Les Mills Immersive Fitness™ has Launched!

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Les Mills IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ has just launched in the UK, and as a huge fan of Les Mills workout programmes, I was really excited to be one of the first to try it. I headed to the UK’s first IMMERSIVE studio at David Lloyd Rayne's Park for a completely mind-blowing workout.

What is IMMERSIVE FITNESS™?

IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ is a workout concept developed by Les Mills. If you haven’t heard of Les Mills, why not?! They are the creators of globally-successful group fitness classes such as BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™ and RPM™ (a studio cycling workout). Well, RPM™ has now been taken up a notch. 

THE TRIP™ is the name of the 30 minute class that I experienced, fusing RPM™ with the IMMERSIVE concept to complete a truly unique exercise experience.

During the class, the lights are lowered and rich visuals on a screen taking up the entire wall of a purpose built studio transport you through galaxies, space-age cities and across oceans. The virtual reality changes with each workout track, ensuring a variety of hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training. Throughout the whole class, the instructor’s cues are not only synchronised with the music, but the on-screen graphics, which is really motivating and helps to completely immerse you in the ride.

Les Mills Immersive Fitness The Trip David Lloyd
Les Mills Immersive Fitness Cinematic Class David Lloyd
Les Mills Immersive Fitness RPM Video Game

My experience of THE TRIP™

My IMMERSIVE experience was completely sensational. I didn’t think once about the length of the workout, I just kept pushing myself harder and harder and loved every minute of it.

While riding through the space-age city, it felt like I was in a TRON video-game and while climbing up steep glaciers it was like being in a movie. My favourite part of the workout was when, while sprinting laps around the digital velodrome, we were leaning forward into descents and pushing sideways around corners. The combination of these perfectly cued movements with the incredible cinematics, made it feel like I was in a theme park simulator. I even felt my stomach lurch a couple of times; in a good way, of course!

Les Mills Immersive Fitness David Lloyd Class Workout

This workout would be fun for absolutely anyone (so long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief a little) and would also be a great way to introduce children and teenagers to workouts that would otherwise seem daunting. 

I couldn’t stop raving about the class for days after trying it. I’m looking forward to it being rolled out into more clubs nationwide so that I can ride THE TRIP™ again and I’m excited to see where IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ goes next...

Have you manage to squeeze yourself into an IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ class at David Lloyd yet? Let me know what you think to the concept!

Tabata: a session with a master trainer + the science

Tabata Class Richard Scrivener Master Trainer

Recently, I’ve introduced a scientifically-backed exercise protocol to my training sessions: Tabata. Since I had my first sweaty experience of Tabata with Master Trainer Richard Scrivener, I’ve been hooked. 

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is something that I have been a fan of for a long time. However, Tabata follows a unique structure; 20 seconds of exercise at maximum intensity, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. That makes this super-effective drill’s duration just 4 minutes. That’s doable for anyone, right?

Tabata Workout HIIT

The Science of Tabata

What I really love about the Tabata protocol is that it was developed in response to pioneering research conducted by Professor Tabata. His research comparing two experiments is totally fascinating:
Group 1 followed the Tabata protocol, working at 170% of their VO2 max during the 20 second exercise blocks. 
Group 2 worked at a VO2 max of 200% for 30 seconds, but had longer rest periods of 2 minutes, and repeated this for 4-5 rounds.

The Tabata method increased both anaerobic and aerobic fitness.

How is it possible to work out above 100% of your VO2 max?

Your VO2 max (100%) is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during exercise. Working at your VO2 max and below means that you are in the aerobic zone, meaning ‘with oxygen’, and can likely sustain the exercise for a long period of time. Exercising above your VO2 max means that you are in the anaerobic zone, ‘without oxygen’, which can only be sustained for a very short period of time.

Essentially, there’s an inverse relationship between how intensely you can exercise, and how long that exercise can be sustained for. So, if you feel that you could do longer intervals, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. If you decide to try the Tabata method, be sure that you putting everything you have into each of the 20 second bursts. Go all out!

A Tabata Workout

A full Tabata class, like the one that I took with Richard, lasts for 20 minutes. This incorporates a warm up, a few minutes of cardio to start increasing heart rate, a break down of the exercises that will be included in the Tabata, the official 4 minute Tabata workout, some core conditioning, and a cool down.

Tabata Workout Structure

 

Exercises for Tabata

A number of different exercises can be used to form a Tabata from body weight exercises, to treadmill sprints. I also really like to use a spin bike or rowing machine to ensure I get lots of variety in my Tabatas. When you’re selecting exercises to include in a Tabata, be sure to choose explosive movements that will challenge you. Some of my favourites include burpees, mountain climbers and squat jumps. 

My Verdict on Tabata

I’m sold. If I can improve both my aerobic and anaerobic fitness by adding just 4 minutes of HIIT per session, I’m damn well going to do it! I love that I can easily add a blast of cardio onto the end of a weight training session to ensure that I’ve covered all bases during my workout. 

