gymclass review london

What is it?

Founded by fitness pro and Instagram sensation Helle Hammonds, Gymclass is billed as ‘a revolutionary high intensity interval and strength training workout, like no other’ designed to ‘torch body fat’. As well as being available in its original location of Holland Park, you can now do Gymclass in the very appropriately named Gun Street in Moorgate.

My experience:

Gymclass’s new studio is down an adorable little side street – but let me tell you the warm up is anything but sweet.

Any hopes I had of being eased in gently at 7am were quickly put to bed as we started a series of intense jumps and squats, which left my legs quivering before the ‘proper’ workout had even begun. But then, looking at Helle Hammonds, who led the class herself, it was obvious we were never going to be in for an easy ride (that lady has one of the most mind-boggling bodies I have ever seen).

After the warm up, when I was already gagging for a lie down, we started the main section of the class, which is basically like circuits, but with hella hard exercises (box jump burpees, pull-ups, wall squats – all those lovelies).

gymclass review london

We worked round the room in pairs, alternating each exercise with a partner (so, for example, while my partner burnt 8 calories in the exercise bike, I would do crunches, and then we’d swap over while I cycled off 8 calories, then switch again).

gymclass review london

It was definitely a great workout, and good for people like myself who get easily bored in a class, but I have to say the best thing about it was Helle herself. Although she looks ripped enough to literally kill me with one finger, she was the friendliest, most upbeat trainer ever – even at 7am. She made me push myself but in a really encouraging way, so by the end I felt like I’d had an amazing workout – and very much deserved the Cheeky Choc protein shake presented to me on the way out!

Fitness level:

Moderate to good – it’s a pretty tough class but very welcoming if you’re a newbie.

I burnt:

480 calories (and according to Helle LOTS of fat-burning later on!)

 

More info here.

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I’ve read several articles recently about how my millennial generation is totally boring compared to Generation X before us – we workout instead of raving, drink smoothies instead of taking drugs and are more interested in trying to claw our way onto the property ladder than checking out the latest indie band down our local pub.

One thing that’s bound to make the 40-something Glasto-goers roll their eyes even more is the growing popularity of ‘fitness festivals’ – massive get-togethers of like-minded workout nerds, meeting up to try classes, hear fitness ‘influencers’ talking about how they became influential and spend money on the various health foods waggled their way by exhibitors (or, if you’re me, just try lots of samples).

It’s quite weird when you think about it – where once upon a time, exercise was something to be endured and generally got out of the way, these days we’re celebrating it with three-day long extravaganzas. Obviously, I’m the perfect target market for this kind of thing, which is why I found myself at Be:Fit London, billed as the UK’s only health and fitness festival for women.

Be:Fit ran for three days in the Business Design Centre in Islington, and comprised of a huge array of classes (Another Space HIIT, Gymbox Yoga, Barrys Bootcamp and so on) as well as a central floor space full of health brands showing off their wares. There was also a couple of stages where the likes of Carly Rowena, Joe Wicks and Lilly Sabri chatted to eager crowds.

As I was waiting for my friend outside the festival on Saturday, I could tell there was a definite type of person attracted to Be:Fit – I’ve never seen so many twenty-something women in Sweaty Betty leggings assembled before!! However, I was pleased to learn that not everyone there was a fitness blogger – the lady I chatted to while queueing for a yoga class was a teacher whose husband was looking after the kids for the weekend so she could enjoy some “me time” at the festival.

That brings me on to the queues – possibly the main drawback of Be:Fit. Basically, a certain number of spaces in the class can be booked beforehand, and then anyone with a VIP ticket gets automatic access. That leaves anyone with a standard ticket who hasn’t been able to book ahead queuing for half an hour or more to get into a class, and even then, you’re not actually guaranteed access.

To be honest, I can see that this is a situation that’s hard to avoid with an event like this – there are, after all, only a limited amount of places per class. However, if Be:Fit is repeated next year, I would definitely flag to anyone thinking of attending that you can’t automatically expect to get into lots of classes if you buy a standard ticket.

Luckily, my friend and I managed to get into two classes (helped by our press wristbands) and they were both absolutely brilliant.

The first was a core activating workout with Sam Eastwood. I hadn’t heard of celebrity trainer Sam before, but I have to say she is probably the funniest fitness instructor I have ever come across – and that definitely makes a difference when you’re on your millionth repetition of a side squat and your legs have turned to jelly.


Among other things, Sam told us how to pull in our pelvic floors (“Imagine you’re really trying not to wee or fart”) and how to get a really good bum workout during squats (“I’ve just put an egg up your bottom – now crack it!”).

