The Addictive Pain of Spinning

When I was about 22 years old, I don’t think anyone would have described me as fit. I was a member of my local LA Fitness, but that usually involved maybe 30 minutes on a cross trainer once a week and the occasional Body Pump class to the strains of Car Wash (the Christina Aguilera version. This was 2004 after all).

But then one day, my gym buddy suggested we try a spin class. I was young and optimistic back then, so I said “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?” It looked like quite good fun with the disco style lighting and easy on the eye instructor, plus it was just cycling right? At this point in my life I was getting the park and ride bus to work and probably hadn’t been on a bike for a good 6 years but you know what they say about learning to ride a bike…

Oh how wrong I was.

About 3 minutes into the class I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was like some kind of hyperactive giant toddler with rage issues who liked to go up to individuals in the class and scream at them in a faux American accent to “PUSH! PUSH!” like the worst birthing partner ever. The music was insanely loud but maybe it was trying to drown out the sound of my sobs. At about the 10 minute mark I was desperately trying to find a way to sneak out of the class unnoticed, but I knew that my legs were not going to support any attempts to extract myself from the devil machinery. I was stuck with it. And I hated every last miserable second of it. When I finally stumbled from the bike, sore in parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed, I vowed to NEVER spin again.

This vow held firm for 13 years (yes I’m 35 – you may gasp if you’re so inclined) until I joined Elyte Fitness to find new ways to stay active during my very stubborn bout of tendonitis. My husband basically made me promise that I would do some form of cardio, as I think he was genuinely concerned that I might eat his soul if I didn’t do something to replace running. So I reluctantly turned up for one of Elyte’s incredibly popular spin classes, and again I hated every last miserable second of it.

I’m hooked.

Now let me explain. This isn’t a self-flagellation kind of deal. It’s just that an insanely tough spin session has the ability to give me the same high I get from a good run. Yes it hurts. Yes you’ll be sweatier than any human has any right to be. Yes you would throw your water bottle at the instructor whenever they tell you to add a gear on if only you had enough strength to lift the bloody thing. It hurts. A lot. But man alive has it kept me fit.

When I started running again I was genuinely concerned that my 5k times would have taken a huge battering. But somehow I’ve managed to come back just over the 21 minute mark, only ever so slightly slower than I’d been before. I’m gobsmacked.

Plus spin at Elyte is nothing like my experience from the early noughties. All of the instructors at Elyte (of which there are many, which means you get a lot of variety in teaching styles which keeps things interesting) are so very good at what they do. There’s no insane shouting that makes you feel like a fitness failure. Instead there’s encouragement to push yourself as you follow the Spivi interactive software they use in the studio. This adds a competitive edge as you cycle through simulations of snowy or sunny landscapes and try to edge out your classmates. It’s a welcome distraction from the pain in your legs. Plus if you’re really lucky, this will all be done to the soothing sounds of a Disney soundtrack…

Now I just have to deal with the fact that every time I go to a class my husband says “but I thought you hated spin?”

I do. It’s just that I love to hate it.

 

 

Getting Ready to Rumble with Sweaty Betty

Any regular readers of this blog will know I’m a huge Sweaty Betty fan. It’s not unusual for me to basically be a walking billboard for the brand and I dread to think what percentage of my salary I’ve spent on their gear in the last 12 months.

So when Grazia magazine ran a competition to win a place at the launch of their latest #GetFit4Free campaign “Rumble” in London, of course I jumped at it. The spec for the class promised that “the 45-minute high-intensity calorie-burning workout combines shadow-boxing techniques, adrenaline-pumping cardio and core-sculpting conditioning”, which sounded like a pretty winning combination to me! I mean, just check out Sweaty Betty’s official video:

When I received the email saying I had won a place I was utterly giddy. That is until I realised that for a second weekend running there was a bus replacement service for the trains between Ely and Cambridge and engineering work happening on the London Liverpool Street line, which meant my relatively straightforward hop on the train had become a bus-train-tube scenario. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I could face the hassle of the journey and decided it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

