Deja Vu

I feel like I have done a lot of things in the last month or so that I could write about here, but the thing is, I have already blogged about much of it in my other 120 or so posts: Hotel based training – Check. Aqua Cycling – Check Check. Outdoor swimming… you get the picture. So I thought today I would focus on a few of my main events from April:


The end of the most interesting UK football season in years and a team of underdogs from the Midlands pulling off a highly unlikely victory… I don’t think anyone would believe me if I tried to say our bi-annual work football tournament (in its stunning car park rooftop location) produced quite such a shocking result, but with teams from Birmingham, Manchester and for the first time ever Leicester, there was a reasonable chance it could have happened.


In adding a third team to the format we were able to tear up the rule book somehow for our match, so rather than two teams of five gradually slowing down over the course of an hour, to the point (about 15 minutes in actually) where local kids would look over the fence in curiosity to see what was happening in our ‘veterans’ game as we laid on the floor exhausted / injured – the last match resulted in no less than two hospitalisations and a few other days off work the following day – we could pace ourselves a bit more.

A good thing too as we had not substitutes (in fact we only had 14 players in total), but we managed to have 3x 20 minute matches on a round robin basis, with a final match made up of those still left standing. In the end our own Red Devils from Manchester / Liverpool managed to claim overall victory having won both their matches, but all of the games were a lot closer than usual, averaging 5-4 scorelines.

As usual I had hoped I would have an element of superior fitness, given the fact I go to the gym 5 times a week and have a half-ironman coming up shortly, but there is something about the impact football places on your joints that meant I still ached for days after. Or perhaps it was more down to the body tackles seen from some of our senior management, who knows!


As I mentioned, the theme this month is things I have done before, so I thought it was worth a few words to brag talk about the training I did out there, which included some sublime scuba diving in nice warm water (making a change from freezing UK quarries), slightly misguided attempts at tennis, relaxing yoga next to the beach and some aqua aerobics surrounded by Canadians in the sea. I won’t say any more here, just a few photos.


Cuba Tennis 16Cuba YogaCuba Beach Training

Les Mills Launches

Ahh, a new quarter, a new set of Les Mills releases: Body Combat 67, Body Pump 97, Body Attack 92 & RPM 70. This time around we had a bit of a head start as these were tracks we had already tried out at the Live event in London a few months ago, and given we were hitting Launch weekend less than 24 hours after returning from Cuba it was probably for the best!

To be honest it is such a blur I can’t actually remember what order we did the launches in, nor much about them at the time, other than the theme (there is always a theme on launch weekends) was ‘Pink & Pigtails’, sadly neither of which I owned anything appropriate to wear. Having spent the last month doing these releases I feel I know them a bit better so am able to pass at least a brief judgement as follows:

Combat – Not a million miles away from the last few releases, with some of the more recent themes such as floor work and HIIT training featuring again. Whilst none of the music is quite as cheesy / awesome as the Black Pearl track last time, there is a pretty cool remix of ‘Fight for your Right’ , a proper 90’s classic in ‘Set You Free’ and following on from Firestarter a few years ago, we now have the Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’ as a Muay Thai track.

body combat 67

Pump – After years of cardio training I am starting to like pump more and more, and it is easy to see how people get hooked on the endorphin rush you get from so much lifting. That said, this is a killer release, and I am fairly sure the ‘How Deep is your Love’ leg track has only been put in so instructors can yell ‘How Deep is your Squat’ as your thighs start to buckle after a seemingly never-ending set of reps.Our coach claims Les Mills always do this for Q2 to make sure you can get your ass in shape for the summer! Interestingly I managed to obtain the below chart which someone has agonisingly (metaphorically and probably literally) put together on how the number of reps seem to increase with each Body Pump release, now averaging well over 1000 per class. Ouch…

Body Pump Reps

Attack – Kicking off with the same ‘How Deep is your Love’ as Pump, and some more old school with ‘Rhythm of the Night’, this is another pretty decent release. As with Combat, I am not yet convinced I like the music quite as much as the last release, but still not one to complain about.

