Feel good fitness
If you've fallen off the fitness wagon during Lockdown, fear not. Wrestle into your Lycra and head to the best boutique gyms and the coolest classes in Berkshire. Whisper it, it might even be fun.
Gyms, PT sessions and exercise classes are back. If you struggled to maintain your fitness goals during lockdown or started to embrace it for the first time, the one thing we all discovered is that shifting your bum off the sofa and moving more does make you feel better, improves mental wellbeing and, may help you lose a few pounds too. Damn it.
But now we can do more, it’s a good time to look beyond online classes and Couch To 5K (dowloaded by 850,000 during lockdown) and something you’re going to love, from boutique gyms to hula hooping. If it makes you move and fires up your endorphins, it can only be a good thing. Suffering fitness fatigue? Change it up. Here’s our pick of boutique gyms and the coolest classes in the ‘hood.
A boutique gym in a pretty village. Do not be fooled by the location, there’s nothing quaint about Gecko Fitness in Yattendon. When you walk through the doors, you’ll work your butt off. What makes this gym different is the 360 holistic approach, based on scientific evidence. Whether you’re a newbie or an elite athlete, the team will tailor their fitness programme to your ability and goals, with boxing, HIIT, yoga, reformer pilates and PT all in the mix. Plus there’s a rehabilitation and nutrition clinic to supercharge your healthy lifestyle. Online classes will continue to be available too.
If you need a badass cheerleader to get you of bed at 5.30am and into the gym, then Maz is the woman to do it. She’s been kicking wobbly bottoms for seven years at her gym MAZfit in Wokingham and gets results. What makes it different, there’s a real sense of community (and, ahem, accountability). During lockdown she loaned equipment, including spin bikes, to her clients, so they could keep calm and carry on sweating online. There’s plenty of variety too – fat burning, strength and conditioning, stretching, spinning, weights and even an aerial hoop if you have a Cirque du Soleil aspirations. Costs from £35 per month.
Hate the gym because of the lean mean gym bunnies wafting around? Accomplish Fitness in Hungerford is a cool gym in the countryside that is all about community. Founder by Natt Summers has created a fitness ethos is based on the proven and recognised principals of enhanced interval training. Lots of variety here, the classes can be outdoors and there’s nutritional and mindset coaching to keep you on track. You train in small groups, plus the online classes are available so you can train anytime, anywhere. No membership or block booking required.
OK gym bunnies, if you love the following a dedicated programme of cardio and weights, this one is for you. Shred is an intensive workout that burns fat fast and creates muscle definition. Say hello to the guns. But be warned, you’ll feel the pain to get there. The Shredquarters in Reading offers bespoke training and a pick and mix of classes to help you reach your goals. The training is insane, you will be challenged, it will be hard, but Operation Smoking Hot will be well on its way. There are three packages – X3 Sessions, Unlimited and Shred which includes nutrition.
Effort deserves reward, so I reckon a gym session at Cliveden Spa, followed by a steam, swim and cheeky treatment, will have you jumping into your Sweaty Betty gear faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100m. The gym is small but it’s kitted out with state of the art machines and view of the outdoor pool and spa garden. It’s country club levels of luxury. Become a member of the Cliveden Club (from £3,638 per year) and you can access the gym, spa and loads of discounts at the fancy pants Cliveden House Hotel. Plus you get to sweep up that gravel drive like you own the place.
A micro chain of gyms, Fitness Space that hooks up with a coach who drills down your competencies, DNA, health history and best time you can train to create a unique programme that’s uploaded to an app for you to follow. They have state of the art machines, cool classes and Cowshed products in the changing rooms, Various packages available, tailored to how often you’ll visit from day passes to unlimited access. The Ascot gym is owned by Olympic and World Championship finalist athlete Tim Benjamin – so no slacking.
Practically the whole nation’s been running during lockdown. It’s free, gets you out in the fresh air and works up a sweat. But if running around in circles feels a bit pointless, give yourself a reason to run. The GoodGym’s feel-good fitness sessions, combine pavement pounding with helping community projects and the elderly. Lace up your trainers, run, do you bit , then jog back. Polish your fitness halo and enjoy the endorphin/ good deed high. GoodGym has groups in Windsor, Maidenhead and Slough with plans to open one in Reading too.
If you find mat work a bit slooooooow, Reformer Pilates could be the ticket, a machine that looks torturous with its pulls and levers but has an incredible effect on the body. Available at the awesome Balance Pro in Hurley, Cat Fitchett an ex dancer and Team GB high jumper, plus a stunt woman for the likes of Nicole Kidman (cool right?)– offers a bespoke plan of energetic, no-impact stretching and toning workouts that help to lengthen and strengthen your muscles. If you’ve noticed the aches and pains creep in or increased injury, this is a game changer.
Strut like you’re on stage with Beyoncé. Street Dance is the perfect class for want to workout for fitness phobes. Pretend you’re three or four large G&Ts in and dance like no one is watching. For all ages and abilities, the Strictly Street Dance Company in Reading is the place to go. Libby has been doing Zoom routines with her students during lockdown and is now getting the studio ready so you can get your groove on. A brilliant confidence builder, gives you an opportunity to have fun and get fit.
Fitness has just got rock ‘n’ roll, and we like it. POUND is one of this year’s hottest trends and has rock-star flair that’s less embarrassing than playing air guitar and better for you. The class consists of drumming, cardio and strength training. Throw in some yoga and pilates, and it becomes a jam session that will give you the confidence to channel your inner Mick Jagger. Join Jo at Willing Spirit Exercise and while she plays the music, her Pound Posse (that’s you) bring the beat with weighted drumsticks called Ripstix. Bye-bye bingo wings.
