Lured by the promise of a solid 45-minute workout which would also test mental toughness, I put myself at the mercy of dynamic Gymbox instructor Ryan Lovett for Stealth.
It’s a sunny Saturday morning at Gymbox Covent Garden and outside the studio there’s a self-congratulatory vibe of camaraderie between people surprised to find themselves hangover-free, buoyed up by a second coffee, and curious about the new class. Ryan bounces in and the chill mood is replaced by slight apprehension as the lights go down...
I’m prepared. I’ve encountered Ryan’s energy before. He introduces six exercises during the warm-up. There’s no faffing with equipment. It’s all based on bodyweight. Ryan demonstrates and explains correct form but, unless this is your first time at the fitness rodeo, there’s nothing tricky in the moves. A burpee is a burpee is a burpee. Surviving the pace is the challenge.
The same six exercises are reworked in various combinations of reps with ever-decreasing rest periods over the course of four rounds. I won’t reveal all of them, but squat leaps deserve a mention for the echoes I felt every time I moved the next day.
In the first round, you have to finish a set first to ‘earn your colours’ – or receive a glow stick. The colours of the sticks determine your teams for the second round when you compete in groups; in the third round, you fight on a solo basis, and the fourth and final section is an elimination round. “You want people to give up,” Ryan says about the winnowing of participants. Paradoxically, being kicked out feels like a win because you get a whole minute of rest before jumping back in.
The game format and glow sticks lend the class a festive air, but it’s still an intense workout – as befits its Sweat Drench categorisation. The simplicity of the exercises means that there’s no risk of injury so you can go hard without worrying about your technique. Ryan keeps an eye out for “particularly terrible form” but most of your mental energy is focussed on keeping on top of the reps required for each round. You don’t have to be able to do anything herculean like pull-ups, so this format is accessible to anyone, but watch out – if you’re used to 30-minute HIIT classes, the 45-minute non-stop intensity of Stealth will hurt. In a good way.
This is the kind of workout that reminds you why you belong to a gym, instead of just pootling about with YouTube videos for inspiration. Instructors like Ryan make fitness happen. You just have to show up.