These are the alternatives that go the extra mile...
Running - I can’t say it comes all that easily to me. And while a good playlist or podcast can help the time pass by much more quickly, without them, I often find myself looking forward to the end destination much more than the journey itself.
If you’re like me, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to get your cardio fix these days courtesy of some innovative classes that have come to the helm in recent times. From switching between land and water for a dose of HIIT and swapping treadmill for a Versaclimber, these are the running alternatives that deliver.
Did you know that skipping for 10 minutes is equivalent to jogging for 30 minutes on a treadmill? With stats like that, it’s little wonder that the humble rope is making a comeback. And, as well as a cardio blast, it also increases leg strength and tones and sculpts the arms, shoulders and back. It’s a workout that keeps A-listers on their toes too - fans include Gigi Hadid, Kate Hudson, Kim Kardashian and Victoria’s Secret Angel, Adriana Lima (proof that jumping rope does the body good!).
“Jumping rope is a great skill that once you’ve mastered, you can do almost anywhere,” says Michelle Morrey, Group Fitness Manager at Equinox which has recently introduced a 30-minute Jump Rope Workout into its schedule. “The playful Jump Rope class schools members in both speed and skill, calories fly off and both body and brain are worked during tough tricks and agility patterns.”
Designed to boost balance, endurance, coordination and footwork, the class also throws weighted ‘fury’ ropes into the mix to increase calorie (and leg!) burn and target a greater breadth of muscle groups in the upper body. "The weighted fury rope is two pounds, which may not sound like a lot, but when you're whipping it around for a while, that weight adds up", says Christa DiPaolo, the class creator. It’s also great for posture as you need to keep your shoulders up and back to avoid trip-ups. The added resistance further bolsters its sculpting benefits. “Once you get the rhythm down, you'll start to feel the work all over, especially in your core, which you should keep engaged throughout, as well as your biceps, pecs, delts, lats, and calves," says DiPaolo.
Try: Jump Rope at Equinox , membership available at £210/month.
If you’re looking for a lower impact alternative to running, pass the treadmill and head straight for the rowing machine instead. It’s easily the most underestimated piece of equipment on the gym floor and unlike many other cardio machines, provides a full body workout.
Working multiple muscle groups such as the posterior chain, (a huge group of muscles that supports the spine, back and hamstrings), it’s used across a wide range of sports for conditioning and torching fat and calories. And while lower impact, it’s far from easy - there’s a reason why Anthony Joshua tweeted a sweat-drenched snap of himself rowing with the caption ‘I always wondered why the rowing machines are never in use! Now I know why.’ (He also hashtagged the word ‘Pain’ by the way). It’s also incredibly versatile too - you can row for distance, intervals or use it for quick blasts of high intensity to rev your fat loss potential up even more. Timing and close attention to technique are key (check out our top tips here) , to ensure your stroke is as smooth and snag-free as possible.
Try: Meta-row at Metabolic London , £20/class
Time-short? HIIT or high intensity interval training could be your perfect match - particularly if your mind has a tendency to drift off mid-workout. Involving short bursts of all-out effort, followed by brief periods of recovery, it condenses a huge amount of activity into a matter of minutes. Exercises can range from squats to burpees to sprints - anything really - as long as you’re working at your maximum.
It’s particularly effective for your improving your excess post-oxygen consumption (your EPOC), elevating your body’s metabolism in the 36 hours after a workout and allowing you to burn more calories. It’s also been shown to help your body better store and manage glucose levels (good for the waistline and reducing your risk of diabetes) and providing massive improvements to fitness in relatively short amounts of time. If you’re new to exercise, you’re best building up to it first.
Try: HIIT 35 or 45 at Another Space , £20/class, (intro offer of 3 credits + 1 buddy credit for £30). For a great choice of at-home workouts, check out The Body Coach’s YouTube channel and the newly launched Fiit fitness app , £12/month.
Thanks to Nicola Adams’ gold medal victories at back-to-back Olympics and social love from celebs such as Ellie Goulding and Karlie Kloss , boxing’s seen a huge surge in demand and gyms and boutique fitness studios are working to meet it with a range of fist-pumping classes ready to get members fighting fit.
The benefits of boxing are insane. As much a workout for the mind as it is for the body, it improves speed, footwork, coordination, power and strength, providing a cardio and core workout that other types of exercise would find hard to beat.
Try: Punch at Virgin Active , (various membership options available), Rumble at 1Rebel , £20/class (intro offer of 3 sessions for £30), or Boxing ‘Skills’ at BXR London , £15 (as part of a bundle pack).
Thanks to impressive strides in spinning tech, there’s never been a better time to saddle up. Today’s bike’s are surprisingly bespoke, a fact I experienced first-hand at Third Space’s new Poweride class.
At the beginning of the class, each rider is put through an FTP test (Functional Threshold Power) to determine their highest average power. This provides them with a unique score to benchmark their intensity levels throughout the class so that they work to their own maximum potential. Screens at the front and lights on the bikes provide visual drivers to keep you pushing to your upper limit (you’ll be sweating buckets by the end!) and help your team chase their way to victory. Providing just the right amount of competitive edge without naming and shaming (you’re identified just by bike numbers rather than names), it improves speed, power and endurance and instils a grit in you to come back and do better next time. The music’s also great for keeping you on beat - a key motivator of mine and a quality utilised to great effect in other indoor cycling classes such as Psycle too. You’ll find serious Spotify inspo here.
Designed to mimic the natural motion of climbing with its 75 degree vertical rail, this innovative piece of equipment provides a marked upgrade to a treadmill. “It’s specifically designed to activate all major muscle groups, while also improving posture and balance,” explains James Pisano, Fitness Director of BXR (currently Europe’s sole destination for dedicated group Versaclimber classes). It also avoids putting the body under unnecessary stress. “The upright positioning of the VersaClimbers can help to keep you injury-free, there is no pounding on knees and joints, and the movement will keep your body aligned while the climbing element reinforces better movement patterns and strengthens your shoulders, back, glutes and hamstrings."
You really do build up a sweat. I know that when I did the class, I found it impossible to zone out - a mixture of stepping in time to the beat and mixing up your stride length focusses both body and mind. It also a serious calorie as well as fat burner. “On average, using a VersaClimber burns 22.3 calories per minute, compared to running which burn 13-14 calories,” points out James, making it a great cardio workout.
Try: Climb to the Beat at BXR , £15 (as part of a bundle pack).
Trampolining comes with some pretty stellar credentials, in fact, it was deemed ‘the most efficient exercise yet devised by man’ by NASA (impressive praise indeed). “You burn more calories compared to jogging and it works wonders for the lymphatic system which in turn can help banish cellulite,” comments Pip Black, Frame founder and instructor of their fitness-boosting trampolining class, Rebounding.
It’s seriously fun too (certainly a lot less monotonous than pounding the pavement) and it allows you to work up a sweat without putting your joints under too much strain. The new classes that are springing up provide one heck of a fitness high - even after just five minutes, you’ll be able to feel its effects.
Try: Rebounding at Frame , £12/class.
Great for relieving stiffness and switching off (there’s seriously nothing better than gliding through tranquil waters after a long day), swimming’s the all-rounder that’s totally worth donning a rubber cap for. Low-impact, it also makes for a gentler option for those just coming back from an injury (that could be aggravated by a higher-loading exercise like running or jumping).
If bumbling along doing backstroke for long stretches of time doesn’t quite whet your appetite though, HIIT swimming could be right up your lane. Combining sprints with active recovery, it’ll help you to build stamina, strength and muscle tone. For interval inspo, check out our swimming tips here .
Try: Hydro at Virgin Active , various membership packages available.