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We try…F45 Training. Blood, sweat, and more sweat

We try…F45 Training. Blood, sweat, and more sweat

Image courtesy of F45 Training via Twitter

Image courtesy of F45 Training via Twitter

Being a lover of both fitness classes and bargains the introductory offer at F45 Training’s new Tottenham Court Road studio, offering a week’s worth of classes for £20, was far too good to pass up.

For anyone not familiar with this fitness phenomenon, F45 is an Aussie invention that has since grown exponentially (they plan to have 1,200 studios worldwide by the end of 2017). The concept is simple – each class is 45 minutes of high-intensity circuit (or ‘HIIT’) training. Each exercise within the circuit-style workout comes from the database of 3,000+ exercises devised by the F45 head office team; meaning visitors to F45 won’t get the same workout twice.

Not one to  turn down a challenge– or as mentioned above, a bargain – I decided to get the absolute most out of my weekly pass, namely completing one class each day, although as the studio doesn’t presently offer Sunday classes this was capped at six sessions (which was probably for the best from a DOMs perspective!)

Day One: Monday

The start of my challenge fell the day after an unseasonably sunny London Sunday, leaving me nursing a hangover as I headed to F45. That queasy feeling only grew when I saw today was a ‘Varsity’ class, described on the website as a workout that will “leave you grasping for any form of oxygen you can muster” – eep! Upon arrival, no one else seemed to be suffering from Mondayitis though so I forced myself to echo their enthusiasm and get on with it.

The studio consists of one large room decked out with assorted equipment and a big branded wall that was a familiar site from blogger Instagram posts. Today’s class was Tabata style with three rounds at each station, increasing the duration of ‘working time’ with each round, and continuing on for nine separate stations as we snaked around the room in a slightly chaotic, but surprisingly easy to follow way. Moves varied in intensity but the energy in the room is contagious and I found myself pushing wanting to improve with each round – that was until attempting one particular move saw me knock a sandbag to the face (at least it gave me justification to use ‘blood’ in the blog title!) All in all I left the session exhausted but exhilarated, and eager to refuel with some serious carb loading.

Day Two: Tuesday

Today’s early morning workout was a ‘Panthers’ session – a resistance focused class with a wide range of strength moves. We did three bursts of work at each station with moves ranging from deadlifts, kettlebell swings, bozu ball sit-ups, TRX squats and resistance band crab walks (a surprisingly brutal move!).  Screens at the front of the class constantly display how to do each exercise which, for someone who tends to forget exercises as soon as they’re shown to me, is truly a game changer.

We travelled around the room in pairs and my only recommendation would be to try and stand near someone of a significantly different build to you as the instructor splits the group into pairs, to lessen the likelihood that you’ll be battling them for the weights as you move stations!

Day Three: Wednesday

The third day of the challenge and my body seems to have noticed how hard it had been working, stairs are not my friend today. Regardless, I headed to an evening ‘Loyals’ class, defined as a ‘hybrid’ workout this was a mix of cardio and strength moves, and more than a little confusing! There were several puzzled faces as we began working our way around the room but by the end, the group was moving like a finely oiled machine.

Day Four: Thursday

An early morning ‘All Star’ class saw the class group tackle four pods of activity, completing three rounds of three exercises each time. There were kettlebell rows, weighted squats, chest flys and a few burpees thrown in for good measure.

I was pleasantly surprised that I pushed myself harder than I normally would and – despite my initial protests – really could lift the seemingly huge weights the trainer loaded up for me. By this point in the week, I’m plotting how to win the lottery so I can feasibly keep this up beyond my seven-day trial as it’s definitely addictive!

Day Five: Friday

TGI – owww. Friday’s ‘Athletica’ class proved to be the most brutal of the week, a cardio format class that left me pretty keen to crawl into bed rather than into the office but despite my typically cynical gym persona (much like on the tube, talking to strangers should not be encouraged at early morning classes) I found myself participating in some post-class high fives, but chose to draw the line at the seemingly obligatory ‘woo’-ing.