Be warned: it’s brutal. You will sweat, you will be out of breath, and your muscles will fatigue. Don’t expect to end your workout with a Tabata and then be off the gym-floor and in the shower a minute later.

I spend more time recovering from a Tabata than I do completing it, but I push myself hard because I want the best results.

I recommend downloading a Tabata timer app and giving it a go!

Have you tried Tabata? Let me know what your favourite exercises to incorporate are!

Sweaty Betty x Richard Nicoll Collection Launch at Psycle London + Review

**

Following the unveiling of the Sweaty Betty x Richard Nicoll collection at London Fashion Week back in September, I was invited down to Psycle London for a sweaty morning spin with Sweaty Betty before seeing the 9-piece capsule collection for myself.

Sweaty Betty x Richard Nicoll Capsule Collection

My day-to-day outfits reflect my huge love of sports luxe clothing, and I was really excited, and immediately captured, by the Sweaty Betty x Richard Nicoll capsule collection.

As well as looking super elegant, in part due to the soft colour palette, a sporty edginess has been achieved with reflective touches and high performance fabrics and features. Even from a distance, technical and functional aspects of the designs were obvious, from zipped pockets to headphone loops. All of the pieces possess the premium quality that I would expect from the collaboration of such inspiring brands.

The stunningly beautiful pieces are available to buy from February 2015, and I’m especially eager to get my hands on the Muiura tee and the Nui layered tank. 

Psycle London Review

I’d popped into Psycle London on Mortimer Street before but had never had the chance to stop by for one of their bike-based workouts until now. I couldn’t have imaged how much I had been missing out!

From my previous drop in, I knew that the facilities are amazing (even the changing rooms are super sleek-looking and have towels and other essentials provided) and that the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, but now that I’ve had the chance to get a taste of the classes, I can 100% recommend this fitness destination.

**

The Workout

Cleated shoes are worn by everyone in all classes, which increases the connection between the leg and the bike. Along with spending most of the time out of the saddle and in the hover position, the increased connection really helped to get my hamstrings and glutes working more than they have in any other studio cycling class I’ve been to - exactly what I love!

What I didn’t expect though was to get such a shoulder workout from a bike-based class. After variations of handlebar press ups, as well as an upper-body focused track using handheld weights, my arms were pretty sore!

Our instructor, Rhian, was amazing and her enviable physique (including ultra-sculpted arms!) kept me motivated throughout the session. She looked incredible modelling some pieces from the SB x Richard Nicoll collection.

**

The Music

With my exercise background mainly revolving around dance, I love working out to music. While lots of studio cycling classes have music playing, I’ve yet to experience any classes that really use the rhythm in the way that Psycle do. They compose playlists, not just with BPM in mind, but to influence the mood and energy levels of the class, which definitely helps you to forget how hard you’re working!

In fact, the playlists are such an iconic part of the workouts at Psycle that some of them have been made available on Spotify.

On their website, Psycle say that:

“with the lights turned down, the music turned up and everyone working together, an energy is created that inspires people to workout to the best of their ability”

- I definitely can’t argue with that! I can't wait to book onto another class.

If you're a Sweaty Betty fan, you might also be excited to know that ‘The 12 Sweaty Days of Christmas’ competition is back for another year as of 1st December. Everyday, on the Sweaty Betty Facebook page, there will be prizes to be won, from spa breaks to SB gear to personal training sessions. Get involved!

Wearing: Dedicate Luxe Vest* - Sweaty Betty, Leggings - Vie Active

**Photo credit: Sweaty Betty/Natalie Watts

Les Mills CXWORX Class

Before today, I had done one CXWORX class before, several months ago - possibly even last year, I can't even remember! Although I wasn't overwhelmed with it first time round, I overheard one of my Body Pump instructors commenting on how toned one of her colleagues was after doing this CXWORX release, so I thought I'd give it a second chance and I'm glad I did!

From the very first track, my abs burned. I don't know if it was because it was a more intense core workout that I anticipated or because I haven't been working this area hard enough lately. Probably the latter, but either way, it was good to feel it working.

CXWORX is a 30-minute workout from Les Mills which focuses on strengthening and toning your core muscles. The workout consists of exercises that isolate, such as crunches, and those that integrate various muscle groups, such as standing balance and hovers/planks. The class comprises of a warm-up, 3 core strength tracks and 2 standing strength tracks using resistance tubing for some parts.

There are roughly 30 core muscles in your body - not just your abs! Core muscles include everything from your obliques to your hip flexors and the muscles in your back and they are incredibly important to train because a weak core can lead to aches, pains and injury. I for one am keen to step up my core workout!

