Fight Night at Ministry of Sound

Last Friday I went to Ministry of Sound.  However, in stark contrast to the days of the past where I would turn up to a nightclub in impossible-to-walk-in sky high heels and too-short miniskirt, I was comfortably in my favourite lycra and trainers.  That may have been the only thing that was comfortable about the evening however…

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One of the girls at work introduced me to Ministry does Fitness.  It used to be the club’s ‘hidden booze vault’ but has been transformed into a training studio where, as they say, you will sweat your arse off for results.  However, it wasn’t the reasonable sounding ‘cardio’, ‘core’ or ‘endurance’ classes she had in mind, no, it was Hiitbox Volume V.

What is Hiitbox?

“Sonja Moses and her team of Hiitbox Ninjas will deliver that fight night feeling, challenging you to unleash your inner badass and bring your A-game to this high energy HIIT boxing experience! 12 rounds of pads interspersed with high intensity fitness moves accompanied by a live DJ and MC”

Slightly different to the usual Ministry does Fitness classes, Hiitbox is a special event that takes place in the famous London nightclub itself and is all wrapped up by 9pm so the traditional revelers can take over.  I didn’t really know what to expect but, for £30, I was expecting something a little bit special.

Genna and I turned up to the club just before 18.30 where we wrapped our hands up and waited outside for the fun to begin.  I wasn’t overly impressed by this bit, we had already handed our bags over and had to wait outside for just a little too long, it was cold despite the heaters.

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Eventually we were invited inside, reds to the left, blues to the right, accompanied by some hooded Hiitbox Ninjas.  They didn’t look friendly.  It was dark, I was separated from Genna who was on the other side, and we were all lined up against a wall in a corridor.  It was a little eerie.

Before I knew it, there were 3 hooded ninjas jumping up and down and screaming in my face to squat, ‘lower, lower, f**king LOWER’.  It was still dark.  ‘On the floor, push ups, NOW’.  ‘Get up, knees up, higher, higher.’  And that was just the warm up.  Fast, intense and bloody exhausting.  The lead ninja then simply laughed and said ‘now you’re all gonna get f**ked up’.  He was right.

Inside the club I was reunited with Genna and the real fight started.  It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere but the lights were low, the lasers were on, the DJ was in full force and, in true boxing style, an MC was on stage to introduce each of the ninjas and our instructor, Sonja Moses (this is a lady who personifies badass).

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We were then put through 12 rounds of 4 minute high intensity boxing routines each taking it in turns on the pads and gloves.  Starting with some simple punch sequences, that began slowly with, a focus on technique, and finished fast, with a focus on trying not to be sick, these progressed into more complex routines including roundhouse kicks and knee strikes.  The final round consisted of 4 solid minutes of punches and burpees, it was a killer.  I hated it. I loved it. I didn’t know how I felt.  My whole body was shaking.

Hiitbox is more than just an exercise class, it’s an experience that’s geared up to create a proper ‘fight night’ feeling.  There are full on theatrics, fighting talk, and ring girls, with an electric, high energy atmosphere brought about through a live DJ and Sonja herself.  Each round left you gasping for breath, it was intense, sweaty, challenging and totally exhilarating.

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In hindsight, although £30 isn’t cheap, it’s in keeping with London’s boutique spinning studios and bootcamps that easily charge £20 an hour for a regular class, plus you were supplied with water throughout and drinks and snacks at the end.  I was promised “the freshest beats, biggest sound-system, legendary coaches and an epic full body workout” and that’s exactly what I got.

Be warned though, at some point in the middle of the night I woke up and realised I could barely move my entire body.  You will go hard and you will hurt, but if you like being pushed to your limits, you’re gonna love it.

Go with a friend, go with your hand wraps, go with an open mind and go with bags of energy.  But GO!

The Crew. Photo: Tom Webb @tomwebb_photographer

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WeTRAIN: A New Fitness Concept in London

It was hot, muggy and humid at a sweaty Brixton warehouse, in a stifling 31 degree London, when WeTRAIN hosted their WePLAY Launch Party.  I wasn’t entirely sure what was in-store, but I was promised an evening of HIIT, Barre and Yoga so I was prepared for a tough workout!

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WeTRAIN is a new fitness concept to launch in Clapham and Brixton that brings you a range of classes, from Insanity and HIIT, to Sunrise Vinyasa Flow, Rocket Yoga and even ballet inspired Barre, in small groups of 8.  They call it ‘The Shared Personal Training Co’.

