Gymbox member Genevieve Teevan went to the bigger and better Farringdon Gymbox to see how the shiny, new space affects Frame, the something-for-everyone class.
Descending the stairs to the mostly open-plan, subterranean new Gymbox feels like entering a cross between a secret, special ops training facility and an illegal rave in a warehouse. I’m pretty sure that’s deliberate. As an environment conducive to exercise, it works. The frame area is situated smack in the middle of the main gym space. This has a positive impact on the class because the frame bars are in easy proximity to the running track, cardio machines, and weights and because the atmosphere is boosted by the energy of others in the vicinity.
Of all the Gymbox classes, the Frame concept allows individual instructors the greatest scope to do their own thing. You never know what you’re going to do at a Frame class, but it will always involve a mix of strength, skill, and metabolic conditioning. Bar work is usually part of the meal, but not the whole menu as it is in Bartendaz, so Frame is ideal for anyone who wants to do some work towards their pull-up goals, while sparing their grip and getting an intense cardio workout.
The Saturday morning class I tried was taught by Carrie Baxter (pictured below) who describes her teaching style as “melodramatic”. Yes, she is theatrical, but her playful energy flows out to motivate and stimulate the class. As well as beasting us lucky Gymbox members, Carrie is a dancer, actor and singer with a melodic Irish accent that she manages to project over the music. This is crucial because we are spread out, the pace of this class is brisk, and the exercises are varied. Frame is a true fitness class in that you feel your heartbeat hammering and your muscles protesting for the whole 45 minutes.
After a speedy warm up in which Carrie gets us to nominate exercises, we pair up. Yay, I’ve got an ally now. It can be lonely trying a new class and that quick, friendly exchange of first names and subsequent brief chats makes it feel less anonymous. It also makes me feel more accountable, like someone besides the instructor will notice what I do.
The same cannot be said of my partner. We start facing each other in high plank position alternating press-ups with shoulder taps. This goes on a long time – hours, or maybe like five minutes. Carrie threatens that anyone who stops or lowers to their knees will have to do burpees for the remainder of the time. This motivates me most effectively. My partner? Not so much. Total cheater! Such insubordination shocks me. I’ll sail through red lights on my bike, but disobey a Gymbox instructor?! Never.
Part of the next sequence involves rounds of eight laps of bear crawls around the frame area followed by ten lengths up and down the running track. I start pacing myself against some of the fittest-looking guys who are sprinting fast and conscientiously counting out loud. This is a diverse group of people, yet miraculously everyone seems to finish each round at about the same time… I give in and stop a few laps short. Clearly, a degree of cheating is a sneaky means of scaling the class for different fitness levels. If everyone did their full sets, then the fastest would be hanging around waiting for others to catch up. This way everyone is working hard and everyone is happy.
Apart from some residual guilt about not completing the full set of laps, using the super-springy astro-turf track was a highlight of this class. At this time of year, running outdoors has limited appeal so it felt fantastic to let rip and really sprint inside.
Carrie offers lots of choices in her class. There’s no option to slip into cruise control mode when you have to decide, and negotiate with your partner, who will run or row. For the final section before the cool down, Carrie asks us to choose between upper body, core, or lower body – without knowing what the exercises will be. “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I can’t do,” she says. Please know, this is the least reassuring thing that has ever been said. It is evident as she demonstrates a killer ab exercise holding 20kg Eleiko plate that she is strong as an O.A.K. Stronger than you. Stronger than me. Stronger than yesterday. Stronger than Britney after a breakup. So, not at all reassuring, but very inspiring.
At whichever Gymbox you do it, Frame will make you better, harder, faster, stronger, but it’s a particular treat at the vast, indoor playground that is the new Farringdon.