hydro active virgin active review

What is it?

Billed as HIIT in the pool, Hydro Active is a cardio-building, fat-burning workout that also improves your swimming technique.

My experience:

I’ll be honest, I probably should’ve asked whether I actually needed to be a decent swimmer before attending the press preview of Hydro Active. As it was, I rocked up to the very swanky Virgin Active gym in Broadgate with just my basic breaststroke skills in tow and no idea of what lay ahead.

My ineptitude at swimming was mirrored outwardly by my totally inappropriate swimwear. Before I left work that evening, my colleagues helped me decide between a string bikini and embarrassingly plunging swimsuit, and we plumped for the latter, so I was vaguely mortified to find that most of the girls in the class had been gifted Speedo swimsuits – as in proper ones, for swimming, not posey swimsuits designed purely for lying on a sun lounger pretending you’re Elizabeth Taylor (a favourite activity of mine).

hydro active virgin active review

What’s more, most other people in the class could actually swim – oh CRAP! When the instructor announced that we would be doing the whole class in front crawl, I was a tad mortified to tell her that particular move wasn’t actually in my swimming repertoire. Luckily, I wasn’t the only journo there who would probably fail to get their ‘Little Duck Level 2’ swimming badge, so me and my fellow doggy paddlers were put together in the slow lane with a slightly revised version of the Hydro Active routine – one which accommodated for the fact we were all vaguely crappy swimmers.

So I’ll be honest – I think you need to be fairly confident with your front crawl in order to truly get the most out of this class.

However, if you’re a good swimmer who wants to improve, it’s perfect. The class consists of drills, where you mix longer distances with ‘sprint’ swims, plus more unusual activities, such holding a float between you and a partner and both kicking as if your life depends on it to see who can push the other person backwards through the water. 

hydro active virgin active review

Float fighting!

The drills where we were instructed to get in and out of the pool at the end of each length were surprisingly tiring – I did not realise how exhausting it would be hauling my great heft in and out of the water that many times!! 

Overall, I like the HIIT in a pool idea – I normally think of swimming as super repetitive, robotic affair, but Hydro Active breaks your swim up by combining high intensity bursts of energy with more endurance building sessions. I just wish I was better at it…

Fitness level:

As you may have guessed, you really do need front crawl in order to properly participate in this class. It would be ideal for triathletes looking to increase their swimming speed and stamina. 

hydro active virgin active review

Life in the slow lane…

I burnt:

Sadly my Fitbit doesn’t work underwater, but the class promises a 250-300 calorie burn.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-17-29-23

Ok I realise the title of this article seems a bit niche, but I bet there are LOADS of city dwellers out there who want to exercise at home, but are worried about jumping around in an upstairs flat for fear their downstairs neighbours might actually kill them.

I was short of time the other morning and couldn’t make it do the gym, but still wanted to get my HIIT session done. However, at 7.30am I felt seriously guilty about heffalump-ing around upstairs while the couple below listened to me threaten to break through their ceiling.

As someone who’s lived in upstairs flats for the past seven years, I have worked out a few tricks to make the whole thing a bit quieter, so that hopefully, you don’t get evicted just because you’re into Insanity. Here’s my guide to quiet exercise in a flat…

1. Go barefoot

Your automatic instinct when exercising is to lace up your trainers for ultimate springy-ness. However, having tried a number of footwear options, I can confirm it is really hard to stay silent when you’re jumping about in trainers. Socks are too slippy, so go barefoot instead.

2. Choose your room carefully

I only have one room in my flat big enough to exercise in, which, luckily, is above my downstairs neighbour’s living room, not their bedroom.

Think carefully about where and when you exercise in your flat – if you decide to leap around above their bedroom at 6am, they are going to be way more furious than if you gallumph on top of their kitchen at 9am.

Ideally, use a room with a carpet, as this will muffle the sound a bit.

3. Get a good mat

If you don’t have a carpeted room to work out in, then at least get a good, grippy mat that you can jump on without it slipping. Again, this is just another layer of sound protection to stop you jumping directly on the floorboards.

4. Keep it snappy

If your workout is anything longer than half an hour, then I think you have to bite the bullet and head to the gym to do it. Bouncing around on the ceiling is definitely classed as ‘annoying neighbour behaviour’, but if it’s just a quick session most people will be able to let it slide.

5. Adapt your routine

There are a few things – tuck jumps, for example – which are impossible to do in a light and quiet manner. In this case, just switch the move for something else. Bear crawls, planks, tricep dips, lunges – there are loads of things you can do without creating a racket, so just supplement where necessary.

 


What is it?

