September 07, 2016

Laura From the BLOK Goes to the Gym

What's the best part about going to the gym? The post-workout smoothie
           BLOK gym, founded by Hackney residents Ed Stanbury and Max Oppenheim, opened in February and occupies the space of a converted Victorian tram depot in Clapton. While gym classes have always been popular, they are particularly en vogue in the world of fitness right now. BLOK’s classes, which run across two studios, can be booked individually or as package deals. Take your pick from boxing, yoga, Pilates, barre, Calisthenics, BLOK-Babies, and Dance Fit, along with many more. I must be a masochist, because I headed to East London to sweat it out for two back-to-back sessions of intensive workouts, and loved every minute of it! Not only that, but I went back for more the following week!

             Disclaimer: BLOK is not for the lighthearted or the less experienced of gym rats. You need to have done your fair share of scurrying around the scene, lest you want to risk an injury. 

BLOK's café looks out onto Arran Gregory's artwork, SPRINT, which points in the direction of the gym studios, photo courtesy of BLOK
             The minimal space leads with its café, where fellow gym goers are already loitering, ready and raring to go. The Broth Bar, which serves bone broth (naturally), proves that BLOK is yet again on-trend. This much-loved food boasts high levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, collagen, and keratin, and is also free of carbohydrates. Botanic Lab juices, Square Mile coffee, and BLOK’s own shakes are also at hand for pre- and post-workout pick-me-ups.

             The studios are stripped down to their bare essentials, which is all you really need and should want in a gym. Brick walls, vaulted concrete ceilings, and cast iron pillars couldn’t be construed as anything but no-nonsense. A lot of gyms hide under the shimmery guise of fancy equipment and an excessive amount of mirrors (for the narcissist in us all). BLOK simply lets its classes do the heavy lifting.

It had to be done...the infamous "gym selfie"
             Before my first class, Methodology X, was set to begin, I asked the woman waiting next to me if she’d attended before, followed by the all-important question, “Will I be dead afterwards?” She replied, “Yes…but in a good way.” With that comforting thought in mind, I entered the studio with around six others to meet our instructor, Corinne.

             Methodology X by Dan Roberts, who is a revered strength and conditioning coach, launched exclusively at BLOK in July. Roberts originally created Methodology X as a 28-day home workout for women. Actresses, dancers, and models swear by it to keep their toned and slim figures. The skill-based HIIT (high-intensity interval training) group class combines dance, martial arts, Pilates, and athletic conditioning.

Dan Roberts illustrates one of the moves from his Methodology X class, photo courtesy of BLOK
             Like the Energizer Bunny, full of vivacity, Corinne was bouncing off the walls and one step away from floating on the ceiling. As she demonstrated what we had to do at each station in our circuit-based workout, she made it look easy. It was hard to keep up! The setup allowed us all to go at our own pace without worrying about what everyone else in the class was doing. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t quite manage to reach the ceiling, not this time anyway. After releasing my plank position, I stayed firmly prostrate and would have probably stayed that way were it not for Corinne’s words of encouragement. One hour later, and there was no time to roll over and play dead, as I had to get ready for my next class – BLOK-FIT.

Choose your weapon, photo courtesy of BLOK
             It is pertinent at this point to say that I do not recommend booking two classes in one day. I managed to power through my jelly legs during BLOK-FIT with Kenny, who was a powerhouse in his own right. Lean, tall, and strong, he was intimidating – in a good way. His looming presence was enough to make me want to work hard. Again structured in timed intervals across stations, the class (a mixture of men and women this time) couldn’t be better described than how it is on BLOK’s website: “fast, focused, and intense.”

Instructor Kenny gets in the zone, photo courtesy of BLOK
             The training effect, which is essentially the pain you feel after working out and your body’s way of letting you know it’s changing and improving, was in full force after my misjudged double whammy of classes. No pain, no gain though, right…?  

             The HIIT acronym seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment, due largely to the success of online nutrition coach Joe Wicks, otherwise known as The Body Coach. He heavily plugs the HIIT method and the reason it’s so popular is because it’s highly effective without being time-consuming. Before Joe Wicks, there was my father. He has been telling me the same things as Wicks for years. We would often hit the gym together and operate on a “get in, get out” philosophy. As a U.S. Army veteran, my father knows his stuff. He just missed out on the millions that his own fitness empire would bring. It’s a shame, but his tips and tricks still ring in my ears today and serve me well.

Studio 1, photo courtesy of BLOK
             At BLOK, it was the fast-paced pounding of upbeat music ringing in my ears as my motivation soundtrack. It was fun to move to the beat, but I also learned to listen out for the slower tracks. They indicated floor meditation and a cool down, as well as a dimming of the lights. Ah lovely, bring on Child’s Pose. 

             That brings me to my last class sampler at BLOK –  HIIT. In comparison to the hour-long sessions of Methodology X and BLOK-FIT, the 30 minutes of HIIT with Corinne came as a sweet, sweet relief. I never thought I would find HIIT easy, and it certainly wasn’t, but it felt that way in comparison to my hardcore boot camp induction to the previous classes. My Fitbit really thanked me for my sudden spike in activity, as it’s probably the most action it’s seen for a long time! What did I do to celebrate my triumvirate of accomplishments? I treated myself to an Energy smoothie from BLOK’s café, of course! After all, I earned it.

             Book yourself into classes at BLOK here. You’ll be spoiled for choice by the timetable! Single classes start at £14 each.