When I started this column and my new plan for fitness I had a list of classes that I was sure I’d rattle through no trouble and then a list that I wasn’t looking forward to quite so much! Now as you all know I have been surprised at my new found love of exercise generally but there are still some classes I’ve been avoiding for fear of my knees finally giving way and refusing to either go lower into the lunge or to come out of it. Circuits is one such class – I did it really near the start and while I was still in a state of shock and all I could think about was Gary Cumming (Julie’s husband) telling me about the horror of his wife dragging him kicking and screaming to the circuits class….!!
But the time had come – I’m working my way through Rodney’s classes so I had to get this bad boy of the exercise classes done and under my belt. Circuits, for those of you who haven’t been, combine a high impact aerobics style warm up with a circuit of exercise stations each set up with a different move or item of equipment. The idea is that after your warm up you do 45 seconds on each station and it works a different muscle in a different way. You are encouraged to work hard and keep your heart rate up as you go round to gain maximum benefit from the circuit.
So there we were, ready to go. Julie was leading the class and she started by asking for new people and injuries. A clear explanation on what we were doing followed and she took us into the warm up. And boy did it get warm! Julie led us smiling and encouraging, shouting out questions asking how everyone was, were we ready for the (next move) and drawing you into it. She gave the low impact choices and reassured everyone they should be working at their level and not in time to the music. Now, this might sound obvious but it is tricky to remember that when you’re listening to a fast paced tune and trying with all your might to make your two left feet keep up! “Better do it properly than quickly.”
The warm up is an aerobics routine and we established after Step that my co-ordination is not the best. It’s not that I’m a bad dancer either, I’m just usually more freestyle-while-enjoying-gin than choreographed-while-panting-for-breath! There was a couple of occasions that I was power jacking while everyone else was single arms and high knees but it wasn’t too bad. I think this is what puts people off a little – you feel as though you’re doing it wrong so you don’t go back. The thing is, everyone started like that and rather than trying to keep up, nail the move, go for the high option and save face by doing it all perfectly you just have to let go a little, go back the next time and try again. Every instructor will tell you to concentrate on doing it properly at first and then build speed, stamina and reps. It’s sound advice. Julie is good fun, and there’s a big emphasis on keeping you going.
We spent about 20 minutes doing the warm up before Julie worked her way around the circuits showing everyone some new moves and stations. “Keep jogging while you look,” she shouted! The great bit about circuits is that regular people help new people. So you work in little groups of 3 or 4 and there will be someone who can keep you right at every point. Julie also works her way around the class and helps everyone out – as well as giving regulars a push if they try to slip through to lower impact moves! And then she got to me, new girl and was explaining how to perfect the move (Bunny Hops!) to get results. I liked this – you could benefit from experience but work at your own level and pace.
I can see why people enjoy the camaraderie – the two girls I was in a group with both obviously experienced and knew what they were doing but it was almost a bit of “Us against the exercise”! I was out of my starting set of power squat straight into 45 seconds of burpees and my wee face must have fallen… Why is this following me around? The girls were equally dismayed but got right down and into it and it was a real motivator. The stations were mixed – planks on swiss balls, bear crawls, sit ups with over-head weights…. I really should have counted them all but I’d say there was about 15 – 20 of them in total. I was doing my box jumps onto steps 4 risers high, sweating all over (from the back of my hands!!!) thinking that I had made it… The power squats were next and that’s where we had started. SCORE!
“ONE MORE TIME!”
“What? Do we go twice?” I squeaked at my fellow group members. Nodding heads, dripping with sweat answered me and before I knew where I was it was burpees all over again! I did make it round two circuits but my ears were ringing so loudly by bear crawls that I didn’t hear the “move round” shout and was still on all fours while the girls were stretching into touching alternate toes!
The class finishes with a lower impact cool down and stretch routine. Julie identified a couple of things we were all struggling with and went over them again. Explaining why we did moves in a certain way and what the results of good technique would be versus sloppy moves really did help.
I hadn’t remembered doing two rounds of circuits but I may have been at a shorter class. Other than that I knew what to expect and yet I had somehow built it up in my head as Rodney’s Torture Chamber. Circuits are a fantastic way to perfect your moves and get you going because you are at your own pace. I know I didn’t do as many sprints and push ups as the girls working alongside me but it didn’t matter because I nailed the sit ups (yay me!).
It is a hard work out – I got home starving, ate the contents of my fridge and spread out on the sofa. You can feel that you’ve had a work out and I like that now. You know you’re getting results out of this. So, if you’ve been terrified into thinking circuits are the devils work I would recommend you readjust your attitude towards this class and give it a go. Tell the instructor you’re new, tell the people alongside you you’re are new and I can guarantee everyone will help you. Could replace Spin as my class of choice…!