Day Six: Saturday

Last class of the week! The ‘Hollywood’ session is the longest class of the week at 60 minutes and combines both strength and cardio moves for a bumper finish to the week and energy throughout this session was particularly high thanks to a live DJ set up in the studio. Exercises included bursts of cardio on rowing machines and exercise bikes, strength tests by way of chin-ups and a wide assortment of dumb bell exercises, and punishing tests – namely pushing a ‘sled’ with 40kg loaded on top across the room, then using a tug of war style rope to pull it back to the other side.

What’s The Verdict?
The brains behind F45 really seem to have nailed it, the workouts are tough, the energy is high, and media reports that it has a ‘cult-like’ atmosphere definitely aren’t far off. I’ve finished my week keen to return but at £25 per class it will have to be an occasional treat, not my full time work out.

Top 10 Fitness & Sports Tech Companies to Watch at CES 2016

Another year, another CES, brimming with start-ups and household names alike, looking to become the next big tech trend. But who will come out victorious? In the second of a six-part series, we give our verdict on the most awe-inspiring hopefuls of the New Year in the Fitness & Sports category.

The world of technology when it comes to health and fitness gadgets has accelerated hugely in the last few years. As staying fit becomes an increasingly important component in many lives, with new ways of staying in shape and health fads springing up on a weekly basis, interest continues to develop. Consequently, the technological advancements are managing to complement this surge and companies are cashing in on people’s urges in what has become one of the most lucrative industries.

Here, we look at a handful of some of the most innovative and exciting companies and products which will be on display at CES 2016.

DFX

Image: DFX Sports & Fitness

 

DFX Sports & Fitness

  • DFX Sports & Fitness (US): The company behind the Powerball Gyro have certainly established themselves in this ‘sphere’. The ball aids athletes and sportsmen in rehabilitation and recovery and can help with repetitive stress injuries. Sports-specific gyro products are what the company knows best and the success of their initial Powerball has enabled them to expand accordingly – without doubt only going to grow further.

Dietsensor

  • Dietsensor (FR): This product from Airspek will be launching at CES and is one that should generate a considerable amount of interest. It is the first instant nutrition coach with sensors and has already been named a CES 2016 Best of Innovation Awards Honoree. With health and diet technology becoming an increasingly saturated arena, Dietsensor is bringing something truly innovative to the marketplace.

Beddit

  • Beddit (FI): Arguably the best sleep tracker around. In an age where we want to avoid guesswork and have everything measured for us, Beddit fits the bill perfectly. Using some of the smartest technology which remains unobtrusive, it allows you to see how well you slept and drill down into the specifics behind this. For someone who takes their sleep very seriously (as I do) – a must have.

 

Image: Mettis Trainer

Image: Mettis Trainer

 

Mettis trainer

  • Mettis trainer (US): An interesting product that appears to be paving the way for the next generation of wearable technology while providing instant feedback for athletes and sportsmen. In looks, it is not too dissimilar from insoles but zeroes in on running technique and helps to prevent injury and aid performance from amateurs through to Olympians.

Infinadeck

  • Infinadeck (US): This is, for me, the most aesthetically pleasing product on the list. It is the world’s first commercial omnidirectional treadmill adjusting to when users change direction to keep them safely in the centre. It can be used by a variety of sectors from gaming, health, tactical to industrial – a product that is sure to make waves at CES and beyond.

Shot Tracker

  • Shot Tracker (US): This does exactly what it says on the tin; keeps track of your shooting. It’s made up of three components; a wrist sensor, a net sensor and the ShotTracker App and the weather-proof net sensor easily attaches to any net and automatically tracks your shot makes and misses. The old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ could not ring truer with this product and ensures you receive instant feedback to make practice useful.