The idea is that you mix socialising with your workout to give you a personal training experience, without the extravagant cost or commitment of a series of sessions.  You’re free to go to any session you fancy, when you fancy, and just pay as you go. Just make sure you book first as I have a feeling this is about to take off!

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When we arrived we were greeted with Strawberry Serotonin Smoothies and Energy Chickpea Blondies courtesy of  The Thinking Kitchen which was just the kickstart we needed (and both tasted AMAZING, I need that blondie recipe!)

I started off with a Power Yoga session and quickly realised my stiff limbs have been missing their weekly downward dogs and pigeons!  We went through a series of postures and stretches, with hip openers and strength poses, before a very welcome savasana.

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This was followed by a Barre class. What’s Barre?  Well, I didn’t know either, but it’s a mix of ballet, pilates and yoga, all set to a hip hop soundtrack, I loved it!  The class was made even better by the instructor, Hillary Cannon, who has a refreshing approach to teaching where twerking midway through Fiddy’s Candy Shop is not only acceptable, but actively encouraged…

It challenges you by working each muscle to the point of exhaustion, in a full body workout, to build tone, core stability and strength.  Think push ups, planks, tricep dips, plies, clam shells, and everything else that hurts like hell.

There were actually quite a few exercises I was ordered to do by my physio last time I was injured with my lazy arse (true story), so I really think it’s the perfect session for a runner. Don’t expect not to wake up the next day in a world of pain though, as Hilary says ‘pulses hurt like a mother f**ker!’

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As the classes were small, it was easy to follow what was going on and the instructors could make sure we were doing the moves correctly, always helpful when muscles start to tire and form drops (and, err, what’s a plie again?!)

After the oh-so sweaty workouts, we re-hydrated with (ahem) prosecco and re-fueled with salad tubs from Gym Bites whilst WeTRAIN CEO, Adrian Mooney, explained to us a little more about how WeTRAIN works.

Finally, GB triple jumper Julien Allwood talked to us about how WeTRAIN donate a percentage of their fees to the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a charity that empowers disadvantaged young people, so you can be sure your workout is doing more more than just keeping you fit!

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I genuinely think WeTRAIN is a great concept and a welcome addition to the London fitness scene, there are even plans to expand their offering into other areas of London next year.

For people who are looking for a bit of flexibility, and some bang-on-trend classes, without the monthly spend commitments, this is definitely for you.  I’ve already done another Yoga and Barre class and I’m booked into Fit for Function (with the lovely Elle from Keep it simpELLE) and, yep, more Barre!

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Classes are just £12 a session and with only 8 people (max) per class, you can be sure you’re getting a much more personal experience than in a gym.

I was invited to the WeTRAIN launch party to try out some of the sessions on offer.  All views are my own.

Review: Best’s Bootcamp

I always have good intentions of giving my tired limbs a whole week off exercise after running a marathon, but I’m shamelessly addicted to sweat drenched workouts so, when I was invited to be one of the very first people to try out London’s hottest new bootcamp since Barry’s on Thursday, I really couldn’t say no!

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When I turned up to Best’s Bootcamp’s brand new swanky studio in Charing Cross, it was clear this was going to be a tough workout, the trainer’s were all ripped and the studio, complete with DJ, looked serious…perhaps not the gentle return to exercise my body had in mind!

The dimmed room is lined with 22 treadmills facing floor length mirrors, with each having a workout station behind it so you can switch between running, and strength based exercises throughout the class.  I was given a treadmill (a treadmill complete with a personal fan no less) to start on, so my legs would just have to deal with what ever was coming their way!

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Named ‘Tread Army’, we were given the choice of starting on 8, 10 or 12 kph which steadily increased by increments of 2 throughout the 7 minute warmup, before I knew it I was up to 14 and hoping I wouldn’t fly off!

We then switched to the floor station where we were now the ‘WorkerBs’ for 7 minutes of squats, lunges and jumps on a soft box which, handily, you can flip over for a choice of 2 heights, I took the lower option, don’t judge me!

The studio has a unique Trainer Cam on the wall so, wherever you are in the room, you can always see what you’re supposed to be doing and focus on form rather than straining your neck to see what’s going on.  I though this was a great addition because, with just 60 seconds or so per exercise, you don’t want to waste any time.

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Already exhausted, I was back in the Tread Army again, increasing both speed and incline for some lung busting hill work and speed intervals, the legs were coping well.  Back on the floor we performed various kettlebell moves to  work on the arms, back and glutes, I’m not used to kettlebells so this was hard!

