This year’s hot new fitness trends seem familiar: boxing, rowing and Lagree fitness, which looks suspiciously like pilates. We can do that, we thought, and signed up for the (so-called) beginners’ classes. But enthusiasm can take you only so far…
‘My legs are burning’
Daniela Elser tried the latest rowing-inspired workout
“I had not been to the gym for five weeks when I fronted up to an early morning session at Crew, a boutique rowing studio in Sydney’s CBD. In that time I had managed to eat, drink and do my darndest to be merry, a plan that did not involve any strenuous lifting (champagne cases notwithstanding) or getting my heartrate up (see the aforementioned champagne delivery).
However, it’s a new year and time to get stuck back in, and rowing classes are one of the hottest workouts in the US. And if it’s good enough for Los Angeles’ and New York’s cadre of wellness devotees, then I’m sold.
These are the nuts and bolts: This is a 45-minute fitness class that combines HIIT and light weights. Throughout, you make quick transitions from the rower to the mat next to it, meaning you are getting a full-body workout.
Going in, I feel nervous, especially when I realise I’m the only participant who isn’t a regular. But Mike the owner greets me by name, and throughout the class, he regularly checks in with me to make sure I am OK.
Rowing classes are one of the hottest workouts in the US
I’ve opted for a beginner’s class called Crew 101 and we start with some simple stretches and a warm-up before moving on to a 20-minute session, where we row for a set distance before jumping off the machine for strength-training and then back onto the rower. Within five minutes I am dripping with sweat and regretting every lazy sleep-in.
Next up, a short stint of ab work using the rower before a final, hardcore burst of high-intensity cardio in the form of rowing sprints interspersed with mountain climbs.
By the end I am exhausted, and my legs are burning, which is deeply satisfying.
Crew clearly offers a very effective workout if the honed bodies around me (many clad in the studio’s chic merchandise) are anything to go by. But what really made this experience stand out for me was the class size and attentiveness. Unlike other so-hot-right-now classes where there are dozens of participants squeezed into a pitch-black space and left to fend for themselves, the Crew experience is far more welcoming and supportive.
Will I be back? Absolutely. Once I can stand up again.”
Crew is in Sydney’s CBD and casual classes are $30
‘Even the leather boxing gloves are a crisp, chic white’
Boxing novice Anna Saunders took a ‘Queen B’ boxing class
“If there’s one workout that’s never appealed to me, it’s boxing. This is partly because my arms have the muscle tone of limp spaghetti and partly because boxing gyms have always conjured up images of buff, unfriendly men and Stepford-Wife types punching out their aggression on sweaty equipment.
But with a raft of buzzy new studios opening up around Australia – and fitness platform MindBody revealing that boxing classes remain one of the country’s favourite workouts – it seemed time to give it a go.
Having opened just six months ago, Hustle Boxing is one of the sleekest and newest boxing studios around. It bills itself as a game-changing “next-generation” workout, blending technical boxing skills, body conditioning and HIIT training.
It also describes itself a “luxury” boxing studio, which may or may not be the reason I chose it.
From the moment I walk in the door, I realise that my concerns about boxing were misplaced. My class is 90 per cent women and the entire place is pristine. (Even the leather boxing gloves are a crisp, chic white.)
At Hustle, all the workouts are named after famous ‘hustlers’, from Lima (named after Victoria’s Secret model and mother Adriana Lima) to Jagger (after Mick Jagger). I go for the ‘Queen B’ class modelled on the ‘fierce attitude’ of Beyonce herself, and just a few minutes into the warm-up I’m already sweating.
There’s no time to worry, though, as it’s straight into a series of resistance exercises, using weights and sliders. Next we head to the ‘aqua bags’ (like normal boxing bags but filled with water) and punch out a series of high-intensity rounds. The trainer, Samir, is incredibly helpful, walking around the class offering tips and encouragement, and to my surprise I discover that I truly enjoy the boxing exercises (spaghetti arms notwithstanding). When Samir announces the session is over – after a couple more rounds on the floor and at the bags – I’m genuinely shocked.
As someone who typically counts the minutes until the end of a class, I could hardly believe we’d been exercising for an hour. As I left, my legs and arms already jelly-like, I was handed a cold, lavender-scented flannel and took a peek at the changing facilities, which are indeed luxurious. A satisfying workout and VIP service – what’s not to like?”
Anna visited Hustle Boxing in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, where three classes cost $75 and a membership is $70 per week
‘The moves are varied but the pain is constant’
Felicity Robinson tried K-Kore by Lagree Fitness
“If my muscles start to shake in, say, a yoga or pilates class, I see it as a sign I should ease back a little. No one wants to be the wobbling mess in a room full of elegant vinyasas.
But in K-Kore’s Lagree fitness classes, the aim is to test your muscles to their tremble point. There’s even a name for it: ‘The Lagree shakes.’
Fifteen minutes into the workout, I get my first taste of them when the muscles in my arms start to spasm involuntarily. I look up, horrified, but Tracey, our trainer, seems pleased. “Shaking is good,” she shouts enthusiastically. I nod at her. Repeatedly. With my entire body.
Lagree is best described as an extreme form of pilates (although its founder, LA trainer Sebastien Lagree says it’s more like bodybuilding), conducted on “megaformer” beds that use springs and pulleys to provide resistance. Apparently, Meghan Markle, Kim Kardashian West and Michelle Obama all love it (I really hope they attend the same class).
The aim is to combine cardio, core, muscle endurance and toning in one 45-minute session. You complete a series of muscle-stretching moves slowly and deliberately, and switch rapidly between moves to elevate your heart rate.
So, one minute I’m in a standing lunge position on the bed, rising up and down while slowly pushing the platform with my back leg; the next I’m doing a cross between a push-up and a plank. The moves are varied but the pain is constant. There are no rest breaks. “We are here to work,” explains Tracey, who is calm and encouraging, but also firm.
I concentrate so hard on keeping up that the class passes surprisingly quickly. Emerge from the darkness of the black-walled studio to the sunshine outside, I can already tell I won’t be able to sit down without wincing for the next three days. But I also feel invigorated. This feels like a workout that will really… work.
A few days later and I can finally walk down stairs without clinging to the bannister. I’ve yet to summon the courage for my next class, but I’m stubborn and quite vain, and I noted the beautifully toned legs of the other women in the studio. In other words, I’ll be back.”
Felicity visited K-Kore’s Port Melbourne studio; casual classes are $36 and a five-class pack is $160
Main image credit: Jarrad Seng