7 DAYS OF FITNESS - A TRIAL
Nothing kills my exercise motivation faster than not having a go-to place. I've been buying classes via Classpass, the subscription that supposedly enables me to go to “hundreds of studios”, but after a couple of visits to the same place the price skyrockets to a stupid level. So I'm looking into getting a membership in the studio I like the most.
I chanced upon a 7 day unlimited trial that Blok was having, and went for it. Because I like their facilities, and they were a strong contender. So this was a good chance to keep up my exercise regime, and try something new. I decided to test a variety of classes, document it, and tell you a bit more about what makes a good class, and how I rate it.
I didn't plan to start my trial today, but I'm here, and I might aswell. I spontaneously book into Pilates at 13:30. Lunch time is not my favourite time to exercise, but is often the time I get after I do all the things that just can't wait in the morning.
I'm eager to try this class because I'm desperately looking for more (good) mat Pilates classes. Essentially, intense but not explosive workouts, that are challenging on the muscles but not aggressive on the joints.
As it turns out: This is not it.
Dionne teaches a classic Pilates routine, taken straight out of the Brooke Siler book. I can't blame her because this is the book I learnt from back in the day, and it’s what I do at home when I need something gentle. But it's not enough in a studio setting, at 17£ per hour.
It is slow paced, and halfway through I feel a bit like I am doing elder's fitness. The instruction is accurate but uninspired, it doesn't teach a beginner how to work with their body, and it doesn't motivate an advanced practitioner. This would be a fine class to take if you have done Pilates for many years, but you are in rehabilitation or need an off-day. All in all it’s a bit disappointing, I feel like this could be labeled “textbook pilates”.
I don't go to Blok Today. I pencil down Barre in my diary at 17:30, but I'm forced to be on call for something in the morning, and by the time the afternoon comes I am feeling like shit. Truth is I went out last night, came back at 7 and have not slept. I'm useless at taking naps which means I try to be productive (I went to run errands and I ended up finding some new leggings, see below) and eventually mop around the house watching Ellen until it's actually time to go to bed. By 10pm I feel more perky. I listen to a brilliant lecture by professor Bruce Lipton while I do Yoga in the living room at my own pace.
Today I've done Power Yoga at 17:45. I thought about coming to another class beforehand, something a bit more fitness-like because I need a kick in the ass after yesterday’s bumming around, but I have been swamped with obligations, and I wasn't sure how strong this class would be anyway, being Power Yoga and all. If it's anything like Fierce Grace, it's gonna be enough.
It turns out, this is a standard Yoga class, like a good Vinyasa. It's well taught, and it's the kind of class I'd be up for doing when I don't want anything too hardcore, or when I've done Reformer the day before. It's not too much, and by the end of it, although I feel great, I feel like this has not been a "Power Yoga" kind of routine.
The only thing that lets this class down is the title, as the teacher is great, and the room is not cramped like it often is at Triyoga or Frame. I’ll be returning, with all this in mind.
Today I did Calisthenics at 10am. I was actually so looking forward to this class that I woke up all by myself at 8am.
I had the impression (hope) that Calisthenics would be something like an evolution of Pilates, kind of what US celebrity trainers are doing, kind of what Mr.Lagree started to do, but without the machinery. I don't know where I got this hypothesis from, because although that is something that I am looking for, that is not what calisthenics is, at all.
Calisthenics is basically straight-forward, “military-style” fitness. They call it "advanced pulling, pressing, lunging, twisting and bending body weight movements" in the description which I think makes it sounds far more sophisticated than it is. If you followed Russell's Skinny Bitch Collective on Instagram ahead of the trend, it reminds me of that. Circuits of pull ups, pressups, burpees...the classics. A few sets of reps. Contact moves.
There isn't a great amount of explanation, or control, or instructions in comparison to something like Pilates. Having been prone to injuries, I'm not sure this is something that I'd particularly choose to be doing, it's quite explosive.
