Monday, 14 October 2013

Les Mills Fitness Classes Reviews!

Unless you a) avoid gyms like the plague or b) don't attend a gym running Les Mills classes, you might have managed to escape the very topic of my blog today. Essentially, Les Mills is a brand of fitness classes which have different themes and flavours. You can cycle, you can do aerobics, you can lift weights. The great thing about these classes is that each one has pre-arranged music and choreography (called a release), so you can go to two different gyms and experience the same class. If you are a bit of a class junkie, which I was for quite a long time, you become very familiar with releases, the music and choreography. You might even find yourself putting in some requests for your fave song. I have too many to list here.

This is a review of most of the classes I have attended. I haven't try Sh'bam and I've only done BodyVive once, so they don't get a mention. As an added bonus, I've included some extra thoughts on other group fitness options at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.

Body Attack
BodyAttack is an aerobics class which I was scared of for a long time. Then I noticed that it was really only a few lyrca-crop-top-wearing gym bunnies going in for their weekly dose, everyone else looked like me in their singlets and not-too-short shorts. It is seriously my favourite class. It's high energy. Your legs feel like jelly afterwards. And it does have the best music.
Cardio: 8/10
Technical difficulties: 4/10. If you have problems with impact (like me - I can't jump), always take the lower options
Key to success: Seriously, stand somewhere in the middle. You will move around a lot, and at some points the back row becomes the front row. No one wants that their first time in.

BodyPump is lifting weights in time to some music for about fifty minutes. You get plenty of stretch time, and a great work out as well. Pump is a class I love to hate. I always feel awesome after it, and once you have been a few times, you start getting your technique under control. The music is again very good, but you need to watch out for one very important thing: crazy people with equipment.
The problem with Pump is you need a lot of stuff. You need an aerobic step, a bar, weights of a variety of sizes and enough space to do lunges and squats. People who are in a hurry tend to pack up all their stuff halfway through a class, which slows down the instructor (and means everyone gets out five minutes late every single time). Fortunately some gyms are really good at cracking down on the pack up culture. Country gyms are not, and everyone gives you the hairy eyeball if you decide you won't pack up half way between tracks. It's unsafe and rude. Don't do it people.
Cardio: 4/10
Technical difficulties: 7/10. Listen to the instructors, and if they say something like 'make sure your elbow doesn't come past the step' (and they will say plenty of these helpful tips), ALWAYS assume they are talking about you.
Key to success: Rest between classes - a day in between, once you get used to it, is enough time. And bring a big towel to cover your step. Sorted.

Body Combat is a 'martial arts' type class, with lots of punching, kicking and doing funny stuff with hands. I don't know how other people feel, but Combat can be either incredibly awesome or incredibly lame. I've only had a few good Combat instructors in the past, generally the best ones are the ones who focus on just Combat and maybe another class or two as well. My first class I was told it would take up to 10 classes to get the hang of Combat, and that it isn't really a workout until you can master the skill.
Cardio: 3-9/10 - it depends on what you put into, and get out of it. This is one you can blame on your instructor... usually.
Technical difficulties: 8/10
Key to success: Don't assume you'll be awesome at it. Maybe you can throw a good punch or have a great roundhouse kick, but that only accounts for a few of the tracks.

Cycle your way to happiness with this little class. Most RPM classes are 45 minutes, though express and extended classes are sometimes offered. This is the best fitness class to try if you are a newbie. It is very structured, you have your own space (well, you have a bike), and the chances of crashing into anyone are very limited. You will hurt after an RPM class. Don't forget to turn up the dial as much and as often as you can.
Technical difficulties: 3/10. You can't go too wrong if you have someone (usually the instructor or somewhere wearing cycling lycra) help you set up your bike.
Key to success: Take lots of water. If it's getting too hard, turn your dial (the resistance) down and peddle for a bit.)

BodyStep is an aerobic workout using a step. You do all these funky moves on, around and straddled over this metre long step. I must admit, Step is great. It is fun, your bum and thighs will hurt afterwards and you are usually surrounded by steppers who are nuts about this class. I no longer do Step because of my foot injury because it is quite high impact and there are really no options you can taken to lower the impact unlike Attack.
Technical difficulties: 5/10 Beware of the sliding step. If your step doesn't have feet on it, help it stop sliding around by putting some plates under it.
Key to success: Stand in the middle of the row, and watch the front row babes (okay, and a few blokes) for the technical moves.

Body Balance
BodyBlanace is yoga-esque and about promoting strength, flexibility and balance. Balance is one of those classes I always struggle with because you never seem to stay in the same spot for long. It is very relaxing all the same.
Cardio: 5/10 - I can still get a bit huffy puffy from Balance.. yes, seriously.
Technical difficulties: 7/10 If you have no idea what a downdog or tree pose are, you'll spend a lot of time looking at the instructor.
Key to success: Bring your own yoga mat.

BodyJam is a dance class, most new releases let you build up to two 'performances', where you spend four tracks learning the moves and two putting the moves together to create a little dance sequence. Most gyms seem to be phasing out Jam, but often dedicated instructors (and there are a lot of them) are really good at presenting this class.
Technical difficulties: 6/10 - it varies
Key to success: Laugh a lot at yourself, and assume no one else is laughing at you. I thought this my first few weeks, but then realised everyone gets a bit embarrassed when they don't get it. You laugh... a lot.

Other group fitness classes and fads I want to talk about

Group Training: Small Group
Group training in a small group is having a trainer set up some different exercises for you to work on. Often you will do this in pairs or teams. Sometimes you might have stations, other times you will be working individually. My gym doesn't offer this at the moment, and out of group fitness class options, this is probably the most expensive but also the most rewarding one. I have met some of my favourite people in the world in Group Training.

Boot Camp
I'm all for fitness in all shapes and forms, though the jury is out on Boot Camps for me. When these started running, they were classes set up in army training style, using beaches, open space and/or the elements to get you through a training session. However, the term 'Boot camp' seems to have been applied to Group Training sessions, big or small, and probably won't be a lot like you though you were getting into. If you do go with Boot Camp, make sure you know your instructor (and what they want to focus on) and check on the size of the group. Smaller is better, especially when you have an injury, need extra attention about something or you feel uncertain about whether you can complete all the activities.

I am a Zumba and Zumbatomic instructor. I only work with my school students and I like to incorporate a bit of aerobics into my classes too. Zumba was a great fad and it got a lot of people back into gyms and rec centres which is great. However, Zumba doesn't require you to be certified in fitness, and instructors can make up whatever they want in terms of choreography. The safest option is to visit a Zumba class within a gym or through someone with a lot of experience in fitness instruction.

PunchFit is a great class - 1-on-1 boxing for two minute rounds for a 50 minute class. It is fun, but I also have to say that the cardio level for PunchFit is not incredibly high (at least from my experience), and you can be part of a mis-matched pair too often.

That's it from me for now. Well done if you got this far. Seriously, please feel free to disagree, I don't mind being challenged and I'm qualified enough to take it.

After my very first Zumba class - best long weekend ever!