We’ve all been there. The January gym sign-up, begrudgingly leaving the house in seemingly sub-zero temperatures only to wander aimlessly around machines with little clue as to how to actually use them. Default: running machine, count down the seconds, give up by mid-February. ‘If you don’t have a clear plan for your fitness journey, you’ll likely get lost along the way,’ confirms Shane Collins, founder of Kobox and 13 Training. Enter the ‘tribe’ factor.
‘Elements of controlled group training provide a great mix of support systems, accountability, motivation and a healthy dose of competition. Similar to team sports, tribe-style boutique studios provide a community feel where people feel they are a part of something,’ says Jonny Sasati, founder of F45 Chiswick. ‘All these factors increase sustainability for the long haul.’
Want a maintainable workout to stick to for 2020 and beyond? We tested out four of the most talked-about workout tribes to see what all the fuss is about...
ON YOUR BIKE: PELOTON
Tested by Hattie Brett, editor
An exercise bike that’s installed in your house and comes with a screen through which you can either join one of 48 live-streamed spinning classes a day – or opt into pre-recorded classes from your favourite instructor. Think Netflix-meets- spinning. And given it’s racked up 1.6million customers (and only launched in the UK last year), it might just prove to be as disruptive for the exercise industry as Netflix has been for entertainment.
It’s not normal to know that your spinning instructor has just come back from house hunting in the Catskills mountains. Even less so, when you’ve never even met said instructor in real life. But such is the power of the Peloton crew – who all undergo two months of motivational training in the company’s New York HQ before they’re let loose on the bike – that you’ll fall in love with your favourite and end up stalking them on Instagram. (I’m talking about @hannahmariecorbin, FYI, whose upbeat energy makes me feel like I’m letting her down if I don’t strive to beat my PB every ride!) And that surely is the secret of the regime’s cult-worthy status.
On the surface it seems pretty basic: an exercise bike, for which you pay upfront, and a monthly subscription to access classes, of which there are 950 produced monthly. But the variety of the classes – from a 45-minute interval cycling and weights ride, to 30 minutes set to Madonna tracks – as well as the quality and enthusiasm of the instructors means you’re spoilt for choice.
There’s a leader board in every class too, meaning you can compete against not just your own track record, but others who are doing the class at the same time. And if you’re taking a class live, the instructor will call out the names of riders who are excelling. That aspect has seen communities of Peloton users spring up, with up to 3,000 ‘members’ attending a live ride in New York earlier this year and groups such as #pelomums taking rides together.
Peloton don’t give out breakdowns of their user base, but I’m not surprised that their most ardent members seem to be parents. I’m a mum of two small kids, working full-time, so finding time to fit in exercise was near impossible. And while the price of the initial set-up almost put me off, it’s been worth it. With a bike in my bedroom and even 20-minute classes that leave me dripping in sweat, I’ve now done a three-month period of exercising four times a week. My legs are noticeably more toned but, more importantly, I feel great when I get off the bike – and I sleep better, too.
Kevin Cornils, MD of Peloton International and Digital, says it was that gap in the market for good quality exercise- at-home regimes that they set out to fill in 2012. Founder John Foley and his wife Jill had always been serious about staying fit, but in their early 40s, with two young children and a busy work schedule, they found they were struggling to work out. So John decided to find a way to bring the experience of a studio fitness class into the home.
‘It’s a product that allows people to be the best version of themselves without having to leave the comfort of their own home – and every time you ride the bike, you’re doing it along with others motivating you to push yourself a bit harder.’ That’s certainly how it feels to me, which is pretty remarkable, considering before I started using Peloton I’d never even done a spin class.
£1,990 (includes delivery fee), plus £39 a month subscription for unlimited live and on-demand classes. The bike can be financed for £56 a month for 36 months (not including the subscription). onepeloton.co.uk
THE WHATSAPP WORKOUT: 13 TRAINING AT KOBOX CHELSEA
Tested by Joely Walker, beauty director
The ultimate way to get fit is to have a personal trainer (PT) who guides you through targeted workouts, adapting them to suit your needs and capabilities, ultimately keeping you on a clear path to fitness success. The downside? A PT would basically bankrupt the majority of us. Enter 13 training, which bridges the gap between personal training and solo gym sessions with a boutique gym studio space and WhatsApp support system.