PIQ-TENNIS

Image: PIQ

 

PIQ

  • PIQ (FR): A multi-sport sensor which tracks performance which aids sporting performance is always likely to grab people’s attention. Most of us, when it comes to sport, struggle to accept mediocrity and want something to give us that edge – PIQ provides a solution. Golf, tennis and skiing are just three of the sports which can benefit from PIQ as it captures valuable data.

Skulpt

  • Skulpt (US): A product recognised in the previous two years by CES as one of the most innovative around, so certainly one not to be taken lightly. Skulpt allows users to instantly and accurately measure body fat percentage and the muscle quality of each muscle. Although popular and something that everyone can use, Skulpt doesn’t seem to have quite dominated the market as their product deserves – 2016 should promise much.

Turingsense

  • Turingsense (US): The company are bringing their product Pivot to the wearable sports technology market and can expect to turn heads at CES. It is multi-sensor full-body motion analysis and a first of its kind for the sport of tennis. Helping to monitor players’ whole bodies during the course of their swing and can help prevent injury and to doctor technique to develop performance accordingly.

Wondermento

  • Wondermento (US): Put simply, Wondermento make apps and help connect real life to the digital world. Their most notable product is Wonderwoof which is an on-collar bow tie for your dog which allows you to track their daily activity. It’s linked to the app, ensuring you receive updates on your dog’s health and social well-being wherever you may be. Tracking and monitoring devices for humans have become massive and we envisage that Wonderwoof will experience similar growth.

Enjoy this post? Read more of our series on CES 2016 companies to watch:

We try…Body Sculpt

We try Body Sculpt at the gym

Following a very over-indulgent Christmas and the horror of discovering that my new dress, brought especially for New Year, no longer fitted, I decided that it was time to join a gym. So, along with everyone else, I jumped on the ‘New Year, new you’ bandwagon and joined my local fitness centre.

This wouldn’t be the first time I have joined a gym; there have been many memberships over the years, which usually begin in January and end in March when, rather than face the shame of cancelling my gym membership, I cancel my direct debit instead.

I realised that the reason for this is that when it comes to fitness I am not very self-motivated. If I am left to my own devices on the gym floor you can count on the fact that after a very leisurely walk on the running machine and a slow cycle on the exercise bike I will probably slope off to the spa via the vending machine.

So this year I decided that it would be best to leave the gym floor alone and participate in classes instead, where I can count on a gym instructor to keep me moving and push me to my physical limits.

The first class on my list was Body Sculpt which, according to the timetable, will tone, shape and condition the whole body with the use of resistance training and weights – sounded good!

I arrived at the class fresh-faced at 10am in the morning to find the studio set up with an aerobic step, barbells and yoga mats. Unfortunately for me though, the early birds had already taken the places set out with the lighter weights which left me with the same weights as the uber-fit male gym instructor – gulp!

The class consisted of non-stop toning exercises that worked parts of my body that I didn’t know existed. Squats, planks, bench presses and lunges were all part of the routine with the added element of 10kg on your back.

The instructor was brilliant at keeping the group motivated and engaged and would pull you through each exercise by shouting out how amazing each part of your body was going to look afterwards.

By the end of the class, my body ached, which according to the instructor is the sign of a good work out, and I felt energised for the rest of the day. I can definitely say that I will be incorporating this class into my weekly gym schedule from now on.

Our verdict: Body Sculpt is an enjoyable, fun, yet challenging work out that generates great results over a short period of time. A great class to get you in shape for your summer holiday!

Our Score: 8/10

We try…Swedish Fit

Swedish Fit

Every now and then I tap in to google ‘new fitness trends London’ to see what pops up, and so it was with that last week that I first heard about Swedish Fit.

My fiancé is Swedish and so I am on the record as liking Swedish things. I’m a fan of Kopparberg and Rekorderling as well as Absolut and Snaps. Ikea makes great furniture and no one can argue with the fact that Abba wrote some top-notch pop tunes.

