Zoe Wil­liams

Can I han­dle the ul­ti­mate work­out?

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front | Contents -

The F45 work­out sched­ule looks madly ex­cit­ing; its web­site is like an ice-cream counter, tons of dif­fer­ent classes with zingy names – Brook­lyn, Pan­thers, Hol­ly­wood, Ro­mans. Plus, they all have groovy graph­ics and you think, “This sounds ex­actly me. I would like to im­prove my com­bat prow­ess while work­ing on my core strength. I want an in­fa­mous, 1,000-calo­rie-burn­ing car­dio work­out.” They’re on to some­thing, god­damn them. The idea is quite sim­ple – all the work­outs a per­son could do, boiled into 45 min­utes, fan­cied up with themes – and through some com­bi­na­tion of va­ri­ety and en­thu­si­asm, they lull you into think­ing it’s ac­tu­ally some­thing you want to do.

I re­jected ev­ery­thing that re­quired a part­ner (Wing­man, which is paired re­sis­tance; and 22, which is paired car­dio, be­cause I am not here to make friends). Fox­trot is an EPIC (their capi­tals) car­dio work­out with two in­ten­sity levels: a 45-second set and a 20-second one. The idea is that you are more mea­sured in the longer burst, then go flat out on the shorter one.

Picture the scene: you need to do 10 Rus­sian twists (sit­ting on the floor with your legs up and your back al­most straight, putting an imag­i­nary ball to one side, then to the other) and 10 moun­tain climbers (in a sort of push-up po­si­tion, then you make a climb-style mo­tion with your legs). It re­minds me a lit­tle of Bri­tish Mil­i­tary Fit­ness: these ex­er­cises feel clas­sic, as though they were de­vised by the Cana­dian air force around the time they in­vented planes. The truly dis­tinc­tive thing about them is how much eas­ier they look when other peo­ple are do­ing them. The very idea that, after 45 sec­onds, I would start over and do it more vig­or­ously was fan­ci­ful. For the 20-second slot, I was pre­tend­ing.

Jump­ing jacks, lat­eral dips, all man­ner of evil crunch­ing; the main ob­sta­cle you’re work­ing with here – heft­ing about, buck­ling un­der the weight of – is your own body. I will say one thing for the short burst; at least it stops. The re­lief of a thing, stop­ping, oc­curs more than once a minute. But then it starts again, so you know, swings and round­abouts.

Cir­cuits are good for the short-of­con­cen­tra­tion-span, but this wasn’t var­ied enough in ar­du­ous­ness. Some of it needs to be easy. I’d like a nice, gen­tle bi­cy­cle (ly­ing on your back kick­ing your legs in a hor­i­zon­tal Miss Marple fash­ion, not a lit­eral bi­cy­cle) ev­ery once in a while, maybe once ev­ery four min­utes. Yet this has been crafted with such con­certed in­stru­men­tal­ism – not a second wasted, re­sults you could put on a bill­board – there were peo­ple in the class who’d have prob­a­bly com­plained if the nau­sea had let up.

I’m re­minded of the econ­o­mist Ha-Joon Chang’s cri­tique of pro­duc­tiv­ity: not ev­ery­thing has to be ef­fi­cient. If some­one played a min­uet seven times faster, could we call that bet­ter? I can’t be sure, but I would have been hap­pier with a fox­trot twice as long and half as hard

Go to f45­train­ing.com to find your near­est stu­dio

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