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Witness the fitness: London’s most hardcore workouts

Posted at 10:15 am, August 31, 2014 in Fun London
The Viking Method, Laura Sagar, workout ©Rob Greig

About to go on holiday and just noticed the extra baggage around the waistline? This calls for drastic measures, so we enlisted some of the Time Out team to try London’s most effective bodyblasters. Have a go if you think these workouts sound hard enough. 

The Viking Method
Before I tried the Viking Method, I was a little concerned I’d be spending my lunchtime in a horned hat battling off enemies with an axe. In reality, this celeb favourite (Nicole Scherzinger is a big fan) has little to do with seafaring or pillaging, but who wouldn’t want to at least try to be as fit as one of those all-action marauders from the North? It’s all about learning how to run fast, kick hard, improve your posture and hopefully summon up even a little Viking bravery. Svava Sigbertsdottir’s intense personal training sessions can be combined with or exchanged for online instruction via her website. The warm-up squats are almost a workout themselves, and an hour-long session is made up of short spurts of intense activity (at one point I found myself crawling in a painfully low plank under a Svava bridge – see evidence above). This is interspersed with motivational talk which is far from the barking orders of a boot-camp leader, and genuinely feels like a friend cheering me on (‘I could tell within the first five minutes you wouldn’t give up. You’re strong!’). But just as I was about to give up, she reassured me that the end was near, while still pushing me miles out of my comfort zone. Afterwards I felt both like an empowered warrior and like I’d been beaten to a pulp (in a ‘what doesn’t kill you’ kind of way). The Viking Method is for anyone serious about getting stronger, faster and generally really fit, really quickly. See you in Valhalla. Laura Sagar
Approx calories burned: 750
Extreme rating: 9

Ring Svava on 07774 514849 to find out more or to book. Personal training session £100; online PT package is £120 per month.

Insanity workout, Fit Pro Live, press 2014

It sounds like a Peter Andre B-side, but it’s worse – a workout from LA which claims to be harder, stronger and faster than any other. The fitness guru behind it is Shaun T, who says things like: ‘You can never be the ideal person that you crave to be if you are not 100 percent mentally invested in being real and true to yourself.’ The session mainly consists of a fast-paced series of leaps, bounds, springs, burpees, jumps, jumps and more jumps, but the instructor’s skill lies in stopping your jumps turning to shuffles when you run out of steam. It’s frantic, sweaty and very funny to casual observers. And it’s over in a flash – leaving me energised rather than tired. After 30 days, you’d be stronger than the other Mr T. Katie Dailey
Approx calories burned: 1,000
Extreme rating: 7

Soho Gyms, various locations including 11-15 Brad St, SE1 8TG. Day membership costs £12 and includes Insanity classes.

Boxing at FighterFit, workout, David Clack ©Rob Grieg

Boxing at FighterFit
This gruelling 90-minute class takes the form of circuits: bags, skipping, body sparring, pads and ‘the crawl’ – an agonising and slightly humiliating combination of press-ups and burpees. Before this, Francesco – club owner and a boxing trainer with 14 years’ experience – takes ten minutes to show me the basics: useful, as moments later I’m in the ring opposite Tom. Tom is a foot taller than me, has arms like tattooed hams and could probably score a TKO with a sneeze. Still, I do a good job of running away during our short sparring session, even landing a couple of half-decent blows. The aching starts almost instantly, and peaks 48 hours later. Amazingly, after one class my core is looking a little more pumped. Unless Tom’s just ruptured a few of my internal organs. David Clack
Approx calories burned: 1,800
Extreme rating: 8
16 Hewett St, EC2A 3NN. Classes £12; discount packages available.

Speedflex workout, press 2014

I can see why alpha City types love Speedflex: it’s brutal and efficient. Less than ten minutes in, my face is redder than a banker’s braces. The room is dominated by seven intimidating gym machines, which calculate resistance based on your own force. The point, my trainer explains, is high-intensity training without next-day soreness (more on that later). Speedflex is about leanness rather than muscle building, so you won’t end up with Madonna’s arms (my 30-minute class was two-thirds women). As for soreness, my trainer was only telling half the truth: my arms got the workout of their life without a twinge afterwards, but the base position of Speedflex is squat. Next day, the only way I could sit on the loo was by lowering myself with my hands on the wall. Did you really believe in gain without pain? Cath Clarke
Approx calories burned: 450
Extreme rating: 8

Plough Court, 33-36 Lombard St, EC3V 9BQ. From £35 per week.

Fierce Grace, Becky Lucas, workout ©Rob Greig

Fierce Grace
With a manifesto that includes ‘reaching to the deepest places in yourself’ (mightn’t that pull a muscle?), Fierce Grace sounds extreme. The classes range from 50 minutes – ‘The Fix’ – to 1 hour 45 minutes – ‘The Beast’ – and involve a series of yoga positions in a 38C-hot room. It’s a lot like Bikram: though not as sweltering and the postures flow more smoothly. The most challenging moment is when I find myself uncomfortably close to a classmate in ill-fitting kit (why is it always a gent in short shorts?). Becky Lucas
Approx calories burned: 500-700
Extreme rating: 4
Various locations including 200 Regent’s Park Rd, NW1 8BE. Introductory offer: £35 for 30 days.

Psycle workout, press 2014

Delete the ‘c’ and add a ‘ps’ and your standard gym-based cycle becomes part club night, part dance class, part spinning session. As the lights go down and lasers flash, I’m told to get ready to ‘bounce to the beat’, make rave arms and move weights – all while cycling on and off the saddle. The instructors have the boundless enthusiasm of a ‘Fame’ kid: if you’re the type that can ‘lose yourself in the music’, this class is fun-filled cardio. Otherwise you might feel like the nerd at the school disco awkwardly ‘busting moves’ while everyone else gets down. The dedicated Fitzrovia venue is classier than your average gym, with cleated shoes supplied, free towels and luxury shower products. If you like the sound of a boogie in a bike-filled basement instead of the usual strip-lit slog, give Psycle a spin. Euan Ferguson
Approx calories burned: 1,000
Extreme rating: 4

76 Mortimer St, W1W 7SA. Classes from £18.

If these workouts don’t whet your appetites for action, why not wet, ahem, them instead at one of London’s best swimming pools.

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