wake-up-london-john-lewis-workout-review

What is it?

Combining a number of Time Out-worthy phrases – ‘rooftop’, ‘pop-up’ and ‘morning workout’ – Wake Up London is a Tabata class happening on top of John Lewis Oxford Street throughout the summer and into September.

It’s run by fitness company HEX, aka personal trainers Phil Wilkins and Chris Timmins, who normally operate round my neck of the woods in Clapham, but are taking up early morning residency on top of a shop because, well, why not?

My experience:

Firstly, I have to say it’s pretty bloody exciting walking around John Lewis when it’s still closed – so many neatly lined up things! No other people! (Not that we were allowed to buy anything at 7.20am, obviously).

There were around 10 of us in the class, and we bundled into the lift up to the sixth floor, where John Lewis is currently hosting a rooftop bar/restaurant thing for the summer called The Gardening Society.

john-lewis-the-gardening-society

Luckily, the astroturfed set-up for the rooftop bar is also perfect for an early morning workout; I had been half expecting a blank concrete wasteland when we got up to the top, but instead there were plants, cute little benches and wooden buildings dotted around.

We started off with a warm up which involved jogging, jumping and crawling our way round the astroturf. Then, we were split into two groups, one of which started with boxing, the second with a series of exercises such as push-ups, weighted squats and V-sits.

hex-wake-up-london-john-lewis-exercises

My boxing partner was fairly unthreatening looking, so I was shocked when I took the pads and had to catch some pretty ferocious punches. More enjoyable for me was the exercise set; there’s something about doing Russian twists in the fresh air that makes them so much more enjoyable.

In fact, the main perk of the class was definitely the chance to enjoy the great outdoors while getting a morning workout out of the way, although I’m not sure it would be so lovely in the rain (apparently they run the 45-minute classes every Tuesday or Thursday, come rain or shine).

john-lewis-workout-review

 

Fitness level:

Definitely any – and it’s a welcoming class to go to alone.

I burnt:

210

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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.

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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!)

 

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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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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