Having been thoroughly toned and formed a long and loving connection with my pelvic floor, we then headed into the Reebok Fitness Studio for BLOK Party, a dance cardio workout. All I can say about this is OHMYGOD it was so good. As the instructors told us at the beginning “This is mainly about having fun, and the fitness comes second” and they were so right. Basically we all danced like Nicki Minaj at her very filthiest for 45 minutes and it was brilliant (my mate enthusiastically complimenting my twerking skills was one of the highlights of my life).

After our classes, we had a wander around the various stalls in the main arena, which offered everything from healthy breakfast bars to healing teas to fitness wear. Personally, my entire home and kitchen are at peak storage capacity, so I didn’t buy any more stuff, but I definitely enjoyed a few tasters (yes, I am every exhibitor’s worst nightmare, sorry).

Had we stayed longer, I would’ve made an effort to go to one of the talks or workshops on offer (there was everything from ‘Building a business in fitness’ to ‘How to have a healthy relationship with exercise’). However, I left feeling satisfied with my visit, which may have been much less cool than a Gen X-style rave up, but definitely left me on an endorphin high!

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The other day, Facebook merrily reminded me that it’s four years since I ran the London Marathon.

FOUR YEARS!

As well as sending me into a silent panic about how quickly time seems to be passing now I’m a proper grown-up, this information also got me thinking about why I started running all those years ago.

The simple answer is heartache (yep, time to get your violins out people). When I first started ‘proper’ running, rather than just the odd 15 minute tootle round the park, it was during a messy on/off relationship, where my emotional energy and self esteem were dipping, and I suddenly found myself craving an outlet for all my ~feelings~ (really, there was only so long I could wang on at my poor flatmates).

Running became a means to channel my feelings – whether it was anger, stress or just plain ‘waaaah I’m sad’ – into something physical and productive. It sounds weird, but I felt that I could almost fuel myself on the energy of my emotions, like each chunk of heartache was a coal I chucked on the fire, making me run further and faster than I ever imagined I could.

Running was also a means of proving my strength to myself. When relationships get messy, it can really knock your confidence, which is where the endorphin boost comes in mighty handy. The little sense of achievement at the end of every run, plus the greater glory at reaching bigger goals (a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon), reminds you that actually, you’re just fine thank you. Curating a break-up running playlist featuring Alaina Morrisette You Oughta Know and Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable helps too.

Now, whenever a friend is going through the pain of a relationship ending, I always recommend exercise to help them recover emotionally (all this #revengebody stuff is all well and good, but post break-up exercise is about so much more than that). Whether it’s running or boxing or yoga that floats your boat, the simple act of making time for yourself and accomplishing physical feats will help restore emotional equilibrium.

My broken heart was long in the past by the time it came to my marathon training, thank the Lord. By then, I was leading a fun but hectic lifestyle, working full time as a journalist, going out out every Saturday night and dating like a trooper during the week, which meant a whole lot of booze and probably not enough rest and recuperation.

My weekly long runs, always completed on a Saturday morning, became my weekly headspace. It was a time when hitting work deadlines and wondering whether some boy was going to text me back became irrelevant. Instead the focus was all me, myself and I – a time to reflect and test my physical capabilities. As a woman, you’re often so obsessed with how your body looks that it’s liberating to instead focus on what it can do, and during those months, I didn’t give a crap about whether my legs looked hot in a miniskirt, but took pride in how they withstood constant training sessions and smashed out PBs at a rate I didn’t think possible (my 1hr40min Reading half marathon is still one of my proudest achievements, especially because I was nursing a Six Nations hangover).

I ran the London Marathon in 2013, and completing it was real proof to myself that I had mental strength, as well as physical stamina, that I hadn’t really appreciated before. It seems completely apt to me that the charity supporting the marathon this year is Heads Together – I’ve experienced for myself the emotionally soothing effects of running, and can well believe that the sense of purpose marathon training gives you is an antidote to all kinds of mental stresses and strains.


Nowadays, I see running as a kind of mental escapism; an opportunity to switch from emails, tweets, WhatsApp group threads etc. Whatever particular stress I’m having at the time – and as an anxious person, there are a lot – running gives me balance and a boost of happiness, even if sometimes of the thought of pulling on my trainers and leaving the sofa is mildly horrifying.

To me, running is as much about training the mind as it is your body. Both have surprising reserves of fortitude, and both need to be given equal amounts of attention in order to have a happy and healthy life.

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digme-fitness-review-1

What is it?

Digme Fitness offers indoor cycling classes with top-end equipment – most notably the Keiser M3i bikes, which connect with a screen at the front of the studio and allow you to visually race through the mountains and compete against your fellow riders. It has recently joined forces with Barrecorre to open a swanky new studio in London’s Moorgate, which is where I tried out a class.

