Fitness classes aimed at women used to be based on the notion that monotonous bouncing (like dancing, but without style or rhythm) would trick us into working up a sweat. Sweat was proof you were doing it right; technique was not an issue. Whilst the ladies leapt about like epileptic kangaroos, the blokes were doing bicep curls – seated bicep curls. These guys couldn’t run for a bus or reach their shoelaces, but they could be proud of their pointlessly distended biceps. It was a simpler time. It was not a better time.
Now, Gymbox has come up with two highly sophisticated new classes to bring some strategic intelligence to our workouts. Hallelujah. Because, even the fittest among us still want to improve our mobility, flexibility and resilience to injury.
Created by Gymbox hero Firas Iskandarani, Prehab is designed as a warmup to functional or strength-based training classes, such as Frame Fitness, 1Rep Max, Kettlebells and Gains. Think of it like pre-gaming before a big night out. It’s the transition stage between your studious or office-y self and beast you, who can bench press your body weight. If you spend your days desk-bound, this is the ideal apéritif before intense exercise.
Prehab starts with a warming sequence of full-body stretches to get our balance on point, lengthen our muscles and ease stiff joints into active mode. Firas then puts us in small groups to rotate through a series of four stations, starting with variations of the Samson stretch using resistance bands. Firas dictates the timing and gives precise instructions and corrections throughout. A lot of it hurts – thus exposing the limits of my usual (half-assed) stretching regime.
The proof that this class works is in the PB heavy lifts achieved in 1Rep Max afterwards. I couldn’t stay, but after Prehab finished with some exquisitely painful ostrich walks, my two-mile run home felt quick and effortless.
Rehab focuses on alignment and recovery. This is revelatory. No longer do I view my postural quirks and muscular imbalances with resigned acceptance. The fact that one ankle is wobblier, my oblique abdominals are stronger on one side, my right rotator cuff tends to ache and so on… apparently these are curable. Rehab class gave me hope that I could heal wounds wrought by a life of tennis, boxing, running, heavy bags, high heels and hunching over a laptop. Again: halleluiah.
The class lasts a full hour and it's an education. The instructor Vivianne Jonsson-Boulogne, a dancer originally from Sweden, talks almost non-stop, giving individual advice, explaining why we do each move and suggesting adaptations. She has a warm, generous tone and a lovely sense of humour (“No, your other right leg. Yes, that’s the one!). Vivi’s knowledge of Pilates is evident, but this class is more diagnostic.
Although the pace is gentle and deliberate, we spend about 10 minutes on each of four main sequences. I’m kept alert by the flow of information, and the effort of testing different variations of each stretch. Looking around, it seems that everyone is as earnest in their attention, carefully repositioning those spiky massage balls to provide the utmost agony. We leave buoyed up with the feeling of having really worked to correct years of damage.
Adding these classes to an already full schedule of cardio, strength-training and sport won’t be easy, but I’m sold on the benefits.