SoulBody Barre Unhitched is basically a barre class with a difference. Instead of a traditional barre at the side of the room, you have a 3kg or 4kg weighted bar which you use to perform a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises, with the aim of creating better balance, definition and posture. It’s hopped over to the UK from the US, which, as we all know, is where the best/craziest fitness trends start.

My experience:

I’ve done many a barre class in my time, but Soulbody Barre Unhitched is completely different – and I loved it!

The class basically involves lots of traditional bodyweight strengthening exercises classes (plank, bridge, lunges etc) but made more intense with the addition of a weighted bar (which is a bit like a tap dancing cane in length, but heavier!) and an inflatable ball.

For example, instead of just going into the bridge position, at the same time you would have your feet balanced on the ball and be pushing up the weighted bar repeatedly to work your shoulders.


We also did side planks on one arm while rotating the bar to the side with the other (I am SO glad I have pictures to illustrate what I’m on about here!)


The hardest moves were probably the core work, but since #perfectabs seem to be everyone’s goal right now, that can only be a good thing. LOOK AT THE CONCENTRATION.


My favourite thing about the class was how varied and fast-paced it was; you don’t really have time to get fed up of one set of exercises because you’re quickly moving on to a new area of the body, and the whole feel of Soulbody Barre Unhitched is very upbeat.

I would definitely attend again! 

Fitness level:

Anyone could attend this class, as you can adapt each move to your fitness level.

 

I burnt: 

250 calories. Not too shoddy.

Let me know your favourite barre classes in the comments below!

Read my review of BarreSculpt by Barrecorre here.

Muddy trainers winter exercise tips
Recently I stepped out of the gym at 6pm only to discover – shock, horror – that it was already getting dark.

My first thought was, obviously, ‘WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?’ While many people are wanging on about how much they’re looking forward to winter coats and boots, I am pro-Summer all the way.

My second thought was how much harder it’s going to be to motivate myself to exercise now it’s getting cold, dark and dismal outside.

Exercise in the summer comes to us easily, especially if like me, you’re the type of person who bounces out of bed when the sun rises (HOLLER to all those weirdos who can’t sleep past 5.45am come June).

Even if you’re not, there’s no denying that a jog through a sunny park is way more appealing than pulling on your trainers while staring grim-faced out of the window at rain, clouds and cats sheltering under cars.

However, with the season of autumn comes comfort food, which means you can’t really afford to just give up on fitness completely, for fear you might start to resemble an actual sticky toffee pudding.

Body-consciousness aside, I also find that going into hibernation mode can end up making you feel low and listless – you need some time in the great outdoors in order to feel happy and healthy, even if motivating yourself to get out there can be tricky.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for keeping up your exercise routine in autumn, all learnt from my own experience…

1.Start a group activity

The main draw of group classes at this time of year is obviously that they’re indoors, so a drizzly day is no excuse not to get involved. But more than that, they provide extra motivation when you’re feeling sluggish, because once you’re in the room with the instructor bellowing at you, there’s little choice but to see the class through to the end. Plus, if the colder weather has turned you into a hermit, they provide much needed interaction with other people. I recommend an upbeat activity like aerobics, spinning or Zumba.

2. Buy the right gear

Newsflash – running in the rain is actually possible, particularly if it’s just a light shower. Ditto running when it’s super cold. However, many people are put off by both of these because they don’t have the right clothing. All you need’s a light jacket (please say you got the Miss Congeniality reference here?), plus gloves, a hat and scarf for colder days. You can get inexpensive waterproof gear from any big sports store – choose luminous colours so you’ll be easily spotted in the dark.

3. Run to or from work

Ok so you’ve got the gear, but finding the motivation to run when it’s grim outside is tricky. I’ve found that incorporating the run into a journey you would be doing anyway – i.e. to or from the office, is an excellent way to make it happen. Buy a good running backpack – one with straps that go round your chest and waist – and download an excellent playlist for your run (if you live too far from work, try just running part of the way). There is honestly no better feeling than arriving through your front door in the evening, exercise session out of the way and the prospect of a cosy night in ahead of you!

4. Set yourself a goal

The best way to keep yourself exercising throughout the winter is the pure terror of knowing that, at the end of it, you have one whopper of a fitness challenge to come up against. Take, for example, the winter of 2013, when I started training for the London Marathon in January and kept running through snow, ice, rainstorms and yep, more snow. I’m not suggesting you need to go quite so extreme with your goal, but certainly signing up for a challenge that takes place around April/May will give you the kick up the arse you need for an active winter.

