Sweat It (5).jpg

What is it?

Sweat It in Aldwych, London offers a variety of HIIT classes targeting different areas of the body. These include Pillar Killer for the abs, Machine Guns for shoulders and arms, and Engine Room for the legs and glutes. Each class is split between exercise on the treadmill and floorwork.

My experience:

The first thing I discovered when it came to attending Sweat IT is that I can’t pronounce Aldwych –‘I’m off to a class in… Old Witch?’ I grumbled when I rolled out of bed at 5.45am. After a tube ride and a nice stroll through Covent Garden (minus all the blimmin’ tourists), I arrived for the 7am class, and ordered my post-workout smoothie to collect on the way out (turns out this is quite a taxing decision at this time of day, so I went for ‘Posh’ because it was the only one named after a Spice Girl).

As well as nice changing rooms and a large, well-equipped studio, I was also happy to discover a fridge of reusable water bottles that you can fill up and return at the end of the class. It’s so simple and SO much better for the environment than dumping plastic bottles in the bin, and I can’t believe more gyms aren’t doing this.

To the class, and essentially, Sweat It follows the same format as Barry’s Bootcamp or 1Rebel’s Reshape: a few minutes on the treadmill, a few minutes doing weights on the floor, and swapping back and forth until you feel like you might have a heart attack.

The difference is that Sweat It has taken this concept and ironed out some of the niggles. The floor equipment, for example, is better: each person has their own landmine bar, a ‘rig’ stacked with bars and weights, plus a shelf to store dumbbells on. Rather than having to scrabble out a space on the floor for planks, ab crunches and so on, you have a clearly demarcated zone (although no mat, which means your arse bones get a bit sore during V-sits). I did the Pillar Killer class, which lasts 50 minutes, and our floorwork included mountain climbers, Russian twists, side plank dips and weighted sit-ups.

Another improvement is the treadmills – these ones are seriously impressive. For example, you can switch between ‘run’ mode and ‘parachute’ mode (where all the movement of the belt comes from your legs) at just the press of a button, so there’s no fiddling about with that red cable. Changing speed doesn’t involve shuffling through all the numbers; instead, you hit the 10km per hour button on the screen and the speed change is almost instant.

They’re simple tweaks, admittedly, but honing a successful format is never a bad thing. Sweat It also introduces a new element with a ‘challenge’ at the end of the class. In pairs, we had to take it in turns to complete 80m on the treadmill running against a 20kg weight in parachute mode – which sounds weird, but was essentially VERY VERY HARD.

By the end of the class, I felt like I’d had a really thorough workout. Unfortunately, Sweat It suffers from the curse of all class-based studios: not being able to provide enough showers to prevent queues when a deluge of people suddenly leave a session at once. But the queue wasn’t horrendous and the toiletries were nice, plus there were swanky Dyson hairdryers, so all is forgiven.

Overall, I was really impressed with Sweat It and would definitely attend another class – it’s a great way to kickstart your day.

Fitness level:

You get to choose your dumbbell weight and there are always three speed options to choose from on the treadmill, so anyone with reasonable fitness would be fine at this class.

I burnt:

400 calories (which I then re-ate after turning up to work and finding someone had left a whole Colin the Caterpillar cake on the side).

More info here

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What is it?

You’ve probably heard of FRAME – with studios in Shoreditch, King’s Cross, Victoria and Hammersmith to name but a few, the fitness chain is taking over London, and bringing with it a unique line of quirky classes, from 80s Aerobics to Ass and Abs.

The class that caught my eye, however, was the Spice Girls workshop. I mean obviously – I was a child of the 90s, so anything involving the world’s best girl group was always going to appeal (FRAME definitely knows how to appeal to the millennial woman).

At £25, it’s not cheap, but I decided to sign up to the two-hour session with a mate who was equally keen to unleash her inner Geri one Bank Holiday Monday.

My experience:

It can basically be summed up like this – positives: the class was really fun, negatives: I realised that I am a terrible dancer.

Actually I kind of already knew the latter. Although I love dancing on a night out when I can just freestyle with a glass of wine or six, once I have to follow an actual choreographed routine I’m hopeless. I discovered this on my hen do, when I played the part Beyonce in my own music video (diva WHO?) but going to FRAME’s workshop only confirmed my complete lack of skill when it comes to learning and remembering a set dance routine.

The class started with a warm-up to the dulcet tones of Posh, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty, before we ‘broke the ice’ by strutting one-by-one across the room using our best Spice Girls moves. Sounds terrifying I know, but once you’re in the room with a bunch of similarly over-excited 29-year-old women it would seem weird not to do an individual runway walk by means of introduction.