I'm going to try and make CXWORX a more frequent part of my exercise regime. As it's only 30 minutes long, I probably wouldn't venture to the gym for that class alone but I will definitely be doing it in combination with others. This morning, I did CXWORX before my Body Balance class and it was great! It would have felt even better if I hadn't have overslept and missed doing a quick treadmill session beforehand... Missing the run I was looking forward to (who are you and what have you done with Natalie?!) put me in a less than favourable mood for the rest of the day so I definitely won't be letting that happen again!

If you're thinking of doing CXWORX alongside another workout, remember that it is great before cardio but only do it after classes such as Body Pump as it will fatigue the muscles that are essential for stability etc when lifting weights and this could lead to injury. Be safe beauties!

My First Body Balance Class

On Tuesday morning I went to my first Body Balance class. For a while, I have been meaning to add a dedicated stretching/flexibility session into my workout routine and I think I have found the one, first time lucky.

Les Mills Body Balance (called Body Flow in the USA for copyright reasons) is a yoga, pilates and t'ai chi-inspired workout. It is said to:

build flexibility and strength and leaves you feeling centered and calm. Controlled breathing, concentration and a carefully structured series of stretches, moves and poses to music create a holistic workout that brings the body into a state of harmony and balance.

The class comprises of ten different tracks including a T'ai Chi-style warm up (which didn't feel as silly as I thought it would!), yoga sun salutations, a balance track, core workouts (these were challenging) and relaxation/meditation to finish. The full tracklist can be found here on the website. I loved that I could focus on my breathing technique as well.

After the class, I felt really calm and like I had done something really worthwhile for myself. What I liked about the class is that it teaches focus and forced me to concentrate on the present (or I would literally end up on the floor) whereas I usually have about 20 other thoughts going around in my head at a time, planning all of the things I have to do later that day/week/month. I was also much better at it than I thought I'd be (no falling over!) which may be partly because I followed the 'learn the moves' video clips on the website before I went so that I didn't feel too far out of my depth.

I found that the 55 minute class seemed to go really quickly even though I didn't feel as if I was holding poses for very long.

If you think that this class is going to be full of hippies or elderly people (guilty!) I dare you to go and prove yourself wrong. I will definitely be going back as this is exactly what I needed to add to my workout schedule and it's a great stress-reliever!

Body Pump Beginner Tips

I am absolutely loving Body Pump classes right now. Les Mills Body Pump classes use barbells to tone and sculpt your sexy bodies. Expect lots of reps to burn fat, increase strength, improve your general fitness... the list goes on. I could reel off the benefits for hours!

I have been doing Body Pump classes fairly regularly (just once a week generally because I like variety!) for a few months now and I have seen such a difference in my body. I find that my muscles respond pretty well to exercise anyway but I have seen quicker results from a few Body Pump sessions that I have from anything else. Most noticeably, my shoulders (which previously had next to no strength!) have definition and even my Nan commented on how peachy my bum looks! (thanks Nan)

I

wish

 my gym looked like this! (

source

)

Here are my top tips for people thinking of starting Body Pump classes:

+ Start light

The routines demand lots of repetition of moves so start with a light weight. I started with THE lightest weight for my first class to allow myself to become familiar with the movements first. Always ask the instructor for advice and make them aware that you are a newbie.

+ Watch the instructor

Especially for your first few classes, position yourself so that you can see the instructor clearly. To work some of the muscle groups, you will be laying on a bench or on the floor so closer to the front is best. On the Body Pump section of the Les Mills website, you can visit the '

learn the moves

' section to familiarise yourself before class. 

+ Watch yourself

If there are mirrors, use them! You will be able to check that you have adopted the correct stance (such as how far apart your feel should be) and see how well you are executing the movements (such as how low you squat or whether your arms/legs are parallel to the floor in certain movements).

+ Expect DOMS

That ache that you get for the couple of days after a good session is DOMS; Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. As you get used to moving your body in a new way, this will ease up. In the meantime, make sure that you stretch out well and treat yourself to a pampering soak in the tub!

+ Dress comfortably

I would recommend dressing in clothes that are easy to move in. Shorts or leggings are great as they won't hinder the movement in your legs as thick or baggy trackie bottoms can tend to. Supportive trainers are also important, especially in classes where you have any plyometric action!

+ Posture

Keep your core muscles engaged and joints soft; never lock your knees or elbows.

+ Don't be shy

If you are struggling to complete a track with the weights that you have selected, don't be afraid to put them down and either continue to mimic the movement with no weights, or switch to a lower weight. If you don't feel that you have time to switch the weights on your barbell, simply pick up plates and use them on their own. I have done this before and no one will judge you! I honestly feel that this looks like I know what I'm doing/understand my body more than if I had have just stood there struggling!

I love the latest release - Body Pump 85 - especially because the new ab track is amazing! The music is great too, including tracks from Swedish House Mafia, Flo Rida and Muse. Love it!