The final sweat session on the treadmill involved more speedwork and hills, but also involved some downhill running (who knew treadmills could go downhill?!)  This felt really odd to me and I couldn’t quite get used to it so I went back to zero (I kept the speed the same though, I promise!).  We then moved on to the last section of floor work to attack the abs, and attack we did with a mix of weighted sit ups and planks.

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Aaaandd finally the 50 minute workout was over, the very first Best’s Bootcamp class complete – ouch!  On leaving the studio we were treated to a post workout shake from the Blend Bar.  I chose the Berry Blast which was a mix of strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, almond milk and vanilla whey, perfect recovery, it was delicious!

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I thought Best’s Bootcamp was a pretty fantastic workout, intense, tough, sweaty and a good mix of cardio, strength training and HIIT.  To make the most of it, I would recommend having a good base level of fitness beforehand or you might struggle, but otherwise it’s a workout that delivers on everything you could want from a bootcamp, with some pretty top notch equipment, in a stylish studio, and changing rooms stocked with Kiehls, hair dryers and GHDs.  And how did I feel the next day?  Errr, it hurt, but that’s the only way I would have it!

Best’s Bootcamp is just a 2 minute walk from both Charing Cross and Embankment station and opens on 9th May, with individual classes priced at £20.  I highly recommended you check it out, I have a feeling it’s going to be very popular very soon! #BeYourBest

Many thanks to Marcel Grabowski Photography for all the great photos and Best’s and Action PR for having me. I was invited as a guest to try out Best’s Bootcamp. As always, all opinions are my own.

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F45 Training. I’ll be Batman

So, I’m on a little running ban.  No running, no Strava, not even a peek.  Most people might take the opportunity to put their feet up for a while but I’ve never been good at keeping still, so I’ve been looking for some new challenges to keep me out of trouble this week.

This morning I went to an F45 class at a new studio in London Bridge.  I had no idea what F45 was, but apparently it’s the latest fitness craze in Australia which launched in the UK a couple of months ago.  The celebs love it (obvs) and  a quick google search told me the guys look like this…so I thought it was worth getting up at 6am for.

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They describe F45 as ‘the most innovative, challenging and systemised team training workout in the world’, what that means is you get a high intensity workout combing strength and conditioning, as well as cardio.  There are 10 different styles of programmes which they mix up so each workout is unique.

Turning up at the studio, I was greeted by a friendly lady who checked me in and set me up with a heart rate monitor.  When you become a member you get your own, but as a guest I was to be Batman for the morning (seriously, I was Batman, best morning ever).  The monitors link to screens in the studio so you can see what everyone’s heart rate is and %max, I thought this was great as you can see exactly how hard you’re working and whether you’re slacking compared to everyone else!

The classes are quite small, there were 7 in mine, and with 2 instructors on the floor they can give everyone individual attention and even remember your name (sadly, they didn’t call me Batman to my face), it made a refreshing change to the usual packed classes you can get.

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There were 9 stations in total, you spend 2 minutes at each station doing 45 minutes work and 15 seconds rest before having a 2 minute break and doing the circuit again.  We started with a quick demo of each station and a warm up then got started.

I started on the rowing machine, which I was happy about because I’m an expert at those, then moved on to reverse burpees with plyometric jumps, errr, what was that again?  Luckily each exercise is demonstrated on the screen in front so you don’t look stupid in case you forget, didn’t make me any better at it though!

Next was hills on the bike, followed by some kind forward leaning squat which made 45 seconds feel a lot longer, the 15 second break was very welcome…

Next up was weighted lunges with shoulder bags, floor ladders with kettle bells at the end and then wheelbarrows, the ultimate team exercise that makes you feel like you’re back at school sports day.  I was always rubbish at school sports day, today was no different!

Finally we had some bunny hops over benches (high benches, more like hare hops…) and weighted sit ups.  Then we got a full 2 minute break before going round again, yayyyy!

The screens round the studio show a countdown clock so you know how long you’ve got left of work or rest and you can keep an eye on your heart rate. By the end I was pretty exhausted and my Batman heart rate percentage indicated I was still alive and worked hard.

I was genuinely impressed with everything, the workout, the studio and the team were all fantastic and, whilst I’m sure some of the other classes are much busier, I enjoyed being in a small team.  The instructors took the time to help you, and modify the exercises for your needs, which was really helpful for my runner limbs that don’t always do what I tell them to.

This morning I was at an Athletica class, which is slightly more cardio focused, but you can also go to a Romans class with more weights based exercises, or a Hollywood class which I’m sure is full of surprises!

