Have you ever watched Laura Trott or Jason Kenny whizzing around the velodrome on telly and though ‘yeah, I could do that no probs’?

If so, you should probably get yourself down to London’s Olympic velodrome – aka Lee Valley Velo Park – which offers a Taster Session for wannabe track cyclists to find out what it’s really like to reach top speed on two wheels at a 45-degree angle.

I bought the hour-long Taster Session as birthday present for my boyfriend Sam – it was 40 quid each for an hour. We turned up 45 minutes early, as requested when we booked, but were told to wait about 20 minutes before actually getting kitted up. This at least gives you the chance to go and see the velodrome from the spectator seats – it’s a pretty impressive sight!

Next we had to don our gloves and helmets and were given a bike. ‘They don’t have brakes by the way’ the guy told me as he rolled a bike my way. Oh brilliant.

lee valley velodrome taster sessions review 1

I will say now that this activity is not really for the faint-hearted. Before booking I’d read a bunch of reviews online, all of which seemed to be by 45-year-old men, and that was certainly the main demographic when we showed up. A voice in my head said ‘Well this will be fine, I’m obviously one of the fitter ones here’ but as well as strength, you also need nerves – that track feels a whole lot steeper once you’re on it, and on top of that you also have your feet strapped in to a bike with no brakes.

However, the instructor eased us in fairly gently – starting with a pedal round the flat section at the bottom of the track before we gradually moved up higher.

You have to cycle pretty bloody hard to stay up on the slopes – this really is a workout – but once you’re up there it’s an exhilarating feeling.

As for stopping with no brakes – you basically have to slow yourself down as much as possible and then grab the handrail while trying not to fall off. A bit of a test in itself for some of us (yes me).

The entire session is over in an hour, which is really as much as you can manage given the amount of effort that goes in to track cycling. Although I was nervous beforehand, I came out of the velodrome feeling really pleased that I’d given it a go – it’s a pretty unique sensation, and an experience I’d definitely recommend trying!

Oh and you also get a certificate, as modelled by Sam.

sam-lee-valley-velo-park

For more info visit the Lee Valley website.

More info here.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox

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.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox

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

bxr-skills-london-review

What is it?

Located at the (dead swanky) new BXR London gym in Marylebone, Skills is a pay-as-you-go class designed to hone your boxing skills and get you fit along the way. Each day of the week, the class focuses on a different technique, so by the end of it you’ll basically by professional boxer Anthony Joshua (who, incidentally, is on the committee of the new gym).

My experience:

First of all I’d just like to toot my horn and let you all know that I woke up at friggin’ 5.50am to review this class for you guys – YOU’RE WELCOME.

By the time I arrived at 7am, I had just about woken up, which meant I could pay attention while our instructor demonstrated the correct way to punch the bag and move your feet around (amazing how few box-fitness classes actually bother with this).

Once we’d mastered the technique (I use the term ‘mastered’ loosely in my case) it was on to a fast and furious warm-up, involving burpees, press-ups and all manner of exercises that no one in their right mind would do at that hour of the morning.

bxr-skills-london-review

When we were fully sweaty, it was on to the boxing, and, similar to 1Rebel’s class Rumble, this involved slowly building up a sequence of punches until we were, essentially, beating the shit out of our punch bags.

The only slight issue I had was being able to see our instructor at the front of the studio. The nature of the class means there are whopping great punch bags hanging everywhere and – like all trendy workout classes these days – the lights were dimmed, so several times I really couldn’t see what he was doing, and had to rely on copying those around me instead.

 

bxr-skills-london-review

However, in general I would say the instruction was good and there was more focus on technique – for example, how to kick correctly – than I normally get at these type of classes.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the session was when we were told to partner up (always terrifying for awkward people like me) and told to punch each other in the stomach. Yep really, partner one had to stand with their hands above their head and brace their abs while partner two repeatedly punched them in the stomach. This was fine until the instructor decided that my partner wasn’t whacking me hard enough and took it upon himself to beat the crap out of my abs while I stood there like ‘Umm actually, I don’t entirely agree that this is pain-free’.

All in all, a fun and educational class, but probably not one to try while you’re on your period…

Fitness level:

Any fitness level, as long as you don’t mind getting punched.

 I burnt:

300 calories

More info. Classes start at £15.

 

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

What is it?

F45 is a fitness phenomenon that started in Australia, home of fit people (in every sense of the word). Since launching several years ago it has spread internationally, with the a new UK studio opening in London’s Tottenham Court Road. Imagine circuit training but with trendy studios, tonnes of good equipment and upbeat, knowledgable instructors and you get the idea.

My experience:

There are 27 class ‘programs’ available from F45, but I tried Athletica, which promises to get you leaner, faster and more agile in 45 minutes (all music to my ears).

I was a bit wary when I arrived at the press taster class and saw a couple of huge, muscly male instructors, not because I have a problem with big, muscly men – quite the opposite – but because in my experience that tends to mean ridiculously heavy weights, testosterone-fuelled competition and lots of bootcamp-style shouting in your ear, which is meant to be encouraging but I just find aggravating.

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

Luckily, I was completely wrong. In fact, what struck me most about the class was how welcoming and inclusive it was. Sometimes it’s nice to have an instructor who’s cheers you on rather than screaming in your face, and weights that are challenging but still actually lift-able (if I go to one more class where they assume that EVERYONE can run around swinging two 30kg weights off their arms I will scream).

That’s not to say this isn’t hard work. In small groups of three or four, we moved our way round a series of exercises including kettle bell squats, Russian twists, TRX pull-ups, battle ropes and pushing a weighted sled up and down a track. By the end I was about 85% sweat. But there was a fun, upbeat feel to the class and a good camaraderie among the groups, which helped everyone get through the intense exercise (we did three 20 seconds bursts with a short break in between each, before moving to the next exercise).

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

I’ll be honest, the only not so great aspect of this place is the changing rooms. F45 is not alone in this; the problem with lots of studios that offer classes is that everyone hits the changing room at the same time, which means there’s not enough room for everyone to shower/get dressed/dry their hair at the same time. A warning for shy types: the showers at F45 are pretty open (one girl kept screaming to her friends outside “I can see everyone naked, it’s horrible” while I was also in the shower, which was flattering).

However, changing room gripes aside, I definitely recommend this class – it’s a great way to set yourself up for the day and I never felt like I’d deserved a breakfast more!

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

This is the kettlebell I accidentally swung into my crotch. NOT ADVISABLE.

Fitness level:

Average to good, although it’s a really encouraging class so even if you’re crap someone will help push you on!

I burnt:

510 calories (woohooo!)

 

From £25 per class (7-day trial for £20). More info here.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox