10 great ways to get your fitness back on track this autumn

Boxing fitness classes can be a fantastic way of getting fit and de­-stressing. Picture: Getty Image

Boxing fitness classes can be a fantastic way of getting fit and de­-stressing. Picture: Getty Images/Hemera - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

If you’ve overdone the ice cream this summer, all is not lost, explains Ilfracombe personal trainer Sean Dullaghan.

TRX suspension training on the Torrs in Ilfracombe: Picture: Sean Dullaghan

TRX suspension training on the Torrs in Ilfracombe: Picture: Sean Dullaghan - Credit: Archant

Summer’s almost over, but all is not lost. If you’ve spent the summer holidaying, enjoying the sunshine (when we had it), barbecuing and partying, then maybe you’re ready to get into (or back into) regular exercise.

So where do you start and what should you do? Most people initially think ‘I need to join a gym’. But the fitness industry has changed over the last seven years.

There are lots of boutique fitness venues and many great trainers instructing at community halls and outdoors, so you have lots of choice.

Kettlebells and weights can be used for a huge range of exercises. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Kettlebells and weights can be used for a huge range of exercises. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This month I’m going to concentrate on what you could be doing, as opposed to where.


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Group fitness classes are a great way of working with a qualified trainer, without having to go to the expense of employing a personal trainer. You will learn fantastic ways to train, correct technique and be among other people just like you.

With the massive number of different classes available, how do you know which will work for you? Below is a list of various classes (in no particular order), what they are and what they can do for you.

Training with fitness straps outdoors. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Training with fitness straps outdoors. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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1. HIIT (High intensity interval training ­ including Insanity and Metafit)

Don’t be scared off by the names, HIIT is a fantastic way of getting fit and burning calories. The basic principle is you work hard (often very hard) for short periods of time, followed by shorter periods of rest.

This style of training gets your body burning energy (calories) at a much higher rate than normal, and the type of exercises will give you a total body workout (cardio and muscle toning, as well as also working your core muscles).

Who is it for? Everyone who wants to challenge themselves and get great results.

How often should you do it? Up to three times per week if doing one hour classes.

2. Bootcamp (indoors or outdoors)

Bootcamp training exploded on our shores quite a few years back now. But it is still a very popular type of class, which is proof of how good it can be.

Classes are usually designed by the individual instructor (unlike pre­-designed programmes like Insanity, Bodypump etc). So if you find a great trainer, you will be getting the best they have to offer.

Classes are usually loosely based on military training, with lots of body weight exercises (eg. squats, press ups, sit ups and the dreaded burpees). Outdoor classes often use the terrain and anything that can be used to exercise on (park benches are a firm favourite).

You will burn heaps of calories and tone muscle, and more often than not, every class is different, so you never get bored or used to the workouts.

3. Pilates/Yoga

While these two are very different, with different versions of each available, I’ve paired them up here to make your life easier. Both forms of exercise are excellent low impact classes that can strengthen your body, make you more flexible, improve your posture, strengthen your core and tone your muscles.

You won’t get a cardio workout out of these classes (but you can always do one of the other classes listed for that), but depending on the type of class you attend, you could well get a good sweat on.

4. Indoor cycling (aka Spinning)

Indoor cycling is the most popular exercise class in the world, and has been for many years. Put simply, you workout on a stationary exercise bike (more like a real road bike than the electronic ones you see in rows on a gym floor).

You can adjust the resistance on the bike yourself and your instructor will take you through a workout (usually 30­-45 minutes) featuring varied ‘terrain’ (hills ­= harder resistance, flats ­= low resistance).

You will definitely get a sweat on, and a great cardio workout is guaranteed, however, muscle toning will be limited to your legs and butt, so you will need to add in some other training to balance it out.

Some gyms have spin rooms, and there are even specialist spin studios springing up (like Absolute Spin in Barnstaple, a bespoke spin studio with loads of classes).

5. Bodypump (and all other pump/studio resistance classes)

Bodypump is the studio resistance (weights) class from the world’s biggest group fitness company, Body Training Systems (BTS) from New Zealand.

Unlike what you often see in the weights area of your local gym, Pump classes are based around high repetition, moderate weight, body toning.

If you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pump classes aren’t for you. What you will get is a reasonably high calorie burning, fantastic total body muscle toning workout. BTS Bodypump classes are available in many gyms, while some gyms have instructors who create their own Pump classes, like Function Fitness in Great Torrington.

6. Boxing fitness/Boxercise

Boxing fitness classes can be a fantastic way of getting fit and de­-stressing. Based around simple boxing techniques using gloves and pads, as well as bodyweight exercises, these classes will get your heart pumping and muscles working in a way that only boxing can.

You will be shown correct techniques for punching and taken through a variety of drills (short burst combinations of punches and other exercises).

Don’t worry if you’ve never hit anything before, you’ll pick it up quickly, and chances are you’ll love it.

7. TRX / Suspension training

TRX (Total Resistance eXercise) has been around for just 10 years yet it has completely changed the way many personal trainers work.

It is loosely based on gymnastic rings (but you don’t hang from them, your hands or feet are always on the ground) and is made up of an almost infinite number of exercises that can give you a superb total body toning workout. You are able to adjust the resistance yourself by small movements of your position.

The number of calories burned in a one hour TRX class is comparable to a 45 minutes spin class, but it isn’t really about the cardio, it’s all about the toning, getting muscles working that virtually no other class can (just look at how toned gymnasts are).

I currently run the only TRX class in North Devon, however you can find TRX’s in gyms and many personal trainers use them.

8. Crossfit

Crossfit isn’t a class as such. It is a complete training system available through Crossfit licensed gyms. It is a functional fitness training system, and is sometimes known as ‘competitive fitness’.

It follows a variety of workouts (similar to classes) and the objective is to improve your performance in each workout every time you do it.

Crossfit gyms provide all the equipment and qualified instructors to follow the Crossfit training system all under one roof. If you haven’t already heard of Crossfit, you will. It is the fastest growing fitness system in the world.

9. Zumba/Clubbercise/Jazzercise/Step and all other dance fitness classes

Dance fitness classes have always been hugely popular. Zumba elevated it to a whole new level. There are a huge range of dance fitness classes based around all types of dance, from Latin American, to street dance, classical and more.

They are all choreographed to music with fairly uncomplicated moves (I say fairly because I have two large left feet, so even the most basic cha­-cha is a cha-­cha­-challenge for me).

All dance classes will give you a great cardio workout and leave you feeling happy (even I like to dance, it’s just better that I do it where no-­one is watching).

Step classes have been around for many years, and as the name suggests it is based around using a small step (that can be raised or lowered to suit you).

10. Kettlebells

These have been around for hundreds of years and are still as effective today. Looking a bit like a cannonball with a handle, they can be used for a huge range of exercises and are a brilliant way to get your heart rate up, strengthen your core and tone your muscles.

You’ll find some sort of kettlebell class in most towns. It’s worthwhile going to a few classes, even if you plan on using them on your own, because you’ll learn correct technique and lots of exercises you’d struggle to work out for yourself.

So what else can you do? Anything is better than nothing! But you can take any of the ideas you pick up in a class and do them on your own (in a gym, at home or outdoors). The only restriction on your fitness is you.

You will find different classes available local to you, and if you’re interested in one, go along and try it out, you might love it.

Many leading instructors run their own training systems exclusively, so if you restrict yourself to only doing ‘known brand’ classes, you could be missing out on training with the best trainers in your area.

Sean Dullaghan, ­Transformations Personal Training

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