Something New

Fletch, Jack Parlabane, that bloke from the Dragon Tattoo book… Some of the best literary characters I can think of are investigative reporters, and this week I felt it was only right that I did some investigating of my own.

investigative reporter

Given that I spend most of my time either training, or thinking about training, I thought I had come across most types of exercise, but this week I found a brand new one at the ‘Healthclub’ in the hotel I had been sheltering in for the last few weeks.

After heading down to check out the gym, I notices some strange looking bikes by the pool: kind of like spin bikes but even more stripped down, just a steel frame, handlebars and some funny looking pedals which resembled giant flip flops. Next thing I knew some guy started throwing them in the pool with the sort of abandon rock stars reserve for hotel room TVs, and I realised they were special pool bikes. Forgetting my normal workout, I spent the next half hour transfixed as a small group proceeded to go through a spin class of sorts, whilst in the water. Now my gym does plenty of aqua aerobics, aqua Zumba, etc, and whilst none of that appeals to me, this seemed to combine two of my favourite things – spinning & swimming – so had to be worth a go.

aqua bike

Aqua Bike

The next day, after a slight confusion trying to explain to the boss that I wanted to join the class (seemed a reasonable request to me) I was told it was £8, which seemed a bit steep, but as a true investigative reporter I still went ahead. It eventually transpired it I could go free as a hotel guest which was even better, and could have saved me a 15 minute conversation, but there you go. So shortly after I found myself in the water and on my bike, as part of a group of six. Our poolside based coach looked slightly Eastern European, and as it later turned out may well have been schooled in water torture by the KGB…

From the outside it looked really easy, but is was a bit like watching ducks, casual on the surface but pedalling like mad underneath. It was the strangest feeling, as the harder you pedalled, the more water resistance there was so the tougher it became. Definitely no free wheeling here. It turns out to be a fantastic work out, as within minutes your legs were burning from the resistance, but cooled down by the water. The reason for the massive pedals also became obvious as this too added to the resistance and made it harder to push through the water.

The hot French fitness fad, aqua fitness, gets an upgrade with the unveiling of the Water Rider 5 Aquabike

Underwater Bike

It did not take long to realise what I was wearing was not ideal for the class, and the blame lay with my swim shorts. Now I always wear shorts when pool training, firstly as they just look better on blokes of any age, and secondly as whilst they create some extra resistance, this helps me out in wetsuit swims as I can to glide through the water more smoothly – some people actually buy special ‘drag shorts’ or even underwater parachutes to increase this effect. On the bike though they were a nightmare, with the pockets filling with air bubbles and trying to lift me off the seat, the sides slowing down my legs whilst pedalling and even the drawstring getting in the way.

aqua cycle 4

These guys know their aqua cycling shorts

Later on, whilst scouring the web for some uncopyrighted pictures to show what the whole thing looked like, I found most of the Google images seemed to involve young ladies in skimpy bikinis riding the water bikes. Now I am sure the only reason for this is to help advise what sort of outfit to wear in the classes. I will leave you to make up your own mind…

aqua cycle 1

Honestly, this was the tamest picture I could find!

Anyway, the format was just like a normal spin class, right down to some of the tracks which may have been unofficially lifted from Les Mills: Warm up; Interval Training 30 sprint / 30 rest x 3 moving to 40/30 seconds and up to 50/30 by the end. Obviously I took this bit far too seriously, trying to ride at ridiculous speeds to outpace my co-riders, all but one of whom seemed to be first timers and looked like they had also vastly underestimated the difficulty of the class, much to the apparent delight of the coach.

In between sprints we did various other stretches and the water allowed for some things that would simply not be possible (for me anyway) on the surface. Switch lunges –  the bane of Bodyattack – were a favourite alongside a variation on dips, turning the bike sideways and pushing up on the bars with straight arms, then raising your knees out of the water (a move sometimes known as windscreen wipers), or holding them straight ahead of you whilst doing a scissor type movement. In both cases, the higher you came out of the water, the harder they were to do without the buoyancy of the water, but the better for you. The coach seemed to have no such problems doing these on the side of the pool though, and trying to keep up with him bouncing away like a tigger was pretty tough.

aqua cycle 2

The class looked a bit like this.

