BYLINE: Laura Burgoine
I was shocked to learn this week that, apparently, outside of the gym community people aren’t immediately familiar with Les Mills. The New Zealander, four-time Olympian and gym owner revolutionised the fitness world in the same way McDonald’s did to the fast food industry, with the obvious exception that his mantra was never “supersize me.”
After buying a chain of gyms in New Zealand at the beginning of the ‘80s (around the same time Olivia Newton-John released her Grammy award nominated aerobics hit Physical. Coincidence? I think not), Mills became the world’s biggest provider of choreographed exercise-to-music fitness classes. He was the brainchild behind Body Pump. Impressed? You should be. He took on Australia, and then the world; Les Mills classes are now taught in more than 13,000 gyms in 75 countries with an estimated six millions people training to Les’ programs every week.
For those of you living under a rock (and not attempting to lift it to techno remixes), the basic idea of the uniform Les Mills classes is that you can walk into one of the classes in any gym in the world and you’ll know what to expect. You’ll know the drill. There’s no time needed for unnecessary explanations or demonstrations, you can just lunge right in, literally. They classes are carefully choreographed in sets of three for maximum exercise efficacy.
The Grit series is the newest addition to the brand, with Grit Cardio and Grit strength. Designed to burn fat and rapidly improve athletic capability, the 30 minute classes are based around the theory of interval training, where you juxtapose short bursts of high intensity exercise with even shorter recovery periods. It’s scientifically proven to improve fitness faster than conventional training, which is good news for time-poor people looking to get fit fast.
As I wait for the Grit Strength class to start the participants of the earlier Grit cardio class file out of the studio, dripping with sweat; the polished floors are soaking wet, which is promising albeit slightly dangerous. The Grit strength differs to the traditional pump class, which is both good and bad. You don’t have the overly structured format of going through each individual muscle group like you do in pump. It moves much more fluidly and unexpectedly, which is good for keeping your mind and body guessing. However, it does feel a bit like we’re neglecting the minor muscle groups a bit; there’s no direct triceps or biceps work and a very brief abs track on the end.
In its favour though, it possesses a bit of a bootcamp quality with lots of push-ups (including push-ups done over a step, which is an innovative way to make these hideous exercises somewhat more fun or feasible). As we leap about doing squats on the step, jump down to the floor doing Burpies, and work the back and shoulders with the bar, the whole class sprints by in an instant.
Grit cardio and Grit Strength are at Bankside Health Club, Unit 11A Blue Fin building, 110 Southwark St, SE1 OSU. Phone: 020 7921 9343. http://www.thebanksidehealthclub.co.uk/