Currently there’s a studio at London Bridge but I believe there will be another opening in Clapham soon which is perfect for me!  You can get a 7 day free trial on their website so it’s definitely worth a go, I’ll be heading back for a Romans class when I’ve recovered, I just hope I can be Batman again.

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Barry’s Bootcamp – London East

I’d heard of Barry’s Bootcamp, they call it ‘The Best Workout in the World’.  I’d heard it was popular with the A Listers over in Hollywood and New York.  I’d also heard it was pretty tough.  But hey, I ran 37 miles round the Lake District, I ran down a fell mountain in high winds and rain, I’ve pulled myself out of the darkest places just to cross a finish line – I’m tougher than anything Barry and his Bootcamp could throw at me.  Aren’t I?!  I thought it was time to give it a try.

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On Tuesday I headed over to the London East studio with a couple of girls from work, we I was really looking forward to it!  I have to admit, I didn’t really know what would be involved but, checking out the website beforehand, I was a little concerned that the first question on the FAQ’s was ‘Will I die?’ but, really, how hard can a 60 minute workout be?!

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When we got there (an hour early, we were a little keen!) so had plenty of time to have a look around and check out the selection of post-workout protein drinks available from the Fuel Bar.

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There’s only one room, it’s not a gym, it’s just one room where the bootcamp takes place with a row of 20 treadmills and 20 floor stations.  When you book your place (which you have to do pretty fast!) you choose to start on the treadmill, or on the floor, we chose the treadmill.

It looks swanky.  The lights are low with floor to ceiling mirrors on each wall, the trainers are all ripped and the other fitness fanatics all look like they know what they’re doing.  Still, I know how to work a treadmill and I remembered to pack my favourite lycra so I didn’t feel too intimidated!  Our trainer was Sandy, Sandy is is responsible for bringing Barry’s to London, so he must be good…

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You’re assigned a workstation at reception so there’s no fighting over your spot.  I hopped on treadmill 2 and waited for instructions.  We started with a warm up and were given 3 different choices for beginners, intermediates and advanced.  It’s running on a treadmill, clearly I’m an intermediate verging on advanced, right?!

Barry’s treadmills are set at miles per hour rather than the usual kilometer per hour and we were given the choice to start on 6, 7, or 8.  7 mph is 8.30mm (not that I could do that kind of maths at the time but I started on that pace anyway!).  Over the course of the next 8-9 minutes Sandy had me working up to 9 mph (errr, 6.40mm) on an incline.  I wasn’t sure I was intermediate anymore. Warm up over then…

We then moved onto our floor spot – Tuesday is ‘leg and butt’ day so we were in for 8-9 minutes of weighted lunges and squats.  This wouldn’t be so bad but the lightest weights they had left were 7.5kg, and I needed 2 of them!  Jess managed to get some 6kg ones, I didn’t like her anymore.

We were then straight back on the treadmill for another round of fast paced running, with the incline going up to 10% my pace dropped to somewhere inbetween the beginner and intermediate pace.  It was 8 minutes of solid hard work and I only made it up to 8.5 mph this time.  Back on the floor we did some weighted side lunges and box jumps before jumping back on the treadmill for round 3 (where I managed 9.3 mph without falling off!)

By the end we had done 3 sets on the treadmill and 3 sets of leg and bum floor work.  Honestly? I was knackered.  When we headed back upstairs our pre-ordered protein shakes were waiting for us, I went for Cool Runnings, a blend of pineapple juice, coconut milk and vanilla whey, it tasted pretty damn good.

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So, it turns out Barry’s Bootcamp is actually a bloody tough workout, the runs are pretty fast paced and the floor work is brutal.  As with everything, you get out what you put in, but I think you would struggle without a good level of fitness beforehand.  When I woke up on Wednesday I was quite pleased not to ache as much as I thought I would but, after a morning sat at my desk I quickly changed my mind…my legs were suffering post-Barry’s depression.  However, I loved it and I want to go back!

Whilst it’s pretty swanky, unsurprisingly, it also has a pretty swanky price tag.  For a one off class it’s £20.  There are savings to be made by buying packs of 10 if you have a spare £170, you can even buy a pack of 50 for £700 but, either way, it’s quite pricey.  Throw in a fiver for a post workout protein shake and you’ve easily spent £25 before walking out the door.

Is it worth it?  I’m definitely going to give it another go, maybe on abs day…

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I went to Barry’s Bootcamp as a paying customer.  All views are my own.