Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Working It: Les Mills Live, Stockholm

My friend M is a Les Mills instructor and my gym membership usage is the one element of my woeful budgeting that I don't feel bad about so when she suggested going to the annual Nordic meet-up I was in.

Body Combat in full swing.
A quick explainer - Les Mills is the brand behind Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Balance, RPM and more... probably half of the classes at your gym is devised by Les Mills or are heavily "inspired" by their workouts. Les Mills instructors are trained in the same way and people all over the world are working out to the same tracks and doing the same moves in the quarterly "releases" that keep the work outs fresh and interesting. It's a pretty amazing business model originating in New Zealand where they're a household name. Les Mills Live tours the globe and its a chance for instructors and fitness fanatics to immerse themselves in their classes, either by trying something completely different or experiencing their regular 7am Thursday gym class in the arena where Lady Gaga has performed with 500 other participants. I loved the opportunity to try out new classes - here's what I thought:

The celebrity-esque Body Attack instructors.
 Body Attack - the first class of the day and a slight test to my left and right awareness but this was a super fun, fast-paced aerobics class. I loved the soundtrack and the instructors' enthusiasm was infectious. The hour sped by and I managed to not trip over anyone while getting my left and right mixed up. Cardio can be dull but this class made it fun and while challenging, the moves can be adapted to your current fitness level, there are no weights or equipment and after a few classes to get used to the moves you'll feel like a pro.

Body Pump - weights are a bit of a fear for me as I'm convinced that I have no upper body strength but as one of my new year goals is to do a handstand its time for me to face my fears; getting stronger will help my other fitness goals and y'know, I might find it easier lugging my suitcase around the world. Body pump is great for weights newbies and seasoned lifters alike. The class focuses on high reps with low weights, with one body part being worked per track. It turns out that my legs are quite strong after years of running but, yes, my arms are woefully feeble and my biceps practically non-existent. While I'm not yet ready for the weights room at the gym, pump definitely makes weights seem accessible and less scary than I imagined. Sign me up!

Body Balance - a class which I love already, balance incorporates elements of tai chi, yoga and Pilates with an upbeat soundtrack. Options are given for all levels and this class is a favourite of my mother's too as the music and the mixing of styles make it more accessible than a traditional yoga class which may be a bit too serious or spiritual for non devotees (although what the original yoga gurus would make of this modern mix-up I'm not so sure!). This was a much-needed stretch after the first two classes and doing a sun salutation in an arena with 500-ish people was pretty amazing. The instructor who led the last section of the class had such a relaxing voice and presence that I almost fell asleep on the floor of the arena.

Sprint - a spin-inspired class which I took because it was "only 30 minutes" but oh goodness, what a 30 minutes they were! As the name suggests, Sprint is a speedy, hardcore spin class which is perfect if you're time challenged or want to incorporate it as part of a longer gym session. Expect to push yourself hard and get serious sweaty but for it to be over quickly!

If you didn't get an Instagam picture by this sign, were you even there?
Aside from when I ran the marathon I don't think I've ever done so much exercise in one day. The atmosphere was incredible, like a combination of a festival (minus the booze and mud) and a religious cult as the star instructors were treated like celebrities and almost all of the attendees arrived in Les Mills emblazoned kit (or at least bright Lycra). After years of running solo, the buzz of working out with others is still quite new to me but nothing beats the feeling at the end of a class when you've worked out hard and can give a sweaty high-five to a stranger!

Tickets were around £90 and that included a Friday evening workout, five Saturday classes and lunch - when single classes can be £25 in London that's pretty good value. Details for next year are here.


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