The culmination of a year’s over indulging and one horrified look at the extra figures displayed on the scales was enough motivation for me to make a serious New Year’s resolution to get fit and shift some weight, and I know I’m not alone. But how can we rid ourselves of the humantashen hips, the lochshun love handles, the borscht bulge and the tzimmes tummy? Diet or exercise, I know it’s not sufficient to just abstain from dipping our apples in the honey, I want my Yom Kippur detox to not only kick start but maintain my body’s healthy New Year.
My first stop was to see what the gyms had to offer, after all, the gym has become the last bastion of fitness and weight loss. We’re all rushing around in leisure clothes, Starbucks in hand, eternally coming or going to the gym. It turns out they do offer a multiplicity of choice when he comes to exercise. Virgin Active rather thoughtfully let you have a rolling contract, so that with one months notice you could terminate your membership, which is useful if you don’t want to be locked into a yearly commitment, or should you embarrass yourself by thinking the Powerplate is a relaxing massage station.
They provide an hour consultation with a fitness professional to run through your goals, Jennifer Anitson’s body please, and write you a detailed plan, which undoubtedly will say no carbs. Of course Virgin has an abundance of exotically named classes, to tempt you. They have just launched NOVA, a hybrid of pilates and yoga, which is fitness based rather than mind body holistic. There is ZUU, a back to basics class that involves frog squats and bear crawls, think school gym and plimsolls. They also have Zumba Step and all the regular classes. Personal trainers can be hired for 30 minutes to an hour slots, should you need your own cheerleader.
At least the David Lloyd is more unambiguous when naming their programmes. The Lose and Shape Up Weight Loss programme (fee naturally in addition to your monthly subscription) is a 12 week ‘whole body’ initiative which includes weekly weigh-ins, so no hiding that extra knedal you slipped in your soup, group exercise, nutritional advice and online support. David Lloyd have recently teamed up with Universal Music UK to launch the David Lloyd Playlist, so you can plug in and jog on listening to specially tailored tracks to help motivate your work out.
What’s irritating about a gym membership is that you are signing up for an indoor workout; Caged with fellow Nike wearing bunnies peddling on stationary bikes that never reach their destination. So in view of this I wanted to step outside of that convention and see what was actually available in the outdoors.
I heard about British Military Fitness, a boot camp-like programme that runs its classes in parks. BMF works on the principle of interval training, using your own body weight with squats, lunges, burpees, pairs and team exercises. Some classes will use tyres or poles or powerbags. BMF’s head training tutor, Mark Wood explained “The important thing is that no class is ever the same; this way members stay motivated and challenged.” BMF cater for all fitness levels and divide the group accordingly using coloured bibs. I wondered how soon one could see results, to which Wood said “If you can commit to three classes a week, and combine this with sensible eating, you could see dramatic transformations within a 3 month period. Most people say they feel better and are starting to see positive changes in as little as 4 weeks of training.” I begin to envision Aniston, as I asked how BMF differs from regular gym classes, Wood described, “Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can burn up to 30% more calories than doing the same exercise indoors.”
Not quite ready to commit, I’m introduced to Jo Martin, a fitness coach, who has been in the industry since 2002. Jo has just launched a new class called Cobra-Hit. Based in Edgware Reform Synagogue, Cobra-Hit is a full body work out for every fitness level combining cardio and muscular fitness. Jo is a positive ball of energy as she explained this high intensity resistance training, “There’s a social side to the class too, as I provide a herbal tea before the class starts and a re-fuelling shake at the end.” Jo described the realisation that “all the fitness I was doing wasn’t working for me, I wasn’t seeing results. That’s when I started focusing on nutrition.” Following the principle that diet is as important as exercise Jo said “People noticed and commented on the changes they saw in her.” She wanted to include this as part of Cobra-Hit. Jo’s enthusiasm far exceeds just adult fitness and I was impressed to discover she runs ZumbaAtomic Parties for children ranging from five to 12 years old. The 45 minute classes teach the kids how to dance and get fit at the same time.
Still in search for the perfect fitness fix, I visited the highly motivated Rich Silverman. An ex professional boxer, who quit his role as a personal trainer to set up a free fitness class called Fit Camp that runs weekly in St Albans. After I disclosed my Aniston goal he begins to explain how it is entirely possible to have the body of your dreams if you adopt what he calls a healthy active lifestyle. Fit Camp includes a Monday weigh in and a Sunday workout of running, body weight training and Tabata which is a whole body exercise that exhausts all your muscles by working them to their maximum.
What Silverman offers his clients is more than a fitness program or one to one traditional personal training, he provides a lifestyle choice. Silverman explained, “The basic principle is that exercise is only 20% of your goal, the other 80% is what you put inside your body.” And he continues, “The exercise is almost irrelevant. It is counterproductive to do the 20% without the other 80% because getting your ideal body is all to do with burning fat and nothing to do with exercise.”
I asked him what had to be done to shift the excess weight fast, Silverman said, “When we weigh ourselves we don’t know what we are looking at, it’s just numbers, what is your actual weight made up of?” This is when he did a free Wellness profile on me; he weighed me on a special scale that shows the breakdown of my body, my muscle mass, bone density, body fat, visceral fat and hydration levels. From here he can discern what areas I need to work on and write my healthy eating plan. He said confidently “you can get you there and I can show you the way.” He underpins all this with the product Herbalife, which are nutritionally balanced shakes, used to enhance your eating habits not as a supplement for regular food; I was surprised there was no hard sell.
Silverman is so passionate that he has even set up a group called Holy and Healthy in St Albans Masorti Shul, which sadly doesn’t include squats in the ameda or a cool down during Adon Olom. He genuinely wants to help people by creating active lifestyles.
I left Silverman feeling energised and positive, I believed him when he said “Fit is the new sexy,” because it is a world away from our conventional way of thinking about weight loss and getting in shape. Maybe this new approach might just work and I’ll finally get my Jennifer Aniston body with a little help from my new friends.