RPM – Arriving back I discovered a massive change in my gym’s cycle studio, with a brand new projection screen and sound system. It turns out they are going to be offering virtual cycling sessions in the future, as well as third party classes such as Sufferfest – but more on these in a future blog. As for the new release – taught (for now at least) by a human – things start well, with ‘I Don’t Like It, I Love It’ and finish strongly with a couple of great tracks in ‘Zero Gravity’ & ‘Sparks After the Sunset’ but I am not quite as keen on the middle few which are either a bit too heavy or too ‘jungle’ for me!

I think I could sum up my thoughts on all four releases with the same thing: some good tracks and great moves, but overall I am not quite as keen on the music as for the last set of releases, or maybe that is just early nostalgia.

So there you go, another month, another three activities to write about. For those of you who got the joke in the opening thanks for noticing, and until next time, hasta luego.





Maximising The Old Gym Membership

As I have mentioned numerous times, the first few of months in every year can be a nightmare for us regular gym goers, as overnight the average class attendance doubles or even trebles with well-intentioned part timers making their annual appearances. Unfortunately it has been exacerbated this year by the new online booking system my gym in Bromsgrove, which seems to have allowed folks to book onto all manner of sessions the minute they become available and then not bother to turn up, meaning classes I have been going to every week for the last 12 months suddenly tell me they are full, whilst others I have squeezed into often turned out to have loads of spaces on arrival.

maximise membershio

For some reason, this barrage of bookings only seems to have taken place at my particular gym, so as a result the wife & I decided we would take the opportunity to try out the others in our local area. Now there are five David Lloyd gyms around Birmingham , all within about 30 minutes of where we live, and although our membership gives us full access I had only tried out a couple of them before. So following last month’s investigative journalism report, I decided to make it my mission to  explore the others in the first few months of 2016.

jules & vincent

First thing I have to say is that they are all pretty similar. And that is a good thing: DL is one of the top gym brands in the UK and you would hope they are all of a good standard. But the more time I spent in each, the more it reminded me of the conversation between Jules & Vincent in Pulp Fiction when discussing Europe. So just like my gym, they have he same shit over there that we have over here, it is just… the little differences. Example… well here you go:

First on the list to visit was Worcester, a relatively new place which opened a couple of years ago. The location is great for access, straight off the motorway and next to the Warriors rugby club, although a little out the way for me to visit regularly. Now one of the first things I do when using a new gym is check out the equipment on offer, and this inevitably results in one of two feelings – jealousy or superiority. On this basis the fact that Worcester is a few years old now actually work against it, as most of the other clubs have since been through a refurb, so some of their kit now seems a little dated, although it is a great looking gym overall.

old equipment

We got onto a Body Attack class which was taken by one of the instructors we had trained with occasionally back home, and quickly discovered another of the aspects of our place had followed us: the cliques. I suppose all places will have these, and being a regular in Bromsgrove probably means I notice ours more than others, but this had a classic group of ‘regulars’ bunched together at the front, with their own special moves, shouts, in-jokes and so on. Not that this was an issue though as everyone still gets on with the class, but I know that it can be a bit annoying to others in the class when you go regularly.

Next on the list was Solihull. For some time I had been confused, as although I had been there before, when I looked online there seemed to be two addresses provided. I subsequently learned that there are actually two clubs in town, and more confusingly they are pretty much next door to each other!

The first of these, known as Cranmore, is clearly the posher of the two, with a really smart gym area on a sort of mezzanine floor surrounding the pool. You can also tell it is a fancy place by how smart it looks, particularly as there seems cleaners working there than there are members of staff in other places, and as a result the  studio floor seemed to have been polished to within an inch of its life! During our Body Combat class I nearly broke my neck numerous times during the kick tracks, and actually had to change to my reserve trainers the second time we visited to avoid a Bambi on ice situation.


Despite this obviously huge budget, I still had to smile to myself when one of the most common problems at our place arose: the air con. Now this is hugely important in a gym, where you have 20 or 30 people working hard and giving off a lot of heat. It turns out that wherever you go it always seems to either break, or have a remote control more complicated than something you would find at NASA, and as a result the room will be either freezing cold, or hotter than the sun. In one of our classes the other week it got so bad that the mirrors started to gradually fog up, starting in one corner and visibly creeping along the walls like that bit in Jurassic park where the raptors breathe on the glass, giving the impression we were in the steam room, which is ironic as I later found out the actual steam room downstairs was out of order. Now I know why… To be fair, there always seems to be something broken at our gym, be it the audio equipment, microphone, batteries, air con or fan. But being British we don’t get annoyed -in fact much like the weather it is something of an expected conversation and ice breaker.


