‘Wow you’re so brave’
..was the resounding reaction to the news that I’d decided to venture to New York alone for three months to take some time out, re-group and focus on me. I didn’t feel brave, I felt desperate!
Desperate to get out of London, out of the slump I felt I’d gotten into after leaving a job I’d held for over three years and in need of a major dose of energy! I knew if I could re-haul my eating habits, and get down to the gym more than once a week it would make the world of difference to how I look and feel, I didn’t know, however, that I wouldn’t be doing it alone.
Smells Like Team Spirit
New Yorkers aren’t well known for their friendliness, nor are they necessarily known for being team players (don’t shoot the messenger), but when it comes to the best workouts in the city, teamwork is all the rage. This emphasis on working together caught me by surprise. I’m one of the most sociable people I know (honest!) but when it comes to the gym I like to keep my head down, train alone and run away the moment my session is over.
However, a recent stint in New York and a new ClassPass membership meant working out solo would become a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to the odd group workout, but this new wave of fitness classes takes things a step further.
Tone House (who have one of the most impressive workout spaces I’ve seen) for example, starts each session with a team huddle, similar to what you’d see at an American football match or basketball game. Next, chanting ensues to ensure you are sufficiently ‘pumped up’ to complete what has been dubbed the hardest workout in New York. Perhaps because the 60-minute intense sports conditioning class is designed to challenge even the fittest person in the room participants are actively encouraged to cheer each other on throughout, and this loner noticed all the difference when they did.
Their focus is movement training, which in a nutshell is all about utilising more muscle groups within a single exercise in order to expand more energy, resulting in improved overall strength, speed, agility, flexibility and endurance. ThinkTRX sequences, sprinting, bear crawls, Rip Trainers (superior training ropes), and more. As I lagged behind the regulars who bear crawled more like limber frogs than heavy mammals I began to notice those who had finished cheer me on. Was it that all eyes were on me and I wanted to save face and push through to the finish line? or perhaps it was the added motivation from others as I began to doubt my abilities that got me to the end. Either way, I was hooked and I began to realise training with others wasn’t so bad after all.
So when I discovered Row House, an in-studio rowing class that focuses on rowing intervals peppered with floor resistance training like squats, lunges, core and ab work that also incorporates teamwork style training – I knew I needed to give it a go. The skilled instructors (some of whom have rowed competitively) are able to create an on the water like experience by ensuring all the rowers are in synch with one another throughout the whole class.
Big on technique no man (or woman) gets left behind. You soon discover speed does not a good rower make. It’s all about ditching the propelling forward motion many novices adopt and rather use your chief muscle groups found in your core, arms, back, and legs to explosively drive backward and pull, then draw yourself inwards slowly.
It took me a whole class to get used to this ‘new’ way of rowing but once I got it I got a real kick out of getting my stroke rate down (to Olympic standards I’ll have you know) each time I took a class. After a month attending my allotted three classes a week (on my unlimited ClassPass subscription) I noticed my core was much improved and my abs were far stronger than before.
Trooper Fitness Camps
For me, strength was the name of the game when it came to my NYC fitness journey.
I knew 10 weeks wasn’t enough time to be ‘athlete-level’ fit but I had hoped that I could make daily exercise a habit and come back to London stronger in mind and body while dropping a few pounds in the process (to feel more confident in my own skin). Strength training is ideal for fat loss as it gives you a metabolic spike for an hour post-training, enabling you to burn even more calories, and for every three pounds of muscle built you’ll burn an average 120 more calories a day (I like the sound of that). So, with this in mind, I knew I needed to find dedicated strength training classes, and Trooper Fitness fit the bill.
There are a host of classes to choose from but the two that stood out for me were the Trooper Boot Camp and the Trooper Strength Camp. The former is a team-oriented exhausting cardio and strength session that incorporates partner exercise as well as partner accountability.
The notion that I would be held accountable for my effort or lack thereof would have had me running for the door a mere few weeks prior to my first class, but I’d began to realise that when you are accountable to others you have no choice but to succeed (it’s so much easier to let yourself down than others). While the latter is formulated to target specific muscle groups (upper body or lower body) and is made up of strength phase training – a mix of endurance (building up how many reps your muscles can take), Hypertrophy (working on increasing muscle size), and max strength (building up the amount of weight you can lift once) circuits.
There’s a comradery that develops when a small group of people get together and push themselves to the limit, this coupled with the knowledgeable and encouraging trainers and you’ve got the perfect combination of solo training and team spirit.
After 10 weeks of regular training, and 20 pounds of fat down, I’m back in London and have already began to seek out classes and gyms that foster a sense of community and teamwork (Lomax Chelsea is my absolute favorite) – my spirit is better off for it and so is my body.