Welcome to the Lactic Jungle, already in hot contention for Best Animated Gymbox Class (Live Action) of 2017. You may have noticed the on-trend Gymbox VPTs swerving away from machines and talking about animal movement or primal flow. This refers to quadrupedal and ground-based exercises like bear crawls. Lactic Jungle involves an ark’s worth of different animal movements and introduces endurance and creative elements to improve mobility, flexibility, strength, and endurance.
“I don’t really like lifting weights anymore,” shrugs Carrie Baxter, a self-taught animal movement evangelist who came up with the class concept. Animal movement is closely allied to bodyweight training and gymnastics but doesn’t use bars or rings. It’s just you and the floor. Some of the movements resemble vinyasa (flow) yoga but Lactic Jungle is less prescriptive. It’s dynamic and purposeful for people who really enjoy moving, stretching, balancing, and straining. It requires deliberate coordination so your mind is engaged in each movement task. It’s the polar opposite of mindless 8-minute HIIT classes.
You sweat from the beginning in Lactic Jungle but it’s progressive: a gradual pulse raiser, not a shock to the system boot camp. There are hops, springs, inchworms, twists, and near-handstands with a lot of the movements starting and finishing in a low squat or high plank position. Shoulder strength gets a massive boost from animal movement because your body weight is constantly shifting on to them every time you lift one – or both – legs. If you run or lift weights, then you need Lactic Jungle because it increases mobility – something that inevitably suffers when you isolate muscles for multiple reps within a limited range of movement.
After the warm-up, we gather in lines at the far end of the studio and parade the length of the room as animals: first bears, then lizards, crabs, ducks, cats, gorillas, scorpions, and, finally, what feels like a racoon doing interpretive dance. The hardest is probably the horse walk which involves almost sitting back on your heels while moving forward and kicking out one leg at a time. Tricky, but fun. It’s a proper cardio workout that you can sustain comfortably for 10–15 minutes. Just when we’re starting to get the hang of moving and balancing, Carrie flicks off the music, “Think about being light on your feet and hands. I should hear no noise.” So that’s a further challenge.
Next we pair up, face each other in high plank position, and mirror each other’s movements forward and back in sync. The challenge is not just to do the exercises but also to stay in time with your partner. How fast can you push them? Our final pair exercise is an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) in a given time and Carrie blasts the music to get us flowing faster. The Lactic Jungle soundtrack feels distinct from what you hear out in the gym. It’s up to the individual instructors but Carrie recommends that they use old-skool hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, and – yup – jungle.
One of the best aspects of this class is that there’s no faffing with equipment. Utter bliss. No suspension bands. No mats. No wraps. No gloves. No sodding drum sticks. Not even kettlebells. And that means no Uncertain Kettlebell User. (“Should I use the 12kg or 8kg? Shall I grab a 5kg as well, just in case? Oh gosh, were we supposed to get two of equal weight?.”)
Another reason I love this class is because it feels like it would be impossible to hurt yourself. No one muscle, or muscle group, is under extreme pressure so it could never be counter-productive to your other training or sports. I’ve done animal movement exercises before with Gymbox VPT Elliot Moger but the group element of Lactic Jungle class spurred me to push myself, inspired by the sense of community. Instructors have lots of individual freedom to vary the exercises and it will be progressive from week to week so you’ll improve and want to keep coming back for new challenges.
Improve your strength, balance and cardio fitness at the following clubs:
Old Street, Monday @ 12:15pm
Victoria, Monday @ 12:30pm
Bank, Monday @ 7:00pm
Westfield Stratford, Tuesday @ 7:30pm
Covent Garden, Wednesday @ 12:45pm
Holborn, Wednesday @ 6:00pm
Farringdon, Wednesday @ 6:30pm
Westfield London, Wednesday @ 7:15
Or book here