That said- I enjoyed it and have no regrets. Because Caleb is a phenomenal teacher, the pace was perfect, the moves build strength very quickly and it was an elegantly sequenced class. I was surprised I am able to do pull ups, but he also offered alternatives and had absolutely no problem when I adapted a move or skipped something. It's good to test yourself every once in a while, if you know your limits. Cardio is something I never get from my usual mat/machine based exercises, and I miss it. It makes you euphoric.
Today I did Pilates. This was the safe bet: I've already been to classes with Jay and I know exactly what to expect. The time is perfect for me (2pm, urgent work stuff sorted) and my craving for Pilates is at full force.
This is a consistent class that I know how to deal with. The routine is always methodic, with good explanation and instruction. He likes using resistance bands which I’m usually not keen on, but with guidance, every now and then, I can get on board with it. Jay is awesome as a person, always really pumped up, friendly and passionate about the moves. That in itself is a huge value and makes for a great 60min.
Today I went into the studio very excited to be doing Barre. I have been wanting to try Barre for the longest time, I always want to do it, and then I always change my mind at the last minute and book Pilates. I imagine Barre to be like my Ballet Beautiful routine that I follow on videos. And since the whole purpose of this exercise is to trial the classes, I book.
It becomes clear at the warm up stage that this is nothing like Ballet Beautiful- there is cardio here, of the kind that I am completely unfamiliar with. Yes, we stand in the same spot, but we are doing reps pretty fast, and we are going up and down a lot, in bouncy movements. I generally try to avoid any bouncing on my joints but once again, I deem it appropriate to participate to the best of my ability. I really enjoy it, I love the simple aerobic moves, and I like the choreography aspect: we are all moving at the same time, we look like some retro tv program from the future. If Jane Fonda was doing exercise videos today in her fuchsia belt and blue maillot, I imagine this is what she'd be doing.
The teacher Nicole is exceptionally friendly and motivating, really one of the best I've had: She gives clear direction and manages to do all the exercises with us. She leaves just the right amount of time between one exercise and the next: I catch my breath, but my mind doesn’t wander.
Some bits are a little hard on my knees, like all the squatting at the end, and I don't know if doing this frequently is safe on your joints. But I enjoyed it, and I will repeat.
It's a grey Sunday and I'm disappointed with myself for not having tried more classes this week, so I decide to stick around and stay for Yin Yoga, starting in 30 minutes. I grab a bottle of Kombucha and make my way to the cafe.
Yin Yoga is lovely, and for the first time, it doesn't completely unnerve me. Because I already feel like I've done my day's workout, I am relaxed so laying down in static poses doesn't feel like a waste of time. This is the trick with Yin, and this is why I would like to have an unlimited membership somewhere. Because I would never travel specifically for this class, but I would love to have the option to pop in and do it when I need a break, or do it after my workout. Stretches and cool downs are underrated, and absolutely necessary.
It's the last day of my week-long trial, and as it always happens, I'm getting the hang of coming here now. If I had to come every day, I know how it would fit into my routine.
Today I did Pilates with Corinne, which I have done a few times before and I always enjoy. I think Corinne excels at Mat Pilates. The session comprises pilates moves, performed at a fitness rhythm, dotted around with plenty of breaks and well-instructed stretches. Sometimes the demos are redundant - I prefer teachers to not have to demonstrate each exercise before. It's core-based, meaning my abs do the most of the work here, which is standard for mat Pilates. This is a class that I will keep coming back to.
I flirt with the idea of coming back for a stretching class later, but I don't find any in the schedule today, which is a shame. It would be nice if cool-down classes were placed after workout classes in the schedule.
All in all, I've had a really rewarding experience. I had forgotten how liberating it is to be able to show up at one place and go to a class without having to solve a table of pricing algorhythms first, a la Classpass/Dibs/Move GB. I thought the variety was alright and I've definitely felt it in my body. You feel stronger, and start to recuperate quicker when you alternate your exercises. I'll have a day off and then..I will try to keep it up, and see how I go.
Let me know below if you enjoyed this concept, I like journaling and I love reading others experiences too x
Below: The outfits that I'm wearing are from Lurv and they're phenomenal, I recommend.