Boxing is perfect for a total body workout helping you get fitter, stronger and more kickass. It also improves balance, co-ordination, reactivity and agility. Useful, after a couple of sherbets. Try Go 12 Rounds at Gecko Fitness in Yattendon – a 36-minute high energy boxing circuits class. You spend 2 minutes on each station, learn real boxing skills (watch out Mr Muddy), burn a ton of calories and the every class is different. Prices from £10 per class. Still not convinced? Here’s the knockout blow, the top Victoria Secrets models swear by it – and they don’t look too shabby.
If there’s an exercise fully endorsed by celebs it’s Pilates. Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Mandy Moore, Reece Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz, all swear by it to keep them looking long, lean and strong. If the gym brings you out in hives but you’d like to reacquaint yourself with your core, improve your posture, balance and develop the flexibility of a human pretzel, Sophie Hewitt FLEX Pilates is your gal. Sophie runs group classes in Twyford, Henley and Marlow, plus one to ones, corporate classes and ante and post-natal classes are all available.
Put a spring in your step and try trampolining fitness class. If you’re bored with watching your kids have all the fun, bounce along to Jump IN in Newbury for one of their classes, combining traditional aerobic steps, dynamic sprints and “power sports” elements on trampolines. Apparently, NASA believes it to be the most effective and efficient means of exercise and it’s fun, really fun so excuse me whilst I bound off like Tigger to a class (er, here’s hoping my pelvic floor exercises have worked!).
There are plenty of women out there for whom yoga feels like another competitive sport they don’t want to fail at – have I got the right kit? Am I willowy enough? OMG I can’t even touch my toes! But actually YogaTonic UK is the antidote to this kind of fear, offering friendly weekly classes at their studio, online workouts and workshops. They cater for all abilities, whether you’re an experienced yogi or just getting to grips with a wobbly downward dog and parent and child yoga, with meditation and chocolate making (sweet incentive, love it). Plus the Cookham studio has a terrace so you can take it outside with the weather plays ball. Heavenly.
Don’t mind me, just casually relaxing off my hoop after an exhausting workout. Aerial hoop and fabric classes are not just for circus performers, they are big news in the world of fitness, working on your core strength and amps up your flexibility and balance. So make like Cirque du Soleil and take to the skies. It beats planking any day. Classes are held at Spin City Newbury and KCC Aerial Fitness in Wokingham.
There was a time when the bar we thought about was one that we could happily prop up for hours with a large G&T in hand, but not anymore. Barre workouts (big in London and big cities for a while are popping up all over the place outside the M25) are designed to work the whole body, focussing on core strengthening, static and dynamic movements and active stretching to lengthen muscles. No rhythm, leotards or pirouettes required. It’s a normal class, has a pointed toe in pilates, yoga cardio and HIIT. The barre is used as a prop to help you balance while you focus on the teeny tiny isometric movements. It’s low impact, you get a killer workout, improved posture, weight loss, flexibility and a ballerina style bod. Just add a tutu.
If the idea of a traditional exercise class leaves you cold, then give paddleboarding a go. It’s especially good for strengthening core muscles and upper body, plus it helps to tighten buttocks, thighs and legs. It’s easy to get started (if I can do it, anyone can), gets you out on the water and is something you can do with the girls or as a family. Bray Lake Watersports offers a 2-hour Starter Session for £59. You’ll learn the basics and once completed, you’ll be issued with a Ready to Ride BSUPA certificate, a Bray Lake paddle license and an hour’s free hire. Be warned, you will get wet, you’ll will have a laugh and you probably won’t look like Elle McPherson. But at least we have goals.
Get our leg over a static bike and flogging yourself for 45 minutes in a dark room. The music’s loud, there’s flashing club lighting and you’re required to ride along to the beat of whatever music is playing. Spin is a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout that involves the whole body that, to put it mildly, is knackering, but you will repeat this physical torture week after week. A-listers swear by it. Spin Sanctuary in Windsor and Ascot, Wellington Health and Fitness in Reading, Bradfield Sports Complex and Foundation Fitness in Sandhurst all run classes.
Coming to a lake near you, SUP (stand up paddleboard) yoga is the newest addition to the yoga world. I’ve tried it on holiday once and although it initially seemed an impossible ask to do yoga poses on a moving board, it was actually achievable once you got the hang of it. Great for your core but also for your mind as doing yoga outside and on the water is very contemplative. You can join a class Horseshoe Lake in Sandhurst to give it a try but it can only be a matter of time before it’s widely available.
That’s climbing to you and me! Climbing centres are cropping up across the UK as an alternative to the routine of the gym, not least because it’s a mental as well as a physical challenge. Try Oakwood Climbing Centre in Wokingham which has hundreds of different colour-coded climbs and we’re loving the sound of it! There’s also a good climbing centre in Reading.
Wanna look as hot as Jen Aniston, Jessica Biel and Madonna? Take up hot yoga and you too can perspire profusely in the art of mind and body perfection. Muddy award-winning Inspire Hot Yoga in Maidenhead has a state-of-the-art studio, heated to a perfect 40 degrees. Breath Yoga is the perfect beginners class – slower-paced and less intense – focussing on alignment, linking movement and breathing. It’s excellent for upper body strength, stamina and core strength. Prepare to tune out, tone up and detox.
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