A few years ago I used to look down on people who took gym classes, assuming they were full of people who either did not know how to train properly, or could not motivate themselves. Yes, I attended the odd one too – mainly boxing & body combat – but I justified this to myself in that they are basically just fighting, and they are good enough for Rocky then they are good enough for me!
A major benefit being a triathlete is you get to partake in a whole range of training, so for example whilst swimmers or runners will vary their work a bit, they will naturally concentrate most of their efforts on a single sport, whereas we have three to chose from to keep things interesting. But after a while you still need some variation from swimming, riding and running – particularly in the off-season – and during the Chile Challenge last year I though I would give a few classes a go to see what they were like, and it turned out to totally transform my training regime.
After spending hours struggling up & down hills during the Avenger last year I realised I needed some serious work on my bike legs, so the first class I tried was spinning. This involves high intensity rides of up to an hour, mixing up interval sprints, hill climbs and other ways to inflict pain on your lower body. Admittedly I struggled at first (see some of my earlier blogs) but I quickly became obsessed, going two or three times per week, even using the music for my own training rides) and gradually building up the level of speed and resistance I can handle. Clearly the downside is the sessions are shorter, so separate training is needed for endurance, but I will wait and see how it helps me out with those hills in Ironman this summer and I currently feel in the best condition in years I am confident it will add a lot.
It is not just spin though. In the past I used to spend a lot of time trying to convince my wife to come to the gym with me more regularly, but a couple of years ago she really got into Les Mills training (basically the Ironman brand of gym classes). She started going to new sessions such as step classes, and became so obsessed it was her who managed to persuade me to go to them! In fact it has reached the point where going to the gym has become our ‘thing’ and we now go together 3 or 4 times a week, a fantastic result.
There are a whole range of these classes, using all sorts of different equipment, but most follow a similar format of 30 – 60 minutes of circuit style training to high intensity music, working on speed, flexibility, strength and general fitness. Yes, most of them are more popular with women and I am often the only guy in the
village class, but that is now always such a bad thing… It certainly makes you train harder! The most common music is also 90s style old school dance, who may not go down with everyone but seems to do the trick on me.
The Les Mills classes in particular are very professionally done, and the routines change on a quarterly basis. April has seen the launch of their latest series, and in the last fortnight or so we have been to around a dozen sessions including 8 in the space of just 4 days from last Friday to Monday. These were:
- Body Combat – A kind of kickboxing to music class
- Body Attack – Circuit training
- Body Pump – Weight training to music
- RPM – Les Mills official spinning class
- Grit Cardio – An intense 30 minute circuit class
- Grit Strength – A condensed version of pump
- Grit Plyo – Similar to cardio but using a step for variation
I did draw the line at Body Step (mainly due to lack of coordination as I kept tripping over when I tried it in the past) so managed to get in some swim training whilst my other half did that one. Whilst I won’t necessarily be doing all of these every week, I am happy enough to dip in an out for some variety in the coming months, although need to take it a bit easier than last weekend as I seem to have pain in just about every muscle in my body at the moment…
So if your local gym offers classes and you have not yet been – give it a go – whilst they might not all work for you there has to be some benefit to cross training your body, and it makes a massive difference to training on your own. Enjoy!