My experience:

I’ve tried spin classes with screens and leaderboards before (oh hey The Pack), but this was by far the most impressive bit of tech I’ve experienced.

digme-fitness-studio

We were all given the number for a particular bike when we walked in, and once we started riding cute little characters with corresponding numbers popped up on the screen in front of us, pedalling their way through a picturesque hillscape. Unsurprisingly, being able to see where you ranked in the group of characters was a huge motivating force throughout the class!

Our instructor was very careful to make sure all the bikes were set up properly and that we understood what the various measurements on the screens – including watts, speed etc – meant before we properly got going, which I realised was quite rare for spin classes.

Once we started cycling is was full-on, with plenty of hill climbs and sprints, as you can probably tell from the picture below (that’s me, far left!)

digme-fitness-review-1

The leaderboard element definitely added some interest to the class. At one point, we were given a ‘3 minute challenge’, where we basically had to see how far we could get in three minutes, with everyone’s realtime results and rankings beamed onto a screen at the front,.

As my long-suffering friends and family will know, any activity that taps into my competitive side is bound to get me working harder than I would otherwise, and I think most sporty types would say the same.

However, I was quite surprised to look up and realise that I was actually top out of all the girls there – really wish my year 10 P.E. teacher had been there to witness it tbh, and I look extremely hideous but happy upon learning the news:

digme-fitness-review-1

I was even more shocked when the final leaderboard was revealed at the end of the class and I was second out of everyone (including two male instructors who were in the session – HOLLLAAA). If anything, I think this is a reflection of sheer bloody determination more than talent, although of course I took a photo of the leaderboard to prove that I’m secretly a professional athlete.

leaderboard-digme-review

All in all, a fun and challenging class, particularly good for those who thrive off competition!

Fitness level:

Any fitness level, although if you’re a bit rusty, prepare for the whole class to know it.

I burnt:

258 calories in a half hour taster class.

More info here.

Images: Luke Ayling


As you can probably tell from this l’il blog, I’m a huge fan of a fitness class, and regularly attend everything from aerobics to boxing classes, trendy HIIT sessions to spinning at the local leisure centre.

While the classes and environments may change, one thing is always constant – the kind of people you find at a fitness class.

Whether you’re into Zumba or pilates, barre or body attack, here are a few types you’ll probably be familiar with!

1. The teacher’s pet

This person is absolutely always found at the front of the class. In fact, they’re so well-established that they actually have their own spot, which no one else dare stand in.

To cement their teacher’s pet status, this individual will always be the one to fetch a mat for the instructor, and is relied upon to laugh loudest at their jokes. If it makes them happy…

2. The permanently confused one

Not everyone has great coordination; in fact, some people will literally never get their heads around the class routine, no matter how many times they attend it.

This person can normally be found accidentally walking into other class-goers as they bound the wrong way, or doing their own sweet thang as everyone else performs a perfectly synchronized routine.

I kind of love this person, as long as I’m not exercising next to them.

3. The noisy one

While most of us like to keep a low profile at fitness classes, there’s always one person who likes to scream/bellow/grunt their way through the whole affair.

Most commonly found at boxing-inspired and HIIT classes, these people are seemingly unaware of the surprised looks they’re getting from everyone else.

4. The competitive one

Whoever said it’s the taking part that counts clearly had not met this class-goer, who treats every workout session as if it’s the Olympic Games.

Whether they’re proving that they can sprint across the room fastest, do burpees at twice as fast as everyone else, or hold a plank for 15 minutes, this person is all about showing they are THE WORLD’S GREATEST.


5. The gossipers

Is it an exercise class, or a coffee shop? This pair genuinely aren’t sure. You’ll see them use the class as an opportunity to catch up, only putting in a leisurely effort, because really the most important thing is having a chinwag. Fair play.

6. The perfect girl

While you are sweating and gasping your way through an exercise class, this girl remains absolutely perfect-looking throughout: smooth, swishy ponytail, golden tan, not a drop of sweat on her and toned abs peeking out under her crop top.

On the one hand, she serves as inspiration – if you keep working out, you might look like her one day.

On the other hand, you kind of want to punch her.

7. The newbie

We’ve all been this person at some point – the one wondering around in confusion while everyone else knowingly grabs their equipment, or trying to work out how the hell to do some complicated routine that feels like second nature to regular class-goers.

Be a good person and help them out – it’s no fun feeling like the clueless one!

8. The token bloke

Okay, this is not true of ALL fitness classes – some of them have a fairly even gender split.

However, the vast majority of classes are very much a female affair, although in my experience, there always seems to be one man who doesn’t give a crap about going to a ‘girly’ class and bloody well does some aerobics anyway.

Token blokes – I salute you.