of espresso, in a fully packed, self-styled British brasserie café on Shoreditch High Street we chatted about Lara’s pilates’ journey, friendship with Sting and general wellbeing.
I grew up in Lebanon where my studies in philosophy and passion for English literature pushed me towards coming to London. When I look back I cannot believe how quickly things can change, I recall just talking about a potential move to the UK and the next thing I know I was on a plane.
I moved to the UK in 2000 where I continued practising yoga and completely immersed myself into a science of nutrition. During my first years in London I was a personal trainer at the Phillimore club in Kensington, which was a stepping stone to my pilates career. I then soon started training with Pilates Foundation UK (who amongst many teachers, had an amazing mentor James D’Silva), followed by studies in the authentic pilates method in New York and Los Angeles as well as barre method training with inspirational Tracy Mallet who has become a great friend.
My background comes from extensive years of studying pilates, gyrotonic, gyrokinesis, garuda and booty barre. After years of teaching and studying various forms of movement and exercise, I created my signature method ‘Body by Lara’ which brings in cardio interval training to movement based exercise methods such as pilates, garuda, gyrotonic, barre and plyometrics.
All my accumulated knowledge and practice of extensive training alongside international work experience has led me to land great opportunities working with celebrities like Sting, Skunk Anansye Aka Skin , Trudie Styler, Eliot Sumner and training royals across the globe. Becoming gradually occupied with work, my love for long hauls was quickly fading away; I decided to stay in London and continued teaching and expanding my own business, which has been and still is an incredible journey.
Tell us a bit more about Spiral Body
Spiral Body is authentic classical pilates studio where all the teachers are classical pilates masters so it is a great for someone who is craving an original pilates classes. Spiral body also offers ‘Body by Lara’ method which is my signature method based on 15 years of teaching, in addition to weight loss programmes and anti ageing facial exercise training known as face yoga .
Most memorable client tours you have ever done?
Oh gosh there were so many! But perhaps the most memorable one was in 2006 when I met Sting (Gordon Sumner) and went on the world tour with him and (at the time reunited) The Police. It was fantastic opportunity to practice pilates and yoga in different cities, locations – it is something I will never forget.
Other than being a personal trainer you are also a health and wellbeing consultant for a number of magazines and lifestyle journals. How do you find time for all this extra-curricular activity?
Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed and my background in literature extremely helps me. I am a constant thinker and I like to put my thoughts and experiences from pen to paper. I have published a number of articles for Active in Style, Sayidaty, Hip and Healthy, The Business of Everything and Healthy is the New Black. Although it is time consuming, I nevertheless enjoy it very much. I normally spend evening and weekends writing articles – I find it relaxing after a busy day in the studio or at the gym. Even though you could call it training for the brain!
I adore classical Pilates – I just love the way the entire core is engaged.
What does your usual day look like?
I always start my day by staying with my thoughts in bed before I truly wake up – I need a good 30 minutes to think about my goals, plans and where do I want to be next – it just to set me up for the day. I then mix up a drink of warm water, lemon and ginger, followed by light breakfast. Mornings are spent catching up on emails, social media and getting ready for my first teaching class.
Between my hours of rests, I take my dog for a walk in Hyde Park. My lunch is usually somewhere in South Kensington since it is convenient to pop out for a bite somewhere close to the studio. Evenings are spent exercising and writing various articles for health and wellbeing magazines and lifestyle journals. My day passes in a flash.
How about your diet, what do you usually have throughout the day?
One thing for sure is that I stay away from processed food and limit my intake of canned foods. My only vice is coffee – I am a coffee addict and a sucker for good quality coffee!
I normally eat flavoured well balanced organic meals. I am particular about balancing my vitamin intake and will ensure that my body is never vitamin deficient. Examples of usually consumed foods would be: avocado, eggs, grain and I absolutely avoid sugar.
Affogato! There is nothing better than a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso.
What’s your favourite clothing?
A mixture of vintage and designer clothes which I always spicy up with various accessories… I have lots (she smiles). I do not follow trends – I rather walk around East London and just get what catches my eye – I try to stay creative in what I wear, although I generally opt for darker colours there is always a ‘shock’ element to an outfit.
Fitness wise I wear comfortable and most importantly durable clothing, because it is vital for me to feel at ease in my activewear especially when I teach and I teach a lot.
Do you have a favourite book?
The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku – no matter how many times you read it, you still want to come back to it and read it again.
The Incredibles. There is something about this cartoon (she laughs).
What inspires you?
Authenticity, honesty and simplicity, but at the same time I am inspired by intellectual people who strive to achieve their goals and pursue their dreams.
Do you have life motto?
I live by Carl Sagan statement that: “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, Our willingness to embrace what is truer than what feels good.”
Lara, you have achieved so much – do you have more exciting projects coming up next?
Living in London there are endless opportunities and there is always something new cropping up that catches my attention. I have been recently asked to feature and direct a TV programme which will be focused around health, fitness and general wellbeing and have just returned from Dubai where I met the TV producers and the filming crew to discuss the details of what looks to be an exciting project!
I am also in the process of writing a book “Body by Lara”. This book will be a guide for beginners who wish to embark on a pilates journey. My teaching techniques together with wellbeing tips are also included.
In addition, I am planning to set up a separate Body by Lara studio, where I could exclusively teach my signature method Body by Lara. Given that nowadays we do not have so much free time to go to pilates, barre or cardio classes separately, as a result I believe that by combining all of the core fitness strands would allow you to enjoy the benefits that different techniques provide. The class is designed in a way that it works your posture, flexibility; uses bands, weights, springs and cardio and everything is in one class.
What was the best advice ever given to you?
Stay focused, follow your dreams no matter what and the rest will follow.
Who is your personal hero:
My father, he has and still plays huge part in my life and I will always value his ongoing support.
If you had special power what it would be?
Might sound philanthropic, but would love to have powers to reverse nature’s destruction and ability to bring back things we have lost.
As you are an inspiration to so many of your clients and us, what would be your top tip for staying fit and healthy?
I believe that people who wish to get fitter and healthier should be interested in their own body. It’s not something you learn and apply as and when it suits you best – understanding your body, how it works and its limitations is fundamental on your road to a healthier you. In my mind it is important to convince yourself that this is really what you want and understand why it’s best for you. So I guess getting to the roots of why you want this change and setting your mind-set accordingly.