And so it was that I decided to sign up for a class. Swedish Fit currently host ten classes in London at three locations, in Old Street, Marylebone and Soho. On the Swedish Fit website, it says the class has been designed to ‘ensure you spend the maximum amount of energy, whilst having fun and getting the most out of an exercise session.’ That sounded good to me, so off I went to the Soho session on a wet and windy Tuesday night, dragging a colleague along with me.

The session was to be held at a school in Archer Street. Now, the Sport and Leisure team at PHA are no strangers to Archer Street, but we aren’t normally there to exercise. 100% of our previous visits to this Soho address have been to frequent the infamous bar of the same name. So, it was a strange feeling to walk past the bar and into a red door on the other side of the road.

Upon arrival we were introduced to our instructor, Sophie, who was (of course) a very pretty little thing who was half English and half Swedish. She spoke both languages, as well as French, perfectly fluently which by all accounts make her the perfect Swedish Fit instructor. As well as being hugely popular in its homeland, Swedish Fit is apparently a big deal in France.

We learnt whilst chatting to Sophie that Swedish Fit goes by the name of ‘Friskis och Svettis’ in Sweden, which translates as ‘Healthy and Sweaty’. They say it like it is, those Swedes.

And so on to the actual class… I tweeted ahead of the session that I’d seen a video online which made it look like a cross between an aerobics class and a line dance, and actually, that wasn’t so far from the truth. The instructor stands in the middle of the room and runs through a series of moves which everyone is supposed to follow. I was giggling about two minutes in when we started doing a move which resembled the grapevine. I managed to gain my composure as the class continued but there were definite moments when I felt like a fool. And looking around at my fellow exercisers, I learnt that I probably looked like one too.

One particular drawback of the Swedish Fit class was Sophie’s taste in music. Apparently, each instructor picks their own tunes to work out to and freestyles the moves to fit with these tunes. Sophie had on the duke box such 90s classics as ‘Mysterious Girl’ by Peter Andre and ‘No Limits’ by 2 Unlimited. One of my favourite moments of the session came when we were walking around the room swinging our arms every time Andre got to the ‘wo-oh-ah-oh-oh-ah-oh’ bit of his number one hit tune…

Apart from that, the best bits of the class for me were the strength and resistance exercises. The push-ups, sit-ups and variations of those types of moves did get my abs hurting and my arms shaking… and for me, that’s always a good sign. Having said that, as someone who runs regularly, I didn’t find grapevining around the room particularly challenging on the cardio system. However, I imagine for people without too much aerobic fitness this could be a good, and novel, way to start.

So, in summary… on the plus side, the Swedish Fit class was incredibly good value. The first one is actually free, but thereafter they are £5 each on a pay as you go basis. You can’t really go wrong at that price and the Archer Street class is incredibly convenient for any Soho based office workers.

There is also no denying that the Swedish Fit class was good fun, and it did get the heart rate up, so it is a good way to let off some steam and get some exercise in after a stressful day (the class ends with a minute of lying down in a darkened room to relax which was particularly enjoyable).

Our verdict: Will I become a regular? I doubt it… but would I go again? It’s a definite maybe…
Our score: 5/10

We try……..Urban Fit and Fearless

what-would-you-doA couple of weeks ago I took myself off for a two-hour women’s self-defense workshop at Urban Fit & Fearless in East Dulwich, to join nine other women and learn how to be more prepared if, heaven forbid, we should find ourselves in a compromising position.

Having never been to a self-defence class before, I only had a very basic idea of what to expect from the workshop and was actually quite tentative about the whole thing. This wasn’t helped by my boyfriend, who struggled to resist shouting “UNAGI” at me every time I appeared in a doorway in reminiscence of Ross Geller; I promised him that if he continued to do so after my class he’d end up regretting it!

I arrived at Push Studios at 2pm, a little bit nervous but very excited. To start off the session we were all given very clear information about what the workshop was about by our instructor (and founder of Urban Fit & Fearless) Patrice Bonnafoux. The workshop had been designed to teach us how to get up from the ground if we were pinned down – a woman’s worst nightmare – so I was ready to get stuck in.

