I prefer gym classes to just mooching from one machine to another – I find that I never push myself hard enough unless there’s someone telling me what to do! And yes, I’m a keen gym-goer, but it’s so easy to stick to the same classes – spinning, aerobics and the odd bit of yoga. So, keen to try something new, I sign up for a week of workouts at Gymbox in Holborn. The chain of super cool London gyms are well-known for their unusual and creative classes – Chav Fighting, Boob Aerobics or Bitch Boxing anyone? Of course, there are more conventional classes on offer too – over 100 every week. However, ready for a challenge, I prepare to tackle Bartendaz…
As I gear up for my first class, I’m not sure exactly what’s in store. Based on the name ‘Bartendaz’, I’m expecting something along the lines of Pilates fused with a bit of ballet. It isn’t… at all. I’m directed to a large frame behind the boxing ring, where a group of muscular types boasting spectacularly defined biceps are performing chin-ups at break-neck speed (thankfully there are also ‘normal’ people like me in the class too). As a beginner, I’m given a thicker bungee, attached to the frame to help lift myself up; with more advanced people using thinner versions or none at all.
As cheery and encouraging as the instructor is, it’s pretty tough going – even with the added support of the bungee, my puny arms just aren’t going to cut it. My body also keeps swinging forward, nearly knocking my partner out. The instructor explains that I need to use my abs to keep my body straight – so it’s not just my arms doing all the work. The chin-ups are mixed with floor work on mats, which involves rigorous press-ups, sit-ups and squats and then it back onto the frame. Luckily the classes are only around 40 minutes long as opposed to the normal hour-long workouts I’m used to, and as we cool down I breathe a long sigh of relief. The instructor waves at me outside the gym as I stagger home. “See you tomorrow!” he shouts, looking significantly happier about the prospect of the next day’s class than I do.
“Argh!” is the first word that comes out of my mouth as I try to get up. Unsurprisingly, everywhere aches and simple tasks, such as getting dressed, and later sitting down at my desk are pure agony. With every movement I go “oomph!” like someone three times my age, and with raised eyebrows, my colleagues wonder what I’ve been up to. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage this evening’s class, and I drag myself to Holborn with a sinking feeling in my stomach but knowing that rock solid abs are going to be my (eventual) reward.
This time I’ve invested in some liquid chalk to give me a better grip. Not that it makes much of a difference – today’s class is just as excruciating as yesterday’s, and I find myself frequently having to take a breather while everyone else carries on with their press-ups, chin-ups and squats. At one point I experience a ‘Eureka!’ moment when I think I’ve performed a complete chin-up, all the way up to the top – only to discover the instructor has been giving me some help by lifting me up from behind. Red-faced, I power on and somehow make it through to the end, and – with the little energy I had left – hobble home and collapse into the bath.
I’m over halfway through, and every fibre in my body is screaming “no more!” I’ve truthfully never experienced a workout which has made me ache as much as this one has. I promise myself a glass of wine if I get through today’s class. On the plus side, I’ve learnt how to do press ups correctly (my previous attempts consisted of getting on all floors and nodding my head towards the floor…). At the class the instructor notices how traumatised I look as I approach the frame, and doesn’t go too hard on me when I take a break from the floor work. I find the chin-ups slightly (but only slightly!) easier than before and I’m getting better at keeping my body taut as I lift myself up on the frame. At the end of the class, I lie down in the sauna for as long as possible, tired but smug at nearly reaching the finish line.
The final day – half of me feels like celebrating while the other half feels like crying. It’s just as well that this is the last class, as I really don’t think I could have managed another. Even better – my class is at lunch time as opposed to the evening, so I can head straight home after work in smug satisfaction. I have a hearty breakfast beforehand and after a busy morning, gym time comes swiftly around (“Eye of The Tiger” playing on loop in my head). I find a lunchtime class is far easier than after work, and as the class goes by, I notice I’m getting slightly better at mastering the chin-ups. By the end, I can no longer feel my arms and despite hardly being able to move, inside I’m doing a little dance of celebration.
If I had the energy I would skip back to work, but the last four days have rendered this impossible. However, I definitely feel a slight difference in tone in my arms, thighs and stomach (I’m told it takes about three weeks to see a marked improvement). But I’m definitely going to persevere, this time mixing it up with my other regular classes so that my muscles aren’t screaming at me by the end of the week. A tough workout for sure, but for anyone looking to tone up or getting bikini ready, Bartendaz is a sure-fire way – albeit slightly hellish – of getting there.
Bartendaz takes place Tuesdays at 18:00, Wednesdays at 19:00, Thursdays at 17:45 and Fridays at 13:15. Booking is essential. Bartendaz classes are also available at other branches of Gymbox. A day pass costs £20. For more information on memberships, timetables and to book a class, see the Gymbox website or call +44 (0)207 400 1919.