The boutique fitness boom reaches Berks
Lost your fitness mojo? Slip into your Lycra, were off to try boutique gym The Movement Barn. No intimidating machines, just small, friendly classes who tolerate my wheezing.
All hail the rise of the boutique gym. Boutique fitness is booming – combining different types of exercise in a stylish space. No rows of intimidating, boring machinery, but laser focussed on quality coaching and community. London’s been enjoying boutique gym scene for some time, now Berkshire’s joined the movement. The Movement Barn in Theale (next door to Cobbs Farm Shop), runs from a converted barn and shakes off the soulless vibes of big gyms where you need a degree in computer science to work the high-tech machines.
Owned by Harry Halls, The Movement Barn flung open its doors in April this year offering classes that reflected three core values – Build, Breathe and Move. Each element is coloured coded against each class. Build (dark blue) – improves strength. Breathe (mid blue) – improves fitness. Move (light blue) – improves mobility. So expect a combination of yoga, pilates, HIIT and lift training.
Aside from the fact the place looks like the home gym you’d love to create yourself if a) you were motivated to use it; b) you wanted to sacrifice a room to your own blood, sweat and tears and c) a holiday to the Maldives wasn’t higher on your list of priorities.
What I love is the simplicity of the place. It’s not try hard. The equipment is relatively simple (by gym standards) and there’s an open central area. It’s also really friendly and welcoming. In my class of six for Move & Breathe there were the super-fit, keep fit and me. No judgement, shame or comparison – we’re all on the same journey it’s just some set off a lot earlier. The sessions are one hour. You have a coach, in my case Harry himself, and the sessions are varied. No risk of boredom here.
The small classes feel more like group PT sessions to be honest, so the £20 per hour-long class is reasonable priced. That said, your first class is totally free – so there’s no excuse to give it a go. If you like what you see, you can then purchase a class pass and the price per hour keeps coming down the more you commit to. Class passes start at £62 for four (90 days to use) to £80 per month unlimited.
The Move & Breath class comes under the ‘Breathe’ category – it’s not all lying down and stretching. Expect to get sweaty, de-stress and feel great. This class is a good all-round conditioning. Burn those calories and run for the last bottle of Whispering Angel without wheezing.
The first 20 minutes of the class are aimed at waking up your muscles. A large Americano won’t do it apparently. Harry uses pilates principles to do this deep stretching, breathing and the use of those bumpy rollers to wake up your bottom.
The ‘Move’ element is a circuits style training, using the air bike, ski machine, TRX, weights and your body. There are three stations, you spend six minutes at each one and the aim is to complete as many rounds of the two or three exercises. For instance, 10 squats, 15 pull ups on the TRX and press ups on a bar. You keep going until the time is up.
Then move onto the next zone. Jump on the bike and pedal and pull until your have burned seven calories. It is absolutely shocking how much effort you have to put in to burn seven iddy diddy calories. So, no a post workout doughnut does not appear to be an option. Touch the floor with a weight and lift it your head, plus drop to the floor and frog leap back to standing. Beep, beep, beep… and we’re on the move again.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
It’s fun, it’s different and you’ll work every muscle in your bod (even ones you lost during your teen years). I’ve got the be honest, I thought I was going to throw up at the end, but also a tiny bit smug that I done a good workout. That said, I was camping that weekend and there was a morning I woke up that I didn’t have to crawl out of my tent on my hands and knees. Man, I ached. But it’s that killer combo of fast moving, high-impact moves with stretching and flexibility work that’ll get results The goal is to fit into the 80% of pre lockdown wardrobe. What is required is variety, consistency and different intensities – and you’ll get that The Movement Barn.
I can honestly say that you don’t feel like a fitness fish out of water – old, young, elite sports people and couch potatoes workout side by side. Our group included very fitness levels – and Harry easily catered to each of us tailoring exercises to suit all involved. It feels really personalised.
Good for? Anyone who wants to mix up their fitness regime, have fun and get results. This is a friendly, stylish gym for all abilities. The fact there’s a very good café at Cobbs Farm Shop, where the cake is as good as the coffee, is just a bonus.
Not for? If you’re love a machine-based workout. There are no whizzy treadmills, rowing machines and steppers here. But who needs it when you have quality coaching and the essential equipment to get the job done.
Fancy having a nose? Pop along to The Movement Barn’s Open Day on 18 Sep – there are six free 30-minute classes for you to try, free coffee and smoothies, plus the chance to win 12 class passes.