By Emma Gray
As Melbournians we love an active lifestyle – cue brunches in sports wear. We are spoilt with choice. From Yoga, to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), from Pilates to Boxing, the options are overwhelming. Instead of trying something it’s much easier to sit home and watch The Bachelor (come on, someone had to say it). To help you narrow down the choice I tried them all so you don’t have to.
I gave matwork and reformer (those pulley, spring and carriage machines) a go, skipping clinical pilates as it’s more focused on rehab rather than general fitness.
- Great for beginners – Pilates is an excellent choice for people who are just starting to get into exercise. You don’t need to worry about running, puffing and getting hot and sweaty. Once you get the hang of controlling your movements (centre on, ribs in, shoulders relaxed, strong back… don’t forget to breath) it’s a great strengthening workout.
- Targets the stabilising muscles and can be modified for injury – I’ve never been so sore after moving so little, and that’s because of small controlled movements. If you are carrying an injury but want to keep moving, Pilates is for you. The movements are excellent for posture but also help in increasing movement efficiency for other activities like swimming, running, or boxing.
- Lack of Cardiovascular fitness – I found it difficult to get my heart rate up as there’s a lot to think about and I’d rather perfect my technique than move fast. As a general rule with Pilates: the slower you move, the faster you get results.
- Cost – this is a big downfall for a lot of my patients considering Pilates, and fair enough. I recommend having a few one-on-one sessions to begin with before moving into a group setting which should be cheaper. Once you have the hang of it you can self-correct your technique.
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING/FUNCTIONAL CIRCUITS/F45
This is my most enjoyable training. I always try and include a couple of these each week – get moving, get sweaty!
- Variation – too much of anything isn’t good for our body. Most HIIT classes will consist of a combination of cardio, strength and body weight, meaning we don’t over do it in one area. With varying daily workouts, boredom seldom occurs.
- Social – I find HIIT is the best training to interact with others, you’re all working hard together, and pretty much focusing on not dying. When you have a few people who attend the same timeslot you might help each other with the motivation to get up and go and push each other to new limits. Oh, and who knows you might find a new bestie to have a much needed caffeine hit (*pun*) afterwards.
- Programming – I have tried lots of HIIT studios and the key to a good one is a workout that is challenging enough to achieve results, but not so crazy that it increases the chance of injury. It’s important for the studio trainers to trial the workouts themselves so they know it works and what doesn’t.
- Technique-savvy trainers (isn’t this a good thing?) – this obviously goes for all training but especially for HIIT. With a wide variety of techniques comes more to learn. The trainers need to make sure your technique is 100% correct before you increase the intensity of your workout. If something doesn’t feel right or you don’t feel like the trainer has either corrected you, or given you an alternative exercise then maybe that studio isn’t for you.
I got into boxing after doing some pad work among circuit classes and really enjoying it. So, I went looking for training that had more of a focus on boxing.
- Intensity – There is immense satisfaction in hitting stuff for exercise, whether you’ve had a good or bad day, I find it mindful and a great destresser. It’s such high intensity that you fatigue quickly. However, for some reason I find it easier to keep punching even when my arms feel like lead and I’m struggling to breathe.
- Upper body strength – for females, we have a much lower percentage of muscle mass than males, and my upper body is definitely where I notice it the most. Going into the gym and doing weights for strengthening doesn’t have a huge appeal to me but boxing gives me the rare combination workout of cardio and upper body strengthening – win/win!
- Injury – if you have a shoulder/neck/back/hip injury, boxing can be a difficult to modify due to its fast pace and high impac
t. If you have an injury, another form of exercise where you can manage yourself back to health will be best.
- Studio – like anywhere the vibe/philosophy of the studio matters most, but I found this is more so for boxing. Places that offer other forms of group fitness may have more of a “boxercise” style, which is great, but some more “pure” boxing studios are very testosterone charged – so find a friend and try a few places until you find what’s suitable.
It took a while for me to give Yoga a shot. I’ve never been overly interested in meditation and when I started exercising I liked bang for buck, and surely stretching for an hour wasn’t going to keep me fit and healthy, right?
- Mobility and strength combined – Yoga is the best exercise modality that increases movement, and that doesn’t mean just stretching. Yoga flows are designed to move our body into planes of motion that we don’t move into on a daily basis, leaving you with increased mobility. Majority of positional holds and flows are very challenging, particularly in the upper body, and this gives us that mobility and strength combination our body craves.
- Mindfulness – like I said, I’m not overly into meditation but I have grown to love the calm mind I leave each class with; making it an excellent choice for busy minds.
- Vibe is everything – if there’s something about the studio you don’t like (the teacher’s voice, the music, the temperature, the atmosphere) you will not get full benefit from your practice. So, don’t jump to the conclusion that you hate yoga altogether, just try somewhere else or a different style.
- Doesn’t cover majority of fitness types – even though some of the stronger power flow classes get you hot, sweaty and sore in the muscles I still feel I need a good cardio/HIIT session somewhere in my week.
DO AT HOME PROGRAMS (KAYLA ITSINES BBG, SAM WOOD 28DAY)
I had to try them of course because I followed Kayla on Instagram and watched Bachie. Both are different but really great. Sam’s is easier initially, has a video giving you technique cues and motivation, while some of Kayla’s exercises are quite advanced.
- Accessibility – These are great for our busy schedules. Both are about 30 minutes (including warmup and cooldown) that are challenging but achievable. No longer can you use the gym class schedule as an excuse to skip exercise – thank you, Internet.
- Cost – group fitness can be an expensive hobby (it certainly has been for me) so this is definitely a perk of home programs. If you have strong discipline you can achieve equally as awesome results as you would from attending an expensive “12 week body transformation” program in a gym environment.
- Motivation – I find booking a class in advance means I’ve committed to attending, reducing the opportunity to hit snooze. And I tend to work harder and have more fun in a group environment. When you can do these workouts anywhere and anytime it can be easy to think “I’ll just do it later today” which turns into never and watching re-runs of Suits instead (also an excellent option).
- Technique – as an Osteopath, on a daily basis I see the outcomes of poor technique. Whether you’re starting out or a seasoned gym junkie, it’s crucial to have a trainer on hand to give you adjustments.
There are many more classes on offer that I’m yet to try (namecheck aerial yoga, pole divas, bey-dancing are all on my list). But in the meantime, let’s remember that the key is to do something, anything to move your body – any movement is better than none at all. Who knows, it might be the most unexpected workout which you enjoy the most and stick to. What else did we learn? I spend way too much money on exercise. But I figure, there are far worse things I could spend it on.