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

If there’s one person who knows a thing or two about cycling, it’s Victoria Pendleton. The British sportswoman, best known for picking up gold and silver at London 2012, is one of the UK’s most successful female Olympians, and has recently turned her hand to becoming a jockey (to which I say RESPECT – most people would probably just put their feet up!)

Anyway, Victoria has recently teamed up with Barclays to promote its new Budget Bootcamps, which is how I found myself in the rather serial situation of arriving at the bank’s Piccadilly branch to do a spin class with the lady herself.

Naturally, I got a photo with her before the class so you wouldn’t see how red and sweaty I got, although all the randoms peering through the glass frontage of Barclays during our class did get to witness my descent into sweaty mess!

Selfie with Victoria Pendleton Barclays Bootcamp

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that apart from looking fabulous in photos (apparently she gets those amazing arms through horse riding), Victoria also had some excellent wisdom to share on the best practice biking. 

In fact, despite being a rather seasoned spinner myself, there were a few mistakes I was making that I wasn’t even aware of until the session, so I thought I’d share in case you’re doing the same! 

  1. Pushing your feet too far forwards 

You know those cage style pedals you have in spinning? Well, I always just shove my feet straight to the front of them and strap my feet in as tightly as possible. 

However, Victoria pointed out that these pedals are made for ‘man sized’ feet and that you shouldn’t necessarily have your toe right up against the end if you have smaller ones. 

Instead, focus on positioning the ball of your foot on the centre of the pedal, which could mean a few centimetres of space between the front of your foot and the cage thingy. 

If this sounds confusing, then just look at the photo of Victoria’s foot below and hopefully it will make more sense!

how to position your feet in pedals during spinning

2. Bouncing your shoulders during the sprint

Part of our session involved everyone‘s favourite cycling move, the stand up sprint.

Victoria pointed out that most of us were getting our technique wrong here, bouncing our upper bodies around with gusto as we tried to force the peddles down on each side. 

Instead, you need to try and keep your shoulders absolutely steady and level, and your back straight, as you drive through the legs. Basically top half of body = still, bottom half = going like the clappers.

‘This will work your glutes more’ said Victoria, and I can confirm my bum definitely noticed the difference! 

3. Cycling at one speed for ages 

While instructor-led spinning classes tend to see you do all sorts of things on the bike (I even did a bike rave once), alone in the gym many of us tend to just sit on the bike and pedal through a set distance or time at a steady speed.

I know I’m certainly guilty of plodding along on the static bike for 10 minutes, before sloping off thinking ‘my work here is done’.

However, Victoria emphasized that improving your cycling – and therefore your body – is ‘all about intervals’.

In fact, she said intervals were the number one component of her Olympic training, involving short bursts of high power, high speed cycling interspersed with more gentle sections (I have a strong feeling Victoria’s version of gentle is very different to mine!)

4. Having the wrong attitude to the gears

Ok, say when your spin instructor says ‘Guys, I want you to turn your gears up to the maximum you can manage for this next 60 second sprint’ do you think a) ‘Hmm, it’s quite a long time, I’ll put my gears up but to a level I know I can manage’ or b) ‘YES I’m going to put my gears up so high I don’t even know if I can make it, but I’m going to try’.

If it’s b) then God’s speed, you are a hero and don’t need to read any further.

If, like most of us norms, it’s a), then you need an injection of Victoria Pendleton thinking in your life.

I have honestly never seen anyone so enthusiastic about the prospect of adding another gear. Or, in fact, about the prospect of pushing yourself in general. She proudly told us that her power on the bike used to go up to 1500 watts in training (to put that in perspective, most people can maintain around 200 watts in a spin class) and she re-emphasized the importance of pushing your body in order to strengthen and tone it.

Her enthusiasm definitely rubbed off and I found myself cranking the gears up to a level I wasn’t even sure I could manage – but you know what, I did. And it’s that kind of drive that’s going to give you the GAINS *gun fingers*

Budget Bootcamp classes are open to everyone, and a session will be taking place in Central London, on Sunday 29th January. Enter a competition to win a space through Barclays Twitter (twitter.com/BarclaysUK) and Facebook pages (facebook.com/BarclaysUK).

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.

It’s impossible for me to hide the fact that I’m a super competitive person. When I was younger, I would be quietly furious at losing a game of Ludo, and as an adult I spend my mornings jogging round Clapham Common trying to overtake all the blokes in front of me.

You can imagine, then, that a spinning class involving trying to beat everyone else in the room is right up my street.

Virgin Active’s new group cycle class, The Pack, involves three teams (yellow, pink and blue) going up against each other in a series of challenges covering speed, power and steady RPM.

When I went along to try the class at the Mayfair club, I obviously decided which team to be in based purely on which T-shirt colour I thought would suit me best, which of course was a massive error.

What I should’ve done as I entered the room was looked around and clocked which team looked the most goddamn fierce, but still, that is a lesson learnt (victory over vanity, every time).

Virgin Active the pack review

Anyway, the class itself starts off like your standard spin class, with thumping tuuuunes and lots of flashy lights, except in this case you have a big screen at the front of the class telling you what speed to cycle at, plus how long you have left on each track.

Interspersed with these more familiar spinning sessions you have a series of group challenges, which include ‘Sumo’ (where your whole team cranks up the resistance until you can barely push your feet round) and ‘Speed Freaks’ (by far the best – this involves each team racing round the track by cycling as fast as possible).

The entire class is 45 minutes long, with each sweaty second counted down on a clock in the corner of the screen. The name of the song playing is also displayed, which is useful if you want to go and Spotify the crap out of it afterwards.

Virgin Active the pack review

Getting my sweat on

Everyone is prompted to whoop along with their teammates/scream at them encouragingly if they’re not putting in enough effort, and I have to say, the competitive element is very motivating. After all, there’s nothing like a combative spirit to make you push a little harder when you might otherwise turn your resistance right down and chill at the back of the class.

By the end of the session I was sweating my face off and, according to my Fitbit, had burnt off around 280 calories (the monitor on the bike said more, but however much it was, it totally justified my post-workout Ben & Jerry’s).

I was definitely impressed with The Pack, although as I said before, if your an ultra-competitive weirdo like me, you might want to pick your team wisely, because it can be frustrating when you’re trying REALLY hard and still losing. Or maybe I just need to grow up a bit…

Virgin Active the pack review

You can find out more about The Pack here.