Emma Bartley seeks out her HIIT fix by testing a new workout streaming platform for mums
My fitness highlight of 2015 was definitely going to Psycle. I’d loved spinning for a long time, and this boutique London gym took it to the next level with a high-energy workout, instructors with bags of personality and a super cool space. (I once spent a few days tracking down the tiles from the Psycle showers, which I wanted to copy at home. The tiles turned out to cost more than my house, but dammit, those few days were some of the most hopeful of my life.)
My fitness highlight of 2016 was a bit less glamorous: getting a spin bike for my birthday, because I’d had a baby and was consequently housebound for most of the year. I found a couple of spin workouts to stream on YouTube but there wasn’t a great selection and I started losing motivation. So Flex TV, a new fitness streaming service aimed at mums who want to use time at home to get fit, sounded like the answer to my problems. “With an impressive 1,000-strong community of top-notch instructors… Flex TV is the first fitness platform to offer such a vast array of ever-changing online workouts,” said blurb. Could this be a way to try out new high-end fitness classes during the baby’s nap?
Rather than waiting for January 1, I decided to give it a bash on Christmas morning in the hope of offsetting all the brandy butter. But I hadn’t read the small print. Flex classes are streamed on a schedule, meaning that you have to log on at set times to catch them, and the small window of time I’d found was precisely halfway through one. I gave up, went to YouTube and did one of those Joe Wicks Lean in 15 workouts where he encourages you by pretending he finds it hard to do push-ups (I like Joe Wicks but I don’t believe him about this: just look at his guns). When I finally got my act together to try Flex TV at a set time, which is to say on the hour or half hour, I found more than 10 classes to choose from. The options included several yoga sessions, a beginner Pilates class, a dance-based workout called VeraFlow with the London trainer Naomi Di Fabio, a HIIT workout and a 10-minute core session by which I was sorely tempted because, ten minutes.
I went for something called Best 20 Minute Workout for Busy Mamas (because, 20 minutes), rolled out my yoga mat in the spare room and watched as my laptop powered down. By the time I’d found my charger, rebooted, refreshed the page, realised I still needed to complete my Flex registration and dug out my credit card… the class was nearly over. This is the downside of live streaming, but I entertained myself by watching the lady anyway and trying to work out whether the picture above her sofa was of her naked holding a baby, or a man in swimwear (you never know with personal trainers). Her style is probably not for me, but reminded me of the very gentle postnatal workouts I’ve done in the park so might work if you’d just had a baby, or hadn’t been too active before.
For my next attempt, I tried a high-intensity interval session for mums. As with the other class, I didn’t need any equipment and it was tailored for people who have minimal time. The trainer got straight into four rounds of five minutes’ effort, plus breaks. I couldn’t hear her very well, because she wasn’t wearing a mic and her music was drowning out her voice, but it was no worse than standing at the back of a gym class so I began copying her moves as she ran through “high knees” jogging on the spot, squats, push-ups and sit-ups. Whether it's because I've been so inactive or because two pregnancies have stretched my abs beyond their elastic limit, I can’t do sit-ups at all at the moment and had to cheat by putting my feet under a chest of drawers. Shaming.
It turns out that the instructors rarely broadcast their videos live: the time slots are really for users at home to coordinate with each other using the audio-sharing option. I like the idea of this because it would mean I could work out with, say, my sister even though she lives in another city. But this benefit isn’t available yet.
For my final workout, I abandoned the pre- and postnatal channel to find a more challenging video. There isn’t any spinning on the site yet, but I found a 'Killer HIIT' session with the Psycle instructor Natalie Walker that is slick, fun and challenging. She has two other people helping her to demonstrate the dance-based moves, which gives it much more of a class feel, and they are caning it, which makes you feel you have to keep up. I can’t, but decide I’ll try again because it’s just so fun.
For this class alone (and VeraFlow looks good too) the £4.99 a month subscription fee is probably worth it. You’d pay a hell of a lot more than that going to the gym, which is a big deal for me in the unpaid phase of maternity leave. It’s very early days for the platform and I’m sure they’ll keep refining it. I’ll still be heading back to the gym as soon as my time and finances allow.
Find out more at www.joinflex.tv