By the end of the 45 minute class I was pretty knackered, but being in the water things did not feel too bad, until I did my usual jump out of the pool and realised my jelly legs were not quite ready to support me and nearly ended up back on the bottom! It did feel like a really good workout, particularly for the quads and core, and whilst not something I would do all the time, seems a decent addition to a training plan. I will have to share my investigative reporting with my local gym to see about adding it to our timetable…


New Year New Launches

It has been a pretty busy start to this year with my Dryathlon (3rd year running), a new job (starting tomorrow) and of course plenty of training, which of course is not a resolution being that it is nothing new, and will not come to an end on 31st January!).

I have really gone in at the deep end this week with Monday Combat, a Run on Tuesday, Wednesday Attack, Thursday Combat and Friday Spin ‘n Swim. Then a bit like Craig David I chilled at the weekend. Well on Saturday anyway, so maybe more like Walter on the Big Lebowski.

Walter shabbos

But in reality this was all just a build up to the new Les Mills class launches today, some of which featured in the One Live event in Manchester last November, which feels like ages ago now.

First up was RPM on Friday evening, one of the ones I did manage to do in Manchester, although perhaps as it had been first up on the day my brain seemed to have forgotten / blocked out most of it. After 4 days in a row of fairly leg intensive workouts this was not an easy ride, but as mentioned there was a great line up of music got me through it, particularly the energetic Runaway (You & I) track by Galantis near the end, which seemed very suitable for a spin class.

The class was packed – obviously given it was January – and I always feel a bit guilty watching the pain on the faces of of those who have made it their resolution to try some new classes and have no idea what they are getting into! It can be a bit annoying though as I have found out the hard way, in as well as there being no spaces left in the car park, my regular spin class that I have barely missed for the last 18 months is already full next week so I can’t even go myself, although as our coach pointed out it will calm down pretty soon as people start dropping out.

New Year resolution

But the main event of the week was all about today, with back-to-back launches of Body Combat, Pump and Attack!

First up was Combat, which is basically a mixed martial arts workout to music, with everything from Karate to Kickboxing, and Capoeira to Kung Fu. This is the class I have done for longer than any other in the last few years so I can generally pick it up fairly easilly and the punches and kicks are the same, just in different orders and timings to match the music. As with RPM it was another one we had done in One Live, although again I seemed to have forgotten most of the choreography. Overall it was a good release, with particularly strong capoeira / esquiva / lunge tracks, and a genius Muay Thai track to the Pirates of the Caribbean song at the end: whoever designed that track is a hero! By this point I was starting to stagger around like Jack Sparrow anyway…


The meat in the morning sandwich was Body Pump, an equipment heavy, weights based class with barbells and other pieces of kit to mix things up. Now this is not a class I do as often, particularly given the focus I have had on Cardio rather than Lifting in the last half-decade or so, but it is good fun, and the soundtrack to this release was even better than Combat. The main problem with doing it less often though is knowing how much weight to use, and a few times during one or other of the tracks I found my biceps or shoulders screaming with pain as the reps just piled up – over 1000 in all across the session. At one point after around 50 barbell lunges during Galantis’ Peanut Butter Jelly track both my calves could not take it any more and literally turned to jelly, bringing back painful memories of trying (and failing miserably) to un-clip from my bike after the ride leg of Ironman Staffs. That’s going to hurt tomorrow…

training legs pain

So two hours in we launched straight into the third class, Body Attack, which was a blast, helped a lot by our fantastic trainer Short Shorts (I will leave that one to your imagination) who ensured it was both knackering and camper than a row of tents. Most of the tracks here are based on circuit training / plyometrics, and from the outside may look like a strange sort of line dancing, but taught well it can be one of the most fun of all LM classes as well as great all around fitness. There was even more great music here, with a welcome return of the Runaway track (they must have had some sort of bulk deal from Galantis to feature that often) which again worked really well in the ‘run around the room in circles’ track.

body attack

I forgot to mention earlier that as with all of our club launches we had a theme for the weekend, and this time around it was luminous – very appropriate at this time of year. This meant everyone had glow sticks, although I managed to take it one further with my luminescent yellow under armour top. I thought it looked great, although during attack they turned the main lights off and had the disco beams going, and the lasers suddenly made me glow like Ross’s teeth in that episode of Friends with the black light!

Ross Teeth Friends

All in all it was just under 3 hours training, and (according to my wife’s Fitbit) around 2000 calories. We were pretty much the only ones to make all three classes which was also a great personal achievement, and I think a decent enough excuse for a bacon & egg brunch and snooze on the sofa this afternoon to write up this blog!