Freelance travel writer and Policy Adviser for the UK government living in Brixton. View my blog www.my-big-fat-carbon-footprint.blogspot.com for ethical and budget travel inspiration
Published March 20th 2013
Inspiring you to stay fit in London Town
March resolutions just don't sound as sexy as January resolutions, and yet it has been a good two months since I threw down the gauntlet and invited a healthy lifestyle to cohabit with my own. Unless you have the willpower of Wolverine, the chances are that a glass or two of luxurious red might have crept back into your evening routine, and the intention to give up all fat for 2013 has been replaced by the sensible purchase of an excellent cheese knife.
And then there was exercise, my fellow resolutioners! And how we peddled our fitness bikes all through January! And tolerated the discordant in-house gym tracks in February! And power walked our way to a lower dress size! But now in March gym inertia is upon us. So what we may ask, is left?
Gym classes are the answer-this week I have been replacing my normal cardio routine with a gym class a day. You know the ones: boxercise, step, revolution. Although I now can't walk and my body feels as though it has been sat on by a plump elephant. So, to save yourself the bother, I have helpfully attended a weeks worth of activity classes to inform gym weary fitness wannabees about what the alternative is to the stepper. See this is as your personal guide on how to ditch the treadmill without compromising the chance to be lean in 2013.
This is not a class for those of us lacking in co-ordination. I fell off my step block three times, much to the hilarity of the instructor. A rigorous hour long work-out, designed to combine the 'fun' element of dance and the toning qualities of a half marathon. The main purpose of step aerobics is to burn fat, and the step block itself can be adjusted depending on your height and level of fitness. As well as the cardio element, due to the height of the step block, your body also gets a complete tone and shape work-out too.
Positives: It felt good, I sported a thin sheen of perspiration and according to the brochure, had burnt over 500 calories.
Negatives: Not for people who have two left feet-I sometimes spent too long working out the routine than focusing on the fitness aspect.
Tuesday Hatha Yoga
Tuesday had been stressful at work and I was looking forward to feeling stretched out and relaxed at Hatha Yoga, an hour and half class which focused on 'breathing, relaxation and toning'. This is not a calorie burner class-according to Health is All About Yoga, an hour of hatha yoga burns around 200 calories an hour, less than a slow, hour long walk. Evidently, my tummy spare tyre wasn't going to be dropping away, but by replaying simple movements and drawing in long, slow breaths, the class promotes an aura of positive energy. I zoned out so much that I momentarily forgot about my body issues and for an hour and half, learnt to love myself.
Positives: Helps to instil zen-like calm and relaxation. Negatives: Not a big calorie burner. The allusions to 'higher planes' and chanting might get on peoples nerves.
After the lethargy inducing yoga class the evening before, I was ready to 'attack' my body with a variety of lunges and aerobic exercise. The class was lead by an enormously muscled, tattooed man, who seemed happy enough to get everyone whooping and clapping as we 'step[ed] one two three and jump[ed] one two three'. I felt mortified at the start: we seemed to be a hodge-potch of old and young, fat and thin all engaged in some giant line-dance spectacle. However, as the music got going and the squats began to burn, I longed for the innocent earlier minutes of the class where I could just step and clap in time to the music. I left the room coated in sweat, panting, and having had some serious fun. According to my calorie counter, I burned 700 calories in an hour. I skipped home and ate some pasta guilt-free.
Positives: Big calorie burner, good fun and a variety of exercises. Boredom isn't an issue. Negatives: This class is not for an exercise newbie. The whooping and clapping were a bit tedious.
Thursday-Legs, Bums and Tums-18:30-19:15
As I grimaced my way into the class, holding my legs straight to achieve minimum ache-age, the instructor who had taken our Body Attack class the day before nodded in surprise at my commitment to exercise class sampling. It had been a struggle to walk to my gym from work, let alone undertake 45 minutes of high-intensity body shaping. Much to my chagrin, the class started out with some marching and whooping. Thankfully, we were then instructed to get a mat and complete squats, power lunges and other repetitive actions that burned fire into my calves. After a while the pain subsided and I began to enjoy the sit-ups, bum squeezes and press ups. I didn't break a sweat, but my body hurt more than it had done all week as new muscle groups were targeted. I noticed that the clientele in this class all had washboard-flat stomachs and many added even more sit-ups after the instructor had completed the exercise. There was serious dedication to fat-removal here.
Positives: It targeted my 'problem areas' (legs, bums and tums) and the exercises weren't repetitive enough to get boring. Negatives: It was no nonsense toning and shaping-not as much fun as the other classes. The pain was crippling the next day.
Already dismayed that I would have to give up seeing my friends to attend this class, I went to the class in a bad mood. I usually like Pilates: the balance between relaxation and serious body toning makes for a good workout. The class consisted of the older generation, and a few newcomers, who like me, probably wouldn't bother to come back. There was a lot of standing and staring into the middle distance (presumably, balancing with power) and the exercises were slow and felt fruitless. The breathing was pleasant, and some of the movements we did lying on our tummies made a slight impact on our backsides. Other than that, it was probably just what I needed after two nights of whooping. I ached for some more exercise however, and after the class I went down to the gym and ran on the treadmill for a bit.
Positives: Great if you have joint or hip problems Negatives: This wasn't a fitness class. If there was a class that caused you to gain calories rather than burn them, this would be it.
I came out of revolutions, also known as spin, loving this class. I had a bit of a problem with the seat on my bike which kept falling off whenever we stood up to launch ourselves into some high powered cycling, so I ended up doing pretty much the entire routine crouched on my steed. We sat on a bike for an hour, sweated out buckets of sweat, had some jazzy music to work-out to and it was manageable. According to the spinning.com website, a 40 minute class is akin to a 15-20 mile road cycle. Cycling is fun, straightforward, and, best of all there was no self-congratulating or whooping. It was a class for people who wanted to get fit in as short a time as possible so they could then go and get on with their weekend.
Positives: Felt like a good workout, and surprisingly varied on the bike. It was possible to set your own pace.