‘We understand that having a PT is, for many people, too expensive to be sustainable,’ explains founder of Kobox and 13 Training, Shane Collins. ‘Whether you’re looking to sign up for a single session, or a 12-week plan, our e-PT programme will give you a bespoke plan, sent directly to your phone. You’ll get demo videos to follow so you can see how the exercises should be done and we have some of the best young talent in the industry on hand to guide you if you get stuck. You’re getting 80% of the value of a PT at 20% of the cost.’ Then, whether you choose to workout in the 13 Training studio space – with PTs on hand for guidance and a capacity limit of 10 people – or elsewhere, is up to you.
I have an inconsistent relationship with exercise – when I do it, I love it (particularly the endorphin rush that keeps me on a high all day), but it’s the getting round to it and, most importantly, sticking to it that I struggle with. I’ve historically favoured workout classes over gym sessions as I need to be told what to do, how to do it and how long to do it for to get anything tangible out of it; so this innovative concept is intriguing.
I kick-start my plan with a personal training session. After taking my measurements – including body fat percentage, visceral fat percentage (the kind that hangs around your organs), muscle mass and hydration – we move on to assessing my capabilities, from cardio to weights. Sounds scary? It’s really not. This isn’t a ‘lose six pounds in six weeks’ scenario, which assumes a primary weight-loss focus. Instead, I’m asked what it is that I want to achieve from my workouts, to which I reply strength and a general feel-good factor. From thereon out, ‘strength’ is what we focus on in this session and the Whatsapp videos and GIFS sessions that follow.
My second and third workouts are done in hotel gyms, while I’m travelling for work. While they are places I’d usually avoid in favour of the breakfast buffet, having an accessible routine to follow means I stride into formally uninviting sweatboxes with more confidence than I’ve ever had before. For me, this is a key aspect – the confidence that comes from having a set plan to follow, to feel like I know what I’m doing and the sense of achievement that follows. Then there’s the flexibility element – even when I’m back using the 13 Studio Space in London, I don’t need to work around a favourite instructor’s schedule, but rather book in for a slot that suits me.
After eight weeks I feel stronger in body and mind (doing moves I couldn’t even attempt on my first session, but can now do for more than a minute). ‘People react well to focused periods of training and that’s what we’re trying to do at 13; give people a short, focused timeframe to achieve real changes. Once the course is complete, you don’t have to come back and the plan is yours to keep. However, should you need help again you can return and we’ll adapt your plan and go again.’
A solo workout of sorts, the ‘tribe’ element is still prevalent throughout. The WhatsApp Hotline to your trainer, the PT help on hand at the 13 Studio Space, the fellow 13-ers (it’s a thing) who encourage you on your way. It feels like you’re in it together – something I’ve never really experienced before in a gym environment.
£20 for a single session; £200 for four weeks; £375 for eight weeks; £525 for 12 weeks. Location: KOBOX’s new flagship Chelsea studio, 107 King’s Road, London SW3 4PA.
SLICK CIRCUITS: F45
Tested by Emma Rowley, acting assistant editor
Born in Australia in 2012, F45 has now gained global status with 40 UK studios offering its high-intensity group workouts. The F stands for functional training – think 45 minutes of squats, jumps, rowing, plus weights or kettlebells depending on the class in question (which range from cardio-focused Abacus to resistance-based Mkatz, changing daily to keep things fresh for regulars).
With friendly and supportive trainers guiding you between stations – up to 27 in a single 45-minute class – video screens remind you how to carry out each exercise and countdown to your next water break. F45 is best known for its eight-week Challenge, where members go hard on the classes with the option of following a protein-rich meal plan via an app.
I am an intermittent exerciser, always ready to try a new class but struggling to stick with anything long enough to create a consistent routine. After a blow-out holiday to the US, I was feeling sluggish and unhealthy. My usual reformer Pilates (you do the bulk of it lying down – a plus in my book) wasn’t going to cut it this time. I wanted a serious workout in terms of both cardio and strength training, which wouldn’t leave me bored and, inevitably, lacking motivation.