The journey was not without its stresses. An accident in Ely (where thankfully it seems everyone was ok) meant that we got stuck in the city and had to take a long detour to make our way to Cambridge. As the minutes ticked away it was looking less and less likely that I’d make my connecting train. The bus arrived with 90 seconds until the train was due to leave so I sprinted to the platform (NOT easy after an 8.2 mile half marathon training run that morning), and made it with about 5 seconds to go until they closed the doors. When I finally made it to London Liverpool St I used Google Maps on my phone to find my way to 1Rebel, triumphantly texting my other half to let him know I’d made it. Imagine my frustration when it turned out that there were TWO 1Rebel gyms about half a mile from each other, and of course I had gone to the wrong one. I then managed to get fantastically lost trying to find the other gym, meeting a sea of blank faces whenever I asked for directions and stressing out that I was going to fail to make the class at the last minute after a shocker of a journey. Finally a security guard in an office pointed me in the right direction and I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, out of breath and red-faced (a sign of things to come).

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The wrong 1Rebel

The words I would use to describe my first impression of 1Rebel are “urban hipster”. It was all exposed pipework and bricks, with glossy concrete floors and copper accents everywhere. However, it wasn’t remotely pretentious – just effortlessly cool and functional. I wish I could have had more time to look around, but I had to quickly get changed, get help with the lockers(!) and haul arse into their amazing boxing studio, filled with slimline boxing bags, nightclub lighting and an incredible sound system. And standing in the middle of it all, was our instructor for the next 45 minutes, Mila.

After jogging around the studio to warm up, Mila explained the structure of the class – we’d do a boxing section followed by a cardio section, repeated 3 times. We were taught a range of boxing combinations, including jabs, hooks and kicks, and other than the odd opportunity where I mis-timed my kicks and battered my shin, it was brilliant! The cardio sections involved star jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, press ups (why oh why did I decide to do an arms session the day before?!) and a killer abs section. My absolute favourite move was when we did side planks and kicked the bag with the top leg, although that may have been because I was just so grateful that I didn’t have to use my arms in that moment. Mila (the Machine) was a seriously hard task master, ploughing through the class with no breaks although I had to pause occasionally to use my sweat towel and have sips of water, neither of which were easy to do when wearing boxing gloves!

The 45 minutes absolutely flew by, and I had worked so incredibly hard. The endorphin rush was huge and at the end Mila talked about the mental health benefits of the class, discussing how good boxing is for relieving stress. I’m always so happy when people talk about that side of exercise, as all too often the focus is just on the physical benefits.

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Goody bag photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty’s Twitter account

After the class we were given an awesome goody bag, and I got to use 1Rebel’s great showers, all of which had fantastic quality shampoo, shower gels, cleansers and conditioners. They even had deodorants, hair straighteners and feminine hygiene products in the changing rooms, which made me think that 1Rebel have really thought about the whole customer experience when creating their gyms. They even had a flipping Smeg fridge for cold towels! Seriously, I need that in my life. How utterly BRILLIANT! On top of all of that their staff were really lovely and friendly too. If you’re lucky enough to live near a 1Rebel gym and are looking for a new place to work out they should be seriously considered.

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The right 1Rebel

I had such a brilliant time and if you get the opportunity to try this new class at your local Sweaty Betty boutique you should definitely sign up. The classes will be running every Tuesday from the 26th January to the 16th February. And best of all? They’re free of course!

Sweaty Betty – the epitome of fitness awesomeness. A huge thank you to them, Grazia and 1Rebel for making my 2 1/2 hour journey each way totally worth it.

Body by Simone at Sweaty Betty Cambridge – My Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a HUGE fan of any movement that allows people to experience exercise for free, whether it’s the awesome parkrun and Parktennis events taking over green space all over the country (and beyond) or whether it’s Sweaty Betty, continuing to expand their #GetFit4Free campaign with new and innovative workouts.

I’ve been to a few of Sweaty Betty’s free classes over the last year or so. Most recently I’ve enjoyed Flow and Glow with Rachael and Fly, Flex, Flow with Jo, and I loved both, so when I saw that they were bringing in “Body by Simone” for a four week period I knew I’d have to skip a Tuesday Ely Runners session (sorry guys!) to give the class a go.

