The countdown is on both to tick off those gifts-still-to-buy and get in shape for the party season. If you find yourself in London this month why not break up the shopping marathon (or earn that festive cocktail) with a fun fitness class?
The hard HITT-er
Where Barry’s Bootcamp, Euston
What it’s like Each hour-long class at Barry’s is based on the principles of high-intensity interval training, using a mix of treadmill sprints and controlled movements with heavy weights or resistance bands to get your heart rate up – and keep it there. Each day of the week focuses on a different body part: on Monday it’s abs and arms, Tuesday it’s bum and legs… The low red lighting, pounding music and military-style instruction (‘Do not put that weight down!’) bring the fun factor. Sort of. The workout is brutal – you’ll curse, sweat and wonder if you might throw up a little bit – but it’s enjoyable, in a masochistic kind of way. I found myself back on that treadmill a few days later, and again a few days after that…
FYI Not for the faint-hearted or those new to intense forms of exercise.
Best for Burning off festive excesses in one fell swoop.
Estimated calorie burn Up to 1,000
Cost £20 per 1-hour class
Take it home Barry’s has two London outposts, but if you can’t get to the city (or prefer to exercise at home), this free online workout by Barry’s Bootcamp master trainer Anya Lahiri will blast away those unwanted lbs.
The waist whittler
Where FRAME, Kings Cross (Ass and Abs)
What it’s like Low-impact aerobic moves performed to old-school dance hits – think back to the Jane Fonda workout videos of the 80s, minus the leg warmers. Actually, that’s not entirely true… You’ll be shackled with ankle weights once the warm-up is over, making those leg raises and plié squats all the more effective at tightening your tush. The workout is simple, but boy does it do the job – your legs, bum and tum will be burning from start to finish. With the likes of Madonna and MC Hammer blasting out of the speakers, though, you can’t help but smile through the pain (and discreetly perform the Vogue routine). A great class to do with friends before a night out, and suited to all fitness levels.
FYI Snazzy leggings aren’t essential but encouraged.
Best for Toning up wobbly bits for that LBD (wave goodbye to support knickers).
Estimated calorie burn 400–550
Cost £12 per 45-minute class
Take it home You can still find those old-school aerobics videos on YouTube – they were hits for a reason, after all (read: they work). Why not gather the girls for a living room workout to tackle those problem areas – and giggle at the questionable lycra?
The 30-minute cardio blast
Where Virgin Active (Grid Fit), city wide
What it’s like This functional circuit class is over before you know it – 30 minutes, four rounds with breaks so short you’ve no time even to glance at the clock, and two ‘tough minutes’ thrown in to add to the fun (60-second prisoner squat, anyone?). You’ll work your way through full-body exercises such as kettlebell swings, tractor tyre flips, burpees and mountain climbers, all set out on a floor marked as a grid (hence the name) – think of it as a fat-blasting board game, only there’s no get-out-of-jail card. Each circuit gets longer and, therefore, harder – and that’s why it works.
FYI There are options to suit various fitness levels, but if it’s your first time doing high-intensity interval training, speak to the instructor before the class for more tailored guidance.
Best for Time-pressed gym-goers wanting to shift the calories, fast.
Estimated calorie burn 500
Cost Free to Virgin Active members. Click here for a list of participating gyms.
Take it home Challenge yourself to this equipment-free HIIT workout – all you need is 20 minutes and plenty of sock-it-to-em energy.
The stress reliever
Where 1Rebel (Rumble), Broadgate
What it’s like The studio is filled with punch bags hanging from the ceiling, the lights are low, the R&B music is booming and the gloves are on. This fast-paced class is a combination of bag and floor work – think jab-hook combinations followed by side planks, speed punches followed by press-ups… You might expect, with so much aggression being vented around you, to feel a little on edge, but I reckon Rumble is more cathartic than a yoga session – and it’s SO MUCH FUN! The energy is high, the combinations are easy to grasp and the motivation from the instructor is just what you need to make you punch that bit harder when your abs and arms are screaming to stop. More effective than sit-ups – expect your abs to burn the next day, and the day after.
FYI Boxing not your thing? There are three ways to play at 1Rebel: Ride, a spin class, and Reshape, a HIIT class similar to Barry’s (see above) are also an option. Choose your poison wisely…
Best for Battling bingo wings and targeting the oblique muscles (muffin top, be gone!). Also helps rid festive stresses (whose face you’re picturing on the punch bag is your own business…)
Estimated calorie burn 700
Cost £20 per 45-minute class
Take it home Try this 15-minute fat-burning boxing workout from HFG YouTube fave Jessica Smith.
Where F45 Training (Hollywood), London Bridge
What it’s like Saturday morning is the new Saturday night out at F45 Training. There’s a live DJ playing club classics, the atmosphere is buzzing and there are screens all around – only they’re not displaying the latest 2-for-1 drink offers, but the exercises to be performed, as well as the class-goers soaring heart rates. No matter how motivated to exercise you were feeling before you arrived, your spirits are certain to lift the moment the class starts. The emphasis here is on functional movements (there isn’t a treadmill in sight) and training as a team – even if you’ve never met your gym buddies before, you’ll be encouraging each other to keep going, lift heavier, run harder… The energy of the instructors (there are always two) is infectious and keeps you smiling, even when the gruelling interval-based circuit starts to take its toll. The studio is set out in a circuit of 27 cardio and strength-based stations, which might include deadlifts, bicycle sprints, bear crawls and bench hops (you have been warned!). But the intervals are quick and fierce, and the class passes in a sweaty blur. There’s nothing else in London quite like F45 Training – you’ve got to experience it to believe it. And it’s the perfect way to earn that weekend brunch.
FYI You’ll need to be moderately fit to keep up with this fast-paced workout – the breaks are minimal. And I wouldn’t recommend hitting the bottle the night before a Hollywood class – could get messy.
Best for Keeping the fun-factor in fitness, even when it hurts.
Estimated calorie burn 800–1,000
Cost £7 for a one-week trial for newcomers, or £20 per 45-min class
Take it home Watch F45 Training’s head coach Rob Smyth demonstrate 23 of the best functional exercises to help shift the pounds.
Where Xtend Barre, Marylebone
What it’s like What better way to experience a ballet than to have a Royal Ballet dancer teach you how to plié and point? But don’t imagine that you’ll be able to spectate from the barre – the class instructors are there to make you work, albeit with grace rather than brute force, as is the way with most other classes. The rule here is the smaller, more controlled the move, the better. Expect to bend, stretch, lift and pulse until you feel like your leg or arm is about to drop off – a mix of barre exercises, light-weight resistance and pilates mat work – all the while smiling through the pain, as ballerinas should. It’s sweaty, but it’s effective: a case in point that you don’t need to run at full speed to chisel a toned physique.
FYI Anyone can do this class, regardless of age, gender, flexibility, experience, grace… No excuses!
Best for Toning up and honing those enviable long, lean ballerina limbs.
Estimated calorie burn 250-600
Cost £49 for an unlimited two-week class pass for new clients, or £25 per 55-minute class
Take it home Channel your inner Darcey Bussell at home with an online Xtend Barre membership that gives you access to 10, 15 and 20-minute online barre videos, from $15 per month.