I mentioned earlier about gym cliques, and had I been carrying my DL bingo card I would have easilly achieved a full house here. All the clichés were present and correct: gangs of hulked up guys hanging out by the mirrors, cheering each other on to grunt out one more rep. Check. Overly made-up girls, walking on the treadmill whilst gossiping on their phones to their mates to tell them how hard they are working out. Check Check. And of course my favourite, the competitive Solihull Dad, pushing his kid (who was around 5 or 6, although I am guessing as all kids look pretty similar at that age) into length after length whilst he prowled the side of the pool. The poor fella was only around 4 feet tall and at points looked like he was barely above the water, but fair play to him as he kept going. Maybe a future Olympian in training?

One way DL seems to like to try and justify our huge membership fees is by having TVs in the changing rooms, which basically show Sky Sports News on a loop. Now this is reasonable enough to give you something distracting whilst changing, but I would add a special message for Cranmore, that it does not make it a place to congregate especially to watch the results, particularly when I am trying to change next to it!

After checking out one of the clubs in town, it seemed only right to try out the other, known as Solihull Fitness, so we booked onto an Attack class one evening. From the outset it is clear this is the poorer relation, as for a start the gym area seemed to be furnished with the cast-offs that were replaced last year in our gym – I wondered where all that Technogym stuff had gone! As a mitigating factor I did notice that they had a Corby trouser press in the changing area, although I am not convinced anyone had ever used it (for any overseas readers, a Corby trouser press is one of our proudest British inventions, which does what it says on the tin). They were also the only place I had been where you could hire (for £50 per year!) your own locker. £50, seriously… just to have the same locker each time?! I have never experienced a shortage at any other gym, but who knows, maybe they had to sell some of theirs to the other place…

enter dragon

The class itself was good fun, although notably the studio was lined on all four sides by mirrors, which was a little distracting. It was probably for the best we were not doing a Combat class as I had all I could think about was the hall of mirrors in Mr Han’s lair from Enter the Dragon, and any minute I was about to be attacked by a dude wearing a claw!

The last place on our list was DL Dudley, which was a bit of a trip into the unknown being on the other side of Birmingham. The only thing I knew about it was from one of our instructors who teaches in both clubs, who loves to use an interesting motivational tactic to spur us on by  regularly telling us we are being quieter than her other class in Dudley, seemingly alluding to some sort of hitherto unspoken ancient rivalry between us and our Black Country cousins, in the belief that will make us shout ‘Kiai’ a bit louder. I assume it works both ways, so if some sort of civil war breaks out between our two towns we will know who to blame… Still, it seems to work, well for me anyway, although as I am often one of the only guys in the class I do feel I have a bit of a duty sometimes!

civil war

The club itself seems to be huge, with loads more facilities including what seemed to be a built in hotel. Funnily enough we did not actually go to a class there, but wanted to visit the shop having had a voucher for Christmas, and it did have a decent range of gym kit (as a regular gym goer you can never have too much merch!). We took the chance to have a wander around afterwards, and it was big inside too, but seemed a bit lifeless. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon there did not seem to be many people there, and it lacked some of the atmosphere of our gym, although saying that, they seemed to be advertising all manner of events on site, from comedy nights to tribute singers, so perhaps the locals don’t venture in until after dark.

So there you go, all five David Lloyd clubs in the my part of the West Midlands visited. Having been a member of mine for nearly 10 years now it has been interesting to see some of the others, as well as quite reassuring that not only is mine one of the smartest, with the best equipment, but all of the niggles and problems that come up are the same everywhere else. Now we are approaching the end of February and booking system seems to have eased off, so I can actually book onto classes without having to plan 10 days in advance each time, I guess I will spend a bit more time closer to home, but it is nice to know there are other options available,  and I am sure it won’t be the last time I visit some of these clubs in the near future.

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!

One Live Manchester

One Live Logo

Towards the end of the Chile Challenge last year I made a fairly major change in my training regime. In the previous few years I had been tended to focus purely on triathlon race training, so lots of  swimming, riding and running, which enjoyable as it was, tended to be very much a solo activity. I would go for long-ish runs with only myself and some music for company, and whilst it undoubtedly helped my training (particularly getting me through two half-Iron distance races) it could at times be lonely.

