The-Pack-spinning-class

From the latest supercharged cycle class to calming yoga by candlelight, health writer Amy Bonifas reviews the newest workouts to see if they’re worth booking

There’s no doubt that switching up your workout routine stops you getting bored, but it’s also key if you want to keep seeing results. According to the experts at Women’s Health, we should be changing our workout routine about every six to eight weeks because our bodies adapt to all the hard work we put them through, gradually burning fewer calories and building less muscle.

Health writer Amy Bonifas tried five unique classes on offer at Virgin Active and Nuffield Health and reported back, aching muscles and all…

 

1. If you’re bored on the bike, try… The Pack

In a nutshell: The Pack takes the classic spinning class to the next level, gamifying challenges as you team up with fellow cyclists on a stationary bike.

The-Pack-class

Cooling down on the bike post-challenge

On test: I started by picking which team I was on from three colours, pink, blue and yellow, then had my bike properly adjusted by the instructor. Our warm up was a gentle cycle to chilled pop tunes before the hard work really began. Together we competed in a series of challenges projected on the big screen, from ‘Hold The Line’, where we rode to keep a steady RPM (revolutions per minute), to ‘Ghost Chaser’ where we raced against our team’s shadow, burning mega calories as we went. The winning team was celebrated on-screen after each round, and the few times mine won I felt a little smug (and sweaty).

As well as firing up my legs, this definitely brought out my competitive streak, helping me to push myself just a little further with every round.

Please note: if you are photosensitive, this class does have some flashing lights.

Intensity: High
Fun rating: 10/10
The benefits: Besides torching calories, The Pack class helps to tone your lower body and improve your overall fitness, putting your heart and lungs to work.
Who would love it? Cyclists and spin-goers will get a big kick out of this.
Duration: 1 hour
Available at: Virgin Active

 

2. If you’re new to weights, try… Body Pump

In a nutshell: A group barbell-based class with high repetitions, adjustable weights and lively music.

Body-pump-class

Smiling through the barbell squats…

On test: I started by setting up my barbell with ‘beginner level’ weights and grabbing a plate weight which we’d use for lunges and tricep extensions.

The pumping dance tunes and energetic instructor motivated us through a sequence of lifts including upright rows, bench presses and squats, all building up to the clean and press (where you lift the barbell directly above your head) – the ultimate power move for your shoulders. Then, we moved to our mats to harness our own body weight, including crunches and press-ups.

The high number of repetitions with light weights meant it was great for someone like me who doesn’t really know what they’re doing on the gym floor, and needs to follow an instructor. It definitely got my heart rate up and everyone got into their own rhythm, with the instructor ready to help adjust our form to avoid any injuries. By the end, my arms and glutes were burning, in a good way, and I immediately felt stronger for it.

Intensity: Moderate
Fun rating: 9/10
The benefits: As well as toning and strengthening to create more defined muscles, weights can also help maintain bone health by helping to increase their density.
Who would love it? Regular gym-goers who are ready to tone up and bring some power moves to their workout.
Duration: 1 hour
Available at: Nuffield Health and Virgin Active

 

3. If you’re always rushing your workout, try… Calm by Candlelight

In a nutshell: Calm by Candlelight is a slow and gentle yoga class using props, such as soft bolsters and blocks, to help you ease into the poses.

On test: The class is described as “adult nap time” by yoga ambassador and teacher Patrick Beach, so when I arrived to the glow of candles and chilled acoustic music, I was ready for some serious relaxation.

Yoga-by-candlelight

Feeling very zen at the end of the class

After a few breathing exercises, we went through a series of poses with the instructor’s soothing voice for guidance, holding each one for several minutes. The overall aim was to just be still and stop over-thinking. This was something I think the whole class benefitted from – one of my classmates fell asleep and only surfaced for our closing ‘Namaste’.

Poses included folding over on to our legs while seated to stretch out the back, and deep hip stretches using the block to balance – great if you have a desk job, which can weaken these muscles. It all ended with 10 minutes of complete relaxation (or ‘Savasana’ in Sanskrit), where we wrapped ourselves in a thick blanket and let our bodies ‘melt into the floor’. As we gradually drifted back to reality, I realised it was one of the few hours that week I’d properly managed to switch off.

Intensity: Low
Fun rating: 8/10
The benefits: This is all about de-stressing, relaxation and stretching out tight muscles.
Who would love it? Seasoned yogis would approve, but this is a lot slower than most yoga classes. It’s ideal for those who usually focus on burning calories, as it helps you to slow down and leaves you feeling refreshed.
Duration: 1 hour
Available at: Virgin Active

 

4. If you want to create lean muscles, try… Barre Concept

In a nutshell: A Pilates and ballet-inspired workout that’s not just for wannabe ballet dancers.

Barre-class

Making sure my moves are on point

On test: For this workout, we used a portable barre (a horizontal bar you can hold for support) and stood in front of the mirror to keep an eye on our form and posture. Starting with heel lifts and basic ‘pliés’ (bending the legs outwards into a squat) to warm up the legs, we worked up to ‘tendu’ (point) movements, which worked our standing legs. I really felt this on the inner thighs.

We then moved on to slight pelvic tilts and leg pulses, which worked the muscles to fatigue by using small, subtle movements and created a long, lean shape. We also combined classic ballet moves with functional exercises like moving from a plié into a standing side crunch to work our obliques. Thankfully, there were plenty of side stretches between sets to give our shaking muscles a rest, and a rewarding cool-down at the end to stretch out our hips and hamstrings.

Intensity: Moderate
Fun rating: 8/10
The benefits: Barre can help to create lean, toned muscles, with a focus on the legs, as well as improving flexibility, posture and working wonders for your stamina.
Who would love it? Anyone looking to lean up and take a break from traditional cardio. No dance experience required.
Duration: 1 hour
Available at: Nuffield Health and Virgin Active

 

5. If you want to push yourself, try… TwentyFour

In a nutshell: With 24 moves in 24 minutes, this is a super-cool, super-quick HIIT class.

On test: We started by warming up together in a circle, which was a great way to get in the zone, then the moves commenced with 40 seconds of ‘functional movements’ (primary movements that work all the muscles you need to function in your day), and 20 seconds of active recovery (holding the plank or jogging), so I was working my body the whole time.

Twenty-four-class

Pushing through the ‘fast feet’ move

I was determined to give it my all, even just for 24 minutes, with some of the best exercises including burpees, which involves dropping into a squat with your hands on the ground, kicking your feet into a plank, bringing your feet back into a squat and jumping up from there; bounce squats, where you pulse at the lowest level you can; and the one-armed plank that was a killer for the core. The instructor also gave an alternative, slightly easier version for those just starting out or getting tired.

This felt like a fun boot camp with hit tunes from Beyoncé and The Black Eyed Peas, ending with an actual high-five from the instructor. This class was the ultimate wake up and it got me pumped for the day.

Intensity: High
Fun rating: 9/10
The benefits: This works your whole body, including your heart and lungs. Like all HIIT sessions, the harder you work, the more calories you burn, helping you to build up stamina over time.
Who would love it? Joe Wicks HIIT fans, those short on time or those who feel motivated when working out together.
Duration: 30 minutes
Available at: Virgin Active

Check out all of Virgin Active’s classes here and Nuffield Health’s classes here.

 

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