“OK, if we don’t find this Virgin Active gym in the next five minutes, I’m going home!” I said with frustration, as my hands froze to my umbrella. “I bet you will absolutely love it within five minutes of walking in!”, my friend Ali consoled me. Naturally, he was 100% right.
It was a typical London Saturday in February – wet, windy, and all the tube lines near me were “suspended due to engineering works”, so it took me forever to get to Paddington.
I had been invited to participate in a circuit-based workout organised by Virgin Active in its swanky new gym in Merchant Square as part of the #MyWorkoutFor series. This one was all about getting fit for the slopes and was devised by the gym’s instructors in collaboration with well-known blogger Jack Edwards.
Katie, my contact at Virgin Active, described the class as “circuit-based with a small competitive element thrown in to keep it fun (promise)”. I like a good bit of competition, and I was keen to find out my fitness level, having done no exercise other than climbing and yoga for months. So, with a little apprehension, I agreed.
After an hour and a half on the London tube and then fighting my way through the rain and wind though, I must say I regretted the decision slightly and wished I was back in my warm bed.
Until we went inside the gym complex, that is.
The new Virgin Active gym
The newly opened Virgin Active gym in Merchants Square (Paddington) is worth getting up for on a Saturday morning! The changing rooms are so plush I considered staying there instead of going to the class. There are long dressing tables with hairdryers and GHD straighteners. The toilets and showers are squeaky-clean, with an abundance of towels, and the place smells like a rose garden. The lockers are opened and closed using an electronic wristband, which can be conveniently kept on at all times to prevent losing it. In short, I was impressed, and I am not easily!
Unfortunately, I could not stay in the changing room forever. It was workout time! So I grabbed my water bottle, took one more look in the (extremely flattering) mirror, and headed out for battle.
Ali and I joined a group of other bloggers and their plus-ones in a large studio on the bottom floor, complete with a wall-length mirror, all sorts of equipment imaginable, and a camera crew. Ever so slightly intimidating, especially as I thought about how red my face would be on all the photos and videos.
The circuit-based workout
The circuit consisted of five stations, with two exercises per station. In our pairs, we partnered with another duo and took on each station consecutively, doing each exercise simultaneously in our group of four, until we finished the circuit. We did each exercise at a given station twice for 30 seconds, with no breaks, and then took a 30 second break before moving on to another section. So the whole circuit took around 12-13 minutes to complete.
We did box jumps (with one really high box – the one I am standing on in the picture at the bottom of this post!), around the clock lunges, bouncing squats, balance ball squats, scissor jumps, and my personal favourite – tire flipping. I cannot believe I never realised how much fun this is! I really want to flip some more tires right now. It is so immensely satisfying.
If I am honest, at first I had no idea what was going on. Which station do I go to next? Which exercise is each person in the pair doing? When is the rest bit?? It took all of the first circuit for me to get my head around it (duh!), but I got there in the end.
Those first 12 minutes were tiring, but doable, and I must admit I was enjoying myself, despite getting confused.
Then, we were told we have to do it all again, but better…Now that was quite a bit harder! By this point, we had ironed out any confusion some of us (me!) might have had, so we seamlessly sped through each of the ten exercises, but by the end of it I was sweating. And I never sweat.
Sweating, but extremely satisfied! I had not struggled with the exercises as much as I thought I would, but my legs felt on fire, which is a sure sign of a good workout. I sat on the floor, breathing heavily and gulping down my entire water bottle (kindly provided by Virgin Active’s friendly staff), glad I had made it to the end.
And then it turned out it was not quite the end…I had forgotten about the competition! And wrongly so, because this was the most fun bit, and not just because I somehow managed to win it. Turns out I am very competitive when it comes to exercise!
How I won the competition challenge
The contest consisted of three 45 second bursts with 15 second rests in between. In our pairs, one of us had to complete each of the three exercises in a row, as quickly as humanly possible, while the partner counted the number of reps for each one. At the end we swapped, and then reported our scored to the PTs, who then picked three winners.
I decided I was going first, to get it out of the way, so Ali took his stance, ready to count every single rep. When the PTs told us to start, my mind just went blank and all I could think of was going as quickly as I could. I had no idea how many reps I was doing. Somehow, at the end of it Ali had counted 303 reps altogether. Not bad for three 45 second bursts, I thought…
It was only at the end, when everyone started calling out their scores, that it dawned on me I was going to win. The top three scores got a free month’s membership at Virgin Active as the prize. And this is how I became a proud owner of a month’s membership!
That means I can go back to the plush changing rooms every day for 30 days straight. And I already have my eye on a high altitude training room I have been told about, which I cannot wait to check out. Mont Blanc, here I come!
The workout ended with some very well-deserved snacks to replace all that lost energy during this intense hour. I had two Nakd bars in a row, as I was so hungry! Thanks for the opportunity Virgin Active, and thanks to Jack Edwards for coming up with such a great idea!
Note: All photos copyright of Virgin Active
Below is a list of all the exercises:
Station 1 – Ski jumping
- Partial barbell squat jumps – with body pump bars/body weight
- Bosu ball jump, hold squat, jump off
Station 2 – Après ski
- Dumbbells hammer curls
- Kettlebells clock lunges
Station 3 – Cross country
- Bulgarian bag – squat (90 degrees) and static full arm extension hold
- Spotty dogs – with dumbbells or without
Station 4 – Off-piste and moguls
- Mogul bounding – 3 steps, bounding over each
- Vipr ski carry shuttles, swap shoulders at top of shuttle
Station 5 – Tobogganing
- Kettlebells plyo box walk overs – 20cm or 40cm
- Tire push and drag
45 seconds each
1. Pump box ski jump
2. Mountain climbers (opposite knee to opposite elbow)
3. Dyno ball clean and press