5. Go for long walks

One thing I’ve learnt since getting my Fitbit is that walking is a seriously underrated form of exercise. There have been some days when I’ve really beaten myself up about missing a morning exercise class, but after going for a long walk in the afternoon, I’ve actually burnt off more calories than I would’ve in the session I skipped. And what could be nicer than covering a good mileage during a crisp, bright day, all wrapped up in a coat and scarf with the beautiful autumnal colours all around you? NOTHING.

6. Opt for evening workouts

As I mentioned before, I find getting up early in the summer a breeze. In the past two weeks, that has COMPLETELY changed, and every morning I find myself eyeing up my alarm furiously as it goes off next to me, thinking ‘Surely it’s only 2am?’ Then when I crawl through to the living room and rock back and forth in my dressing gown watching BBC Breakfast and drinking tea. All in all, it’s really not conducive to a morning workout, which is why I tend to switch my normally early fitness sessions to evening time in the winter. If you plan to do this, remember to take a late afternoon snack to work with you (for hanger prevention) and make yourself a little toiletry bag full of all the stuff you need (contacts, socks, hair bobbles, padlock, deodorant, water bottle) otherwise you will forever be rocking up at the gym post-office and realising you’ve forgotten something essential!

How do you motivate yourself to exercise in the winter? Share your tips in the comments below!

Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End

What is it? Tribathon is a 90-minute workout combining three complimentary disciplines: 30 minutes of HIIT training (the ‘Warrior’ phase), 30 minutes of spinning (‘Ride’) and 30 minutes of yoga and stretching (‘Zen’). I tried it out at the Centric:3Tribes studio in Crouch End.

My experience: After an 11-hour flight and with serious jet lag, a wise person probably wouldn’t go to an intense 90-minute exercise class on the other side of London – but then, not everyone has a fitness blog they need to feed.

Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End Tribathon selfie

Non-sweaty pre-workout face

I was also driven by curiosity to schlep up to North London and try out Tribathon – I’ve never done a class like this before, combining different disciplines into one hardcore session, and I wanted to know what it felt like (answer = tiring).

The fitness studio itself is achingly cool, with perky artwork covering the walls, a juice bar, and changing rooms pimped with organic hair products and fancy hairdryers.

Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End artwork

Centric:3Tribes has some jazzy decor!

We started off in the HIIT room, where we divided into two groups: one lot starting on the treadmill, the other doing weights and TRX. Then the lights were dimmed (so low that I couldn’t get any decent pictures – soz) and the loud music started pumping as the instructor began shouting orders: “Treadmills – speed up to 11! Everyone else – SQUATS!”

Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End HIIT studio

The HIIT studio

God knows how the guy got his brain around directing two groups of people at once, but he did a great job, with the treadmill crew working through an ever longer cycle of sprints, while those on the floor alternated between one-leg TRX squats, bench lifts and tricep dips. We swapped over several times, with different elements added in – an incline for the treadmills, stomach crunches on the floor, and so on, until I genuinely felt like I needed a lie down and a Dairy Milk quite urgently.

But no! Next it was into the spin room, where the world’s most enthusiastic instructor led us through a bunch of sprints, hills climbs and a few on-the-bike weights sessions for good measure. The spinning studio at Centric:3Tribes is lovely – think the cool lighting and clip-in shoes of Psycle, not the ragged, rickety machines of your local leisure centre – and great tunes helped power me through the sweaty session.

Spinning shoes Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End

My snazzy spinning shoes!

With wobbly legs, I made my way through to the final room – the yoga studio, where I was looking forward to a little ‘Zen’. However, just lying down in child’s pose for half an hour apparently wasn’t on the cards – instead, our final session was a yoga session featuring many a downward dog, before we moved on to stretches and a rather speedy shavasana.

Yoga studio Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End

The ‘Zen’ room

So what did I make of it? Well, despite being absolutely KNACKERING, I actually loved this class. In fact, perhaps it was because it was so knackering. I can’t stand feeling like I haven’t had a proper workout at the end of a class, but this one definitely ticked that box, with enough variety to stop it from getting boring (90 mins is a long time!).

I think this would be a great one to come to with a fitness-loving friend on a weekend morning, particularly if a brunch-shaped reward is on the cards afterwards!

Centric: 3 Tribes gym Crouch End Elton John lyrics stairs

Enjoying the Elton on my way out…

Fitness level: Don’t come to this class as a complete fitness novice as you’ll probably never want to exercise again, but most of the workout you can tailor to your level, so a reasonable level of fitness is fine.

I burnt: 650 calories. Which I then re-ate in the form of St Martin’s Lane Hotel’s Gin & Tonic afternoon tea (it’s amazing).

St Martins Lane Hotel Gin  & Tonic afternoon tea

So. Much. CAKE.