Gymbox are running a new class concept in partnership with HISTORY, to run alongside the new show Barbarians Rising. I went down last week to have a go at their Barbarians Rising Workout, says Fiona Wells.
I wasn’t too sure about the “from scaling walls to lifting logs” bit they proposed on the booking page. Personally, I’m more than happy with 45 minutes on the treadmill watching a TV show followed by some dumbbells, checking work emails in-between sets of lunges and presses. But I thought this would be worth a look to spice up my training schedule.
I walked in and was greeted by the instructor, a tall man with a pointy nose who looked like he might be a Barbarian, or a Roman. I don’t know, History has never really been my forte. He informed us that it took 700 years and numerous tribes and factions of Barbarians to crumble the Roman empire – nice, a brief history lesson – and we’d be training in the skills they used to battle against the mighty Romans and maybe, just maybe, be ready to fight for our right to freedom. Hold on, no one mentioned any kind of fighting. I was at this point wondering if the treadmills were close by, and if he’d notice my speedy departure. Before I had a chance to look around we’d started.
Our instructor, Firas Iskandarani is one of the lead trainers at Gymbox and he had put together a pretty intense set of circuits for us to get through, as soon as we’d finish one he’d shout out the next whilst demonstrating the movement himself. This went on for a few minutes, until we were ready and warm. I was sufficiently “glowing” at this point and wondered if I was the only one who was a little more than just warmed up. Peering around the room, I was happy to see most were in a similar predicament to myself, except for one well-sculpted, blonde bearded man who was peering at the instructor with a grin on his face, eagerly awaiting the next set of exercises, like a young puppy waiting to chase a ball.
We’d be moving around the studio from a stone lifting station to a Bulgarian bag swing, up-and-down a climbing rope, to this horrific spinning burpee concoction and finally there was a sledgehammer slam. Each station, thankfully, had scaling options for the less than elite level athletes. The chiseled bearded man was of course not interested in such things.
We rotated around each exercise twice, a minute at each station. Each movement mimicked either a training style, or defining role of each Barbarian tribe. The stone lifting went better than expected, the rope climbing not so much. We were allowed to scale this down to a rope pull which was pretty tough in itself, and for those brave enough, there was a wall to climb! Next up were the plyometric movements taken from the Gladiator pits, where Spartacus made his name. Although, these got easier as time went on, I don’t think I’d last very long as a Gladiator.
Then there was the Bulgarian bag swing, which looked deceivingly easy, until you tried to do it. I struggled a little to find my feet with that one. At the final station I was handed a sledge hammer. This was definitely not my thing. Apparently we were learning to hack away at enemies like the merciless Attila the Hun. I took a few swings at the oversized tyre, at which point I was stopped by our Barbarian overlord, Firas. “You’re meant to be beating the enemy to a pulp not rocking him to sleep!” he says. Oh, sod off.
He adjusted my hand position, and told me to strike the tyre with control, but with force. I took a few more swings, and then started to get the hang of it. I’d forgotten all about work emails and TV shows. This was definitely my thing. I was now back at the first station. Even with my renewed vigour, the second time round was no easier. However, I was looking forward to getting back to the hammer. After almost knocking myself out with the Bulgarian bag we made it to the final station. I grabbed the hammer and went all in.
Next up we went on to a log carry. Apparently Hannibal of Carthage took his men through the Alps on a long arduous journey, hence, this part was meant to teach us endurance. We worked as a team to squat the log up-and-down on our shoulders, periodically putting it down, and moving along the log like a production line. This went on for a while, and I can honestly say my legs, which up 'til now weren’t feeling too bad, had turned to jelly.
We were given a final water break before the last section was explained to us. 700 years in seven minutes! Seemed like a tight squeeze to me. We were going back to our initial circuit of exercises. Over a seven minute period the aim was to amass as many rounds of it as possible. No hammer this time, for health and safety, but we were given sand bags to smash into the ground, which was equally gratifying.
When the seven minutes were up, we all collapsed on the floor – even the chiseled bearded man was struggling. We were given a few moments to collect our thoughts and then finished with a stretch and cool down. Apparently, we were now ready to take on the empire.
All in all, the class was fun. My entire body is still aching two days on and we got in a history lesson without even realising it. At least now when I’m watching the show I’ll be able to look at Boudica the Celtic queen and say to myself, “Yep, I could do that!” – or maybe not!