Then we started learning the actual routine to the classic tune, Stop. Our instructor, who I have no doubt is a normally professional dancer and can’t believe the hilarity of bunch of dweebs gyrating around thinking they look like popstars, was nevertheless very friendly and patient, offering to repeat any sections we didn’t understand (umm, all of it please).

After learning each section bit by bit, with a tonne of repetition, we were divided up to ‘perform’ our learnings back to the class. My group consisted solely of me and my mate Rosie, who managed to get lost about five seconds in and basically spent the rest of the ‘performance’ doing what we do best: freestyling like a pair of goddamn queens.

I realise I’m making the whole thing sound like a bit of an ordeal but the whole point is it was LOADS of fun and no pressure to actually be good, which is lucky considering we basically recreated the dancefloor seduction scene from the Inbetweeners movie.

Fitness level: Any

I burnt: A quite frankly STAGGERING 750 calories, even though I was enjoying it so much I barely noticed I was exercising. Now that’s a win.

More info here.

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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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bikes-gymbox-flatline

What is it?

Labelled ‘the hardest and most dangerous gym class in the world’, Flatline has made headlines for being so hardcore that a paramedic is on hand for those who can’t handle the pace.

The Independent reports that given it’s ‘potentially deadly’ nature, participants need to sign a disclaimer beforehand and fill in an organ donor form.

So naturally, when Gymbox invited me to try it, I went along, hoping I’d still be alive at the end of it…

My experience:

One of the ways in which Flatline nearly killed me was starting at 7.30am in Farringdon – that is one early wake-up call when you live on the other side of London.

I’ve never been to an exercise class with on-hand medical aid before, but when I rocked up, there he was: Keith the ambulance man, standing round in his green uniform, ready to pump me back to life if necessary.

chilling-with-keith-gymbox-flatline

Great.

The class involves working your way through a grid of activities. Here they are, accompanied by my thoughts while doing each:

  • Throwing atlas stones: I can’t even lift this weight off the floor, let alone chuck it over my shoulder.
  • Kettle bell thrusts: Two is too many kettle bells. Can’t lift them above my head as required, so I’ll just dangle them around shoulder height and hope the instructor doesn’t notice.
  • Box jump burpees: I started off so speedy and now I can barely crawl over the box. Think I might be dying. Where’s Keith?
  • High intensity exercise biking: YAY I CAN DO CARDIO!
  • Climbing up and down the rope: I’m sorry what? I’m meant to do this with my bare hands? *sits of floor*
  • Picking up 40kg and sprinting up and down the room: Lies down on mat laughing.

You do each for 45 seconds, and there are four circuits in total, each punctuated by a stop at the ‘recovery zone’ where you can inhale oxygen through a mask if you wish (I didn’t, but this guy was loving it).

oxygen gymbox flatline

Before we started, we were set up with heart rate monitors, the results of which were beamed onto a screen so EVERYONE would know if you were slacking. From what I’d read of the class beforehand, we were also meant to be wearing 12kg weighted vests, but none of these were produced, which leads me to think this is just an optional extra for maniacs.

So how did I find it? Well, to be honest, I don’t entirely agree with the fitness industry trend of focusing on EXTREMELY HARDCORE exercise classes, seemingly at the expense of technique. A lot of the weights were so heavy that I had to contort myself into really weird positions to lift them, which is why I managed to strain a muscle about five minutes  into the class (I can still barely lift a cup of tea up now, which as you can imagine is deeply traumatising).

kettlebells gymbox flatline

Admittedly, I have the upper body strength of a flea, but I’m not alone in that, so if Flatline is going to appeal to a wide audience, there needs to be more of a focus on lifting weights properly, not just seeing how much weight participants can crane up from the floor.

Weirdly, my reaction in the face of ludicrously hard exercise was to laugh, which turned out to be very infuriating for the instructor, who spent a good 50% of the 45-minute session screaming in my face (I think we were friends really though).

flatline gymbox

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the class, and I’m sure if you kept at it, Flatline would help you achieve some real benefits in terms of strength and stamina. There was a great team spirit and plenty of variety if you’re the type of gym goer who gets fed up with the same old exercises.

Plus, nobody died, so that was a bonus.

Fitness level:

Well, I think anyone with at least a moderate fitness level could try it, but be prepared to ask for lighter weights and stand your ground if you know you definitely can’t do something (not just don’t want to!)

I burnt:

An impressive 400 calories in 45 minutes.

More info here.

 

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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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