Simone in this context is Simone De La Rue, an LA based fitness guru with abs of actual steel if her photos are anything to go by. According to the SB website, the “Body by Simone” workout will make your heart rate soar, tone and strengthen your body and leave you feeling fabulously happy. Ultimately, it’s a dance cardio workout tailored to work the bum, legs, arms and abs with the aim to give you a body like a dancer.

Now I know it’s going to take more than a 50 minute workout to give me a dancer’s physique. I’d have to lay off the visits to Cherry Hill Chocolates in Ely for a start and we all know that’s not going to happen. But I can say that after one class, if you were to do this regularly enough, your body would reap the rewards.

The class itself took place at the Hidden Rooms in Cambridge, somewhere I’ve not been before and which were a bit too well hidden for me as I walked past the door a few times before someone gently pointed me in the right direction with a bemused smile on their face. Inside there are low ceilings (which may have caused some of the taller attendees some problems but which obviously didn’t impact on me in the slightest) and a very cool, only vaguely hipster-ish vibe to the whole place. Previous classes I’ve been too have been held outside or in the Sweaty Betty store, but because there were some large, dynamic movements in this class such as lateral lunges and star jumps, the store wouldn’t have worked, and as music is a key element to the class we needed somewhere inside to make sure we didn’t cause a public nuisance. So being just around the corner from the shop, The Hidden Rooms were ideal.

Around 15 of us had gathered for the class, and after a quick intro by our instructor Katie (who I recognised from the Cambridge store and from the many times I’ve spotted her power walking to the train station) we were led into a very dynamic warm up, which set the pace for the whole class. And I have to give out a shout out to the AMAZING music she was using. When did you last hear Ghetto Supastar by Pras for crying out loud?! Just. Awesome.

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The only kit required – a mat and some hand weights

Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of aerobics as I find it can be too “single-paced” for me. I like variety between high impact cardio, body weight movements and weights work, which meant that this class was a great fit for me. After a cardio song that involved pretending we had a ball in our hands (stick with me here, it makes perfect sense in the moment) we then went into weights work for the arms. Now I would normally scoff at 1.5kg weights (I do rows with 14kg dumbells at the moment), but after an entire song’s worth of tricep dips, flies, curls and more, it felt like I wouldn’t have been able to hold much more without sacrificing the quality of the movement. After another cardio track that involved a lot of squats and lunges, followed by another that involved lots of jumping, star jumps and deep squats to hit your palm on the floor (my personal favourite), we then did an abs section, which I think is the one I’m most likely to repeat regularly at home. I already have an ab workout that I do most evening (always to Naughty Boy’s La La La which my husband could not be more sick of) but this plank-focussed workout was a great alternative, incorporating mountain climbers and holding the plank position on our palms and then on our elbows. We then ended the class by combining three of the different cardio routines into one, so having a little bit of natural rhythm and the ability to follow dance-based moves will help, but isn’t essential.

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Myself and Katie, two very Sweaty Betties after the workout

All through the class our instructor Katie – who clearly had a dancer’s background as evidenced by her ridiculously elegant arm movements – was fun and full of energy, which is clearly standard protocol for SB staff and ambassadors. It’s not easy to teach to a class of mostly strangers (I suspect she’s not able to build up quite the same rapport in these situations as she can with people who attend the classes she teaches regularly outside of the #GetFit4Free movement) but she was relaxed which helped to put the class at ease. Plus she asked at the start if anyone had any injuries, which is always a massive plus sign for me.

I left the class feeling like I’d had a great workout, and most importantly that I had some elements that I could take home with me and do again in my own time. If you’re keen to try it yourself you can either access the workout online, or the last class with the Cambridge store will be happening next Tuesday and you should be able to book a spot here from Monday morning. I mean why wouldn’t you? It is free after all.

Unless of course you count the shorts that I bought in the sale. Those wily SB minxes. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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Wearing my new shorts that have all the colours