This all changed about halfway through a particularly tough 4 hour indoor bike session at my gym last winter, where from my bike I could see a class going on in the spin studio which looked like fun. Long story short I gave it a go, and it turned out to be a Les Mills RPM class. Even longer story short, and I have now become somewhat obsessed with these classes, and the extra motivation you get having both a coach and other people to train with, a different range of inspirational music, and the variety of training you get from sprints, endurance races, hill climbs and everything else that comes from the class.

I would add that this wasn’t the first Les Mills class I had done as for some years before I had gone to the odd Body Combat class, but only on-off and never that seriously. This all changed very quickly though, as my wife & I decided to start trying some of the other classes on offer at our gym, and ever since most of our evenings this year have featured either Body Combat, Attack, Step, Balance, RPM, Grit or just about any other class we can get to – averaging around 5 different ones each week.

But just like triathlons, it was not long before we decided we wanted to take our obsession further, and during one class we were told about the ‘One Live’ events. Now just to explain, Les Mills are a New Zealand based company who organise a range of different exercise classes, and are probably the leading brand in the fitness market (a bit like Ironman in triathlon). Their One Live events are held all around the world, and on a quarterly basis in the UK when each new round of classes is launched. I guess they probably started purely for instructors, as a way of teaching them the new releases, but they seem to have grown, and now anyone can come along and try a range of the different classes on offer.

Hotel BeforeOne Live Front 2

Our event was in Manchester a few weeks ago, and having driven up the night before (to a particularly over-priced Travelodge) we found ourselves at the Convention Centre just after 8am. We really were not sure what to expect, but having been used to classes of around 20-30 this was something else, as this had some 3000 of the fittest people in the country in attendance! It was necessary to book our classes in advance so they could manage demand and space, and they had a fairly organised colour-coded wristband system to look after things.


My first class was RPM (of course!) whilst Ange had a go at Body Balance. It was the first time I had ridden with so many people, at least 200 riders in the room, and it was an amazing experience. I was pleased to see my training was paying off, as although it is not a competitive session, I felt I was giving it a decent shift, and riding faster and harder than many in the room. It was hot though, as in really hot! I am not sure if the air-con was on the blink or just could not cope, but it was like training in a sauna, and by the time we staggered out it looked like we had been open water swimming… perhaps not the best way to start a long day, but fun all the same.


The next few sessions were a bit different, as part of the reason for the day is to try new classes, and particularly those not on offer in our own gym. We decided to try three new ones – Bodyvive, Body Jam and Sh’bam. The first was a kind of circuit training class for the first half, before we switched to using a ‘smart band’, an item significantly less hi-tech than it sounded, basically a resistance band with handles. Still, it was a great class and well taught, particularly with around 500 people in the hall this time, so hopefully we will be able to have another go in future.

The other two were much more similar, and basically turned out to be a sort of street dance class. Now I am more than happy on a 50 mile bike ride, but I am really not sure I was designed for these! The instructors were obviously amazing at it, although as much as we tried to copy them it seemed many of the audience were in the same boat as me, and at times it felt more like we were watching some sort of Britain’s Got Talent show than actually able to take part! Still, I guess it is the sort of thing you get better at and it was good fun, but probably not one to replace racing next year.

By this time we were more than halfway through the day, so after a bit of lunch we decided we still had some energy left and managed to squeeze into an extra Grit class which still had some spaces left. Now the aim of Grit is basically to do a 60 minute class in 30 minutes, so they are really intense, and with the top instructors in the country (or even world) this was really tough, and we were hardly able to stand by the end. Indeed, a fair few had not made it and were basically collapsed around the edges with exhaustion!

So with five classes down, we just had one left – our old favourite Body Combat. This was the last class of the day, starting after 5pm and in the biggest hall with well over 500 people in there. Fortunately it was also fantastic, with a brand new release of music and moves (which will not hit the rest of the UK until next year) and we smashed it, getting all the way through to the end in one piece and on a massive high.

So ten hours after arriving we were finally there, survivors of an amazing One Live Manchester, and already looking at when the next one is going to be!