F45’s variety appealed. ‘Classes are designed to constantly surprise people with inventive new workouts,’ says founder Rob Deutsch. ‘There are over 3,500 exercises with new ones added every three months, along with fresh equipment to keep the workouts challenging.’ Meanwhile, 700,000 people have taken its Challenge (which runs four times a year) worldwide.
While some members aim for six classes a week at F45 Brixton, three weekly turns out to be a Challenge enough for me. It’s a fast, energetic workout; while I find the more cardio-focused classes tougher to get through in the moment, it’s the weights- heavy ones that leave me stiff the next day. But I enjoy all of them, while the variety of exercises means I rarely hit that I-can’t-do-this-anymore wall – I’m already on to the next station.
The tribe vibe is nurtured by the welcoming trainers who greet you by name and you soon start to recognise familiar faces. While many people are super-fit, it’s not an intimidating atmosphere. Yes, it’s the sort of place where, as class ends, you don’t just high-five the trainer but the nearest members too, but the focus is on your personal performance rather than competing against others (unlike other group fitness classes I’ve tried, which often felt a bit too reminiscent of PE).
For a blissful fortnight, I try the Challenge’s optional meal delivery service. ‘Food is great,’ reads my gleeful note on one day’s menu. ‘Chocolatey protein waffles for breakfast, and a peanut butter cup for my pm snack.’ When I’m left to my own devices, a trainer tells me the secret to following the eating plan at home is to pick a couple of meals I like and repeat – cue feta, tofu and broccoli for days (surprisingly delicious).
Well before the eight-week Challenge is over, my jeans get looser, while I am feeling the endorphins lift on a daily basis. By the end of it, I am not just visibly leaner, but feel stronger all over and can see a definite improvement in my stamina.
Prices vary from studio to studio, but average around £180 a month (the Challenge is free for all F45 members). Visit f45training.co.uk and f45challenge.com. Challenge meals are £30 a day, including delivery. While F45 is not cheap, this consummate class-hopper will stick with it for the variety. If most workouts have you clock-watching, this could be well worth the investment.
FREE VIDEOS: YOGA WITH ADRIENE
Tested by Rosamund Dean, deputy editor
With 5.7 million subscribers and innumerable more people watching her free videos on YouTube, Adriene Mishler has built a vast, loyal following. Known as ‘the people’s yogi’, she has captivated an army with her laidback brand of yoga, pulling in thousands to her live events worldwide. The videos are doable, no matter how busy you are–many of them are only 10 or 15 minutes – and Adriene doesn’t edit out the parts where she stumbles over her words, or her dog gets in the way. It’s like doing yoga with a best friend, who happens to be an expert and have the patience of a saint.
I used to be a person who went to an early morning Pilates class, or a post-work dance-like-Beyoncé session, but then I had children. Now any time that I’m not working, I want to hang out with my kids, and I try to squeeze in a social life and occasionally talk to my husband, too. Exercise had fallen so far down my priority list that I had basically forgotten about it until I started to feel stiff, lethargic, fuzzy brained and generally rubbish.
Then Adriene Mishler came into my life.
I would normally be extremely cynical about the idea that a perky American with a dog called Barney could convince me to exercise. But her short, focused yoga videos (the ‘11-minute wake-up morning yoga’ routine is my favourite) are so manageable – they can fit into any busy person’s life. Her slogan is ‘find what feels good’ (search #FWFG on Instagram to meet the Adriene army), which is so relaxed and pressure-free that, if my two-year-old starts climbing on me during the plank, and ‘what feels good’ is to stop doing yoga and tickle her until she screams with laughter, then that’s what I’ll do.
Adriene’s worldwide events are attended by thousands of devotees, who ‘pay what feels good’, and her online tribe – or ‘kula’, the sanskrit word for ‘community of the heart’ – is warm, welcoming and uncompetitive.
You might think that 10 minutes a day would make no difference but, because it’s so easy, I actually do it – and I feel stronger, calmer and more clear-headed as a result. I thought I didn’t have time for exercise, but the joy of Yoga With Adriene is that you don’t get that nagging feeling that you’re not doing enough, or doing it right. This is yoga for people who don’t have time for yoga.
Her YouTube videos and Kula community are free, although she recently launched fwfg.com, where you can access premium content like meditations, accountability series and ad-free videos that you can watch off-line for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.