What is it?
Calm by Candlelight is a new restorative yoga class set to launch into Virgin Active in February 2017, when the fitness chain will completely revamp its yoga programme. The idea is to become more of a ‘health club’, looking at mental and emotional wellbeing as well as giving people buff bods, so the class is all about unwinding and de-stressing – something I’m sure we can all get on board with!

 virgin active calm by candlelight

The Calm By Candlelight room – LOTS of equipment!

My experience:

I arrived at the yoga class frazzled from a hectic day, so the sight of a quiet, candlelit studio lined with mats, cushions and blankets was a welcome one. However, if you’re expecting sun salutations and downward dogs, you should know: this is completely unlike any yoga class I’ve tried before.

The session was led by international yoga guru Patrick Beach, who has helped design Virgin Active’s new programme.  At the beginning, he said ‘you might be holding each pose a little longer than you’re used to’, but I anticipated an extra 30 seconds, not holding poses for five minutes or so each.

And the poses themselves are different. Although I was familiar with postures such as the pigeon or the dragon, in this class you incorporate extra equipment (mainly big cylindrical pillows, which are my new fave thing) into the move, helping you relax into the pose and hold it for much longer.

virgin active calm by candlelight

Not really acceptable to take a selfie at yoga but it happened…

Staying in position like this is simultaneously calming – forcing you into a sleep-like stillness – and helps you very gradually push into a deeper stretch. For example, in one exercise we were lying on our backs and stretching out our hamstrings using a strap round the foot. Normally I find this agony and can feel my whole leg spasming in protest, but a longer session meant I could eventually let the leg relax and stretch much further than normal, giving my poor running muscles the relief they deserve.

And that’s the crux of this class to me. It’s not really a ‘fitness’ session – you couldn’t treat yourself to a Big Mac as a reward – but its a complement to fitness; the big stretching session that you keep promising yourself you’ll get round to but never find the time for at home. Shutting yourself in a room and being slowly guided through the stretches means you just HAVE to do them, and the feeling afterwards is lovely – like you’ve rediscovered muscles you never knew you had, and spent a good chunk of time focusing on your body rather than forcing it to do stressful things!

virgin active calm by candlelight

Fitness level:

Anyone could do this class – the moves can be adapted if you’re lacking in flexibility or particularly tight in one area. However, it’s actually the super-fit people – those who exercise all the time – that I think would benefit the most from this session, as that coiled spring of a body will be completely relaxed and rejuvenated by the session.

I burnt: 

Well hardly anything, but that’s so far from being the point it doesn’t matter!

For more information go to VirginActive.co.uk

 

boogie bounce trampoline class

What is it?

Imagine if I told you that bouncing up and down on a tiny trampoline could actually count as a full-on exercise class, great for burning fat and toning muscles throughout the body.

Well that’s exactly what Boogie Bounce, a new fitness programme based entirely on mini trampolines, is promising. Obviously, I had to give it a go, so when the class – which is available as far afield as the US and Australia – touched down in Covent Garden, I went along to try it out for myself.

My experience:

It’s not often I go to an exercise class and have a ridiculous grin on my face the ENTIRE way through, but with Boogie Bounce it’s unavoidable. I mean, you’re bouncing! On a trampoline! It’s like being 7 years old again, except this time you’re listening to Anaconda by Nicki Minaj and have the trampoline all to yourself.

boogie bounce trampoline class

The class has an upbeat soundtrack and an even more upbeat instructor. I think bouncing all day for a living must make you high on life, and this lady’s attitude and enthusiasm confirmed that.

We went through a series of exercises from more simple side-to-side jumps to full on leaps into the air (luckily the trampoline has a bar you can hold onto if you’re scared of just shooting right off). The routines had really fun choreography and great music – Boogie Bounce is the kind of class where you have to let go of any notion of looking cool and just enjoy yourself! I think the clip below illustrates this:

I could definitely feel the burn in my bum and thighs after all that bouncing, and there was also a quick abs section at the end – turns out balancing on a trampoline while you do sit ups is a good way to challenge your core muscles!

boogie bounce trampoline class
Fitness level:

I think people of all levels of fitness would enjoy this class, although given the amount of bouncing involved, I can imagine it’s going to appeal to a slightly younger crowd! It’s definitely a good one for those people who ‘hate exercise’ to try – like Zumba, it provides something totally new and fun, which makes you forget you’re working out.

boogie bounce trampoline class

I burnt:

150 calories in 30 minutes.

More info here.

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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.

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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.

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.