As with most physical activities, the session started off with some warm-ups….and then it was quickly into the real thing. Patrice showed us various moves, each one at a time. Each movement was relevant to its own potential situation. After he had demonstrated each move on a willing participant, we were told to pair up and put what we had just learned into practice.

Of course, I went to the class on my tod so didn’t have anyone I knew to pair up with. But luckily for me, there was a lovely girl about my age who was more than willing to let me attack her and within seconds all our inhibitions, concerns about personal space and quintessential ‘Britishness’ were lost, as we fell about on top of each other for the following two hours.

Although I started out somewhat sceptical about how I could get a potentially strong and large man off of me, Patrice explained and demonstrated very clearly and adeptly that these moves were more about leverage than strength… I always knew physics would come in useful at some point!

Having mastered a variety of kicks, rolls, hooks, face smashes and moves that would win us space to manoeuvre, we were ready for the final test. In the last 10 minutes of the workshop, it was time for us to put our training into practice. Each of us were going to spend five minutes being relentlessly attacked and pinned down by our partners and it was our job, as the ‘victim’, to get back on our feet and run. Of course, before this, Patrice ordered us to spend one minute lying on our backs punching and being punched by boxing pads to tire us out. This worked a charm.  As I started to be attacked I managed to get up ok the first time, but after a few stints, you realise how exhausting it is and, more importantly, how exhausted you would be in real life if this were to actually happen.

When Patrice came to attack me it really tested what I had learned and what I was able to remember when under pressure. I was able to fight him off by implementing the leverage concepts and by ramming my palm (not at full force, mind) into his face. It was only when he told me to stand up and run that I ended up tumbling like a Jenga tower to the floor, only to be attacked again.

It was at that moment I suddenly felt remorse for having heckled a Hollywood movie when the woman conveniently falls over when trying to get away. I found myself sympathising with said thespian as my arms had turned to jelly and my adrenaline had transformed me into a bit of a sweaty mess.

I came away from the session feeling much more confident and prepared. Patrice explained that we wouldn’t ever remember the moves exactly if this ever happened to us, but after the workshop, we would have the basic knowledge of how to get free, whether it is by merging three moves together or using one and then improvising, at least something would come back to us.

That night, much to my dismay, my boyfriend chose not to shout UNAGI at me as I walked through the door.

 

Our Verdict: A fantastic introduction to self defence, comprehensive teaching and great fun… even if it does leave every muscle in your body aching for a couple of days afterwards.

Our Score: 8/10

https://www.urbanfitandfearless.com/

 

Words by Freya Leete

Running, rolling, jumping and vaulting….all in a day’s work

Parkour

The word ‘Parkour’ will, to most of us, conjure up images of stuntmen jumping from roofs, running up walls and flying spectacularly through the air. Having been featured in films including Casino Royale, Skyfall and District 13, it’s understandable that Parkour (or ‘free-running’) is a movement discipline recognised largely for the role it has played on the big screen.

But what was once a movement technique used to impress cinema-goers and action film fanatics, has gradually been impressively transformed into a technique practiced by people all over the world.

Parkour is now a fitness phenomenon and one which is firmly making its mark on the UK.

The objective? To use and explore the environment and to develop the fundamental attributes required for movement – from balance and dynamism, to strength, endurance and creative vision.

Today people of all ages and abilities are learning Parkour and are utilising the technique to build strength and increase fitness levels.

Parkour is all about functional fitness. It does not require expensive equipment, training gear or even a gym membership – all you need is your body, the determination to succeed and a willingness to explore the environment around you.

Take a look at some of the professionals in action below…… and if you like the sound of Parkour, why not try out a class near to you www.parkourgenerations.com

 

Dan Edwardes

Dan Edwardes, Parkour Generations

 

ShirleyPrecisions

Shirley Darlington, Parkour Generations

 

 

FizzBalances

Fizz Hood, Parkour Generations

 

 

Words by Sarah Taylor