barrecore signature express lunchtime

What is it?

Perfect for busy people (i.e. errryone in London), Signature Express is a new class from the lovely folks at Barrecore which is designed to give you a fast and effective 45 minute workout in your lunch hour. It’s being introduced into the Mayfair and Chelsea studios in January.

My experience: 

Exercising in your lunch hour can be tricky, especially if you’re an absolute sweat monster like me (see below, post run).

sweaty-selfie

Firstly, there’s the issue of slotting a workout into your allotted hour. Last week, I tried popping to the gym at lunchtime, and only managed 20 minutes on the treadmill before I had to head back to the changing rooms to de-sweat myself before work. 

After a gym session, you’re generally going to need a shower, which for me means an extra 25 minutes washing/drying my hair, applying makeup, reapplying makeup after it sweats off my face, etc.

So what I need is an intense workout that doesn’t involve a massive clean-up operation after. Enter, Barrecore Signature Express.

I’d previously tried BarreSculpt at the same Mayfair studio, and loved it, so I had high hopes when I rocked up for the new lunchtime class, led by the lovely Barrecore founder Niki Rein.

She explained that each of the new lunchtime classes will concentrate on a different part of the body (e.g. legs, abs). We would be doing a class focused on our ‘seat’, as she very politely described it (I guess they could hardly call it the arse class).

Well, let me tell you, my bum left that class feeling like it had been put through an army bootcamp, and then some.

Using the barre, our body weight and a ball Niki led us through a series of intense exercises, each of which you could feel working seriously deep into the muscles. 

barrecore BALL

If you think Barrecore is a wishy-washy pointy toes kind of affair, think again; your muscles will be screaming at points. 

However, if you want a short, sharp, toning workout this is really excellent. Plus, because it’s all about intense moves such as squats and pulses, you don’t get particularly sweaty – PERFECT for lunch hour fitness.

I guess the only downside is that, unless you work right next door, it’ll probably take you more than an hour in total to get to the class, do it and then get back to your desk. But seriously, this workout is worth grabbing an extra 15 minutes for…

Fitness level:

Anyone can try this class – but be prepared to find it tough!

I